Ian Clarke: What can the Canaries learn from Sheffield United?
Anyone else think Chris Wilder could be an outside bet for manager of the season?
Jurgen Klopp is clearly favourite having guided Liverpool to their first Premier League title since Sinead O’Connor topped the charts with Nothing Compares 2 U (quite apt, perhaps).
The Reds have been streets ahead of any other team in the Premier League this year - but it’s a fact that they could still finish with fewer points than last year.
Pep Guardiola may perhaps be a contender if he takes Manchester City to their holy grail of winning the Champions League to add to the League Cup. However, there’s massive disappointment that his charges have been so far off the pace (and will face the ignominy of being doubled by the Canaries - tongue in cheek alert everyone..)
Frank Lampard could still lead his Chelsea team to a Champions League and FA Cup double - and third place in the PL, which would be mighty impressive.
Nuno Espirito Santo and Brendan Rodgers have performed well again with their achievements at Wolves and Leicester respectively.
While I’ve never been a paid up member of the Wilder fan club (and that’s not just after his bus-gate comments), he has done a phenomenal job at Sheffield United this season.
The last couple of defeats have cost the Blades a place in Europe.
However, to have been so close to that in their first year back in the top flight has been beyond anything even the most ardent of their fans could have dreamed of.
If Daniel Farke had achieved what Wilder has done this year, I would certainly be yelling for him to have the top boss gong.
Last season the Blades were well and truly in Norwich City’s shadow with five fewer points and 24 fewer goals.
Turn the clock forward a year and a bit and Wilder’s men have 33 more points - with a game to go - a positive goal difference (compared with City’s -34) and only two more defeats than they suffered in 2018/19 (albeit from fewer games than in the Championship).
I watched the two games when City and Sheffield United played Chelsea recently - and what a contrast.
The Blades were brutal, played with a high tempo and were clinical.
Norwich played some reasonable football and kept things tighter than in other games but the Blues were never in trouble at all and coasted to victory knowing they had much tougher tasks ahead.
So why have the Blades cut it so well and the Canaries have fallen away so sadly? Much of the criticism of City has been about their lack of investment - and spending about £1m in permanent fees last summer clearly has to be questioned.
The headline figure from Bramall Lane was an outlay of £42m after promotion, which is certainly more ambitious.
However, there’s so much more to it than that. Virtually half of that figure was on Ollie McBurnie, who is no doubt a decent striker. But remember he’s scored six times, the same number as Todd Cantwell and five fewer than Teemu Pukki.
For me the real key has been the consistency of the team and the way the players who got United promoted have progressed and bonded as a really powerful unit.
George Baldock, Chris Basham, John Egan, John Fleck, Dean Henderson, David McGoldrick, Oliver Norwood, Jack O’Donnell and Enda Stevens cost a combined total of less than £10m.
They were the heart of the Championship team - and basically have been again this season. How many of them are household names? How many would you have singled out last August and said: “I’d love him in the Canaries’ team?”
City have suffered horrendously from injuries, while United haven’t. Is that bad luck? We just don’t know.
Throughout the campaign, Wilder has injected a real street-wise feel into his charges. Solidity, strength and savviness have been at the heart of their success.
Farke’s men have been pleasant on the eye for large parts of the year, especially early on. Naivety, generosity and lack of bite have undone the creativity.
Anyone who thinks a quick return will be easy for City needs to take a reality pill. Confidence is really, really low after the disastrous post-lockdown spell.
Somehow in the short time before action resumes, that’s got to be repaired.
The transfer dealings need to be done as swiftly as possible to create the unit to fight back and those missing ingredients of togetherness, bouncebackability and belief have to come to the fore.
FOREVER DEREHAM’S FINEST
I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a massive fan of Todd Cantwell.
Having been in Dereham for virtually all my life, it’s been a joy to see a lad from my home town flourish into a genuine top flight star.
During his meteoric rise, he has continued to support his local community from visiting pupils at his old school, to turning up a training session at a local cricket club to ringing season ticket holders for a chat during lockdown.
Of all the young talent at Carrow Road, the Dereham Deco has been the one who has regularly been the most talked about on Match Of The Day and among other pundits.
I really hope he stays with us for the battle to get back to the Premier League.
Todd wears his heart on his sleeve and from time to time that has caused him some issues.
There’s no doubt at all how much he cares and he’s a guy we should all be so proud of.
And whatever happens during the short summer break, Todd will always be #derehamsfinest.
JOIN THE Q&A
Norwich City fans will have so many questions after such a disappointing season.
And supporters are being given the chance to pose them during an evening with two of Carrow Road’s top brass next week.
Such is the continued transparency at the club that sporting director Stuart Webber and chief operating officer Ben Kensell are making themselves available for a Q&A on Zoom organised by the Canaries Trust.
Hosted by Michael Bailey, it is on Monday July 27, 7pm.
Entry is free for Canaries Trust members and £3 for non-members. More details from www.canariestrust.org,
As loyal Canaries followers we are all right to feel desperately frustrated by the way this campaign has ended.
I’ve been concerned by the way emotions have spilt over at times on social media.
Now is the time to stick together, learn the lessons and go again.
I can’t think of many other clubs who would allow two of their most senior figures to face the fans at this time.
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