Michael Bailey: The two plots that thicken ahead of City’s post-tour preparations
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Norwich City correspondent and PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey hands his latest Canaries column over to the two big talking points that kicked off City’s pre-season tour to Germany – and what happens now.
There is rarely a hiding place when it comes to a pre-season tour – just a handful of fans in close proximity, squad announcements, successive games in a short space of time and now, the added dimension of social media videos.
Norwich City’s Hotel Klosterpforte base in Harsewinkel missed a trick by not putting a few advertising hoardings around that rather picturesque decking for table tennis and Instagram aplenty.
Of course, the action on the pitch is never ideal. Reading the relevance of any incidents in pre-season is like watching a continental soap opera – the format is vaguely recognisable but it’s almost impossible to work out what parts are deemed impressive and useful, never mind what it’s actually up against.
Off the pitch however, is a different case all together. Away from the action – and Alex Tettey’s untimely dose of chicken pox – were two big talking points always set to swirl around the City training base throughout the German tour.
From Russell Martin’s continuing summer stint with the Canaries Under-23s squad to Nelson Oliveira’s total absence, even the City staff knew they were providing two sizeable talking points ahead of the season.
And yet, lumping the two into the same pot is simplistic – given respective situations that still seem some way from being sorted.
Let’s start with the skipper – I think we can still call him that.
It’s been quite a remarkable breakdown in relationship between head coach Daniel Farke and Russell Martin, who currently seems a long way off receiving his year option come the end of his contract next summer – a new deal announced barely six weeks after Farke’s arrival.
That the 32-year-old was included with City’s young squad, who were effectively alongside the senior set-up in Germany – was arguably a triumph for the defender; the gushing praise from Under-23 boss Matt Gill backing up that decision.
On the outside, it appeared to cause little obvious friction. On the inside, the return home now needs to deliver something substantially more workable.
As someone who has been open about his managerial planning and coaching hopes for the future, Martin will want to ensure there were some real positives to take from working with City’s youngsters – but his own drive to play has yet to subside.
Neither I imagine, has his own desire to prove people wrong.
In a City set-up intent on bringing through young, hungry players – one where the need for more coaching support could be argued – it seems to me a crying shame all potential resolutions appear to involve more time apart.
As for what the future possibly holds beyond that point, of course is anyone’s guess.
On the other side of the tour debate was the man City didn’t deem able to take with them at all.
A 26-year-old striker who this time last year was widely touted as one of the best strikers in the Championship. Boy, is the context different 12 months on.
Farke answered the question himself as the tour kicked off, and the thinking was sound enough.
Dennis Srbeny remained a one-man work in progress – and primed to foster a working relationship alongside summer striker recruits, Teemu Pukki and Jordan Rhodes.
The tour berths were already in short supply.
Likewise, a tour in among the Under-23s never promised to be a serious scenario – while Oliveira’s possession observations from the World Cup on social media occasionally broke up the Canaries’ own initial pre-season snap shots.
Oliveira appears at an impasse. His first campaign under Farke failed to flourish – be it through the striker’s own sabotage or the head coach’s inability, however unlikely, to turn a fiery Portuguese into a potent weapon.
Two remaining years contracted to City will feel like a lifetime if a suitor fails to materialise this transfer window – in itself, a remarkable reality compared to the 2017 speculation of eight-figure bids, Premier League moves and unlocking something more consistently from a widely-considered match-winner across the Championship battle fields.
It’s a frustration all will feel when, as is surely being planned, Oliveira cuts his ties – even from a club and an area he openly loves.
And there they are. Two players for various reasons deemed so out of kilter with where Norwich City now want to head, they were this summer’s story as the Canaries flew to Germany.
Only time will judge whether such calls worked or waned – and yet, football has a funny way of turning things on their head. Which is why it’s all eyes now, on what happens next.
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