Norwich City and Leeds - all the changes, so many changes ...
Focus Images 2010
There are obvious similarities between Norwich City trek to Elland Road and a game between the Canaries and Leeds at Carrow Road back in 2010.
Nine years ago, both team were challenging for promotion, this time from League One. City had started the season under Bryan Gunn, quickly replaced by Paul Lambert, and charged up the table.
By the time Leeds came to Norfolk – on March 27 – Norwich and Leeds occupied the top two places in the table.
City’s win took them a stunning 11 points clear of Leeds, courtesy of Chris Martin’s dramatic winner a minute from time.
Both teams would end in the same position – City with 95 points, Leeds with 86, a point ahead of the play-off positions, from which fourth-placed Charlton were promoted.
There will be many supporters who would be dreaming of a Championship top-two like that – but, frankly, first or second – no one would argue.
Since 2010, Leeds have been a Championship side while City have had dalliances with the top flight.
But things have changed behind the scenes, and that is perhaps best exemplified by the line-ups that day nine years ago – and the expected ones this coming weekend.
City: Fraser Forster, Michael Nelson, Russell Martin, Adam Drury, Gary Doherty, Darel Russell, Wes Hoolahan, Simon Lappin, Korey Smith, Stephen Elliott, Grant Holt. Subs: Anthony McNamee, Stephen Hughes, Chris Martin, Zak Whitbread, Michael Rose, Oli Johnson, Declan Rudd
Leeds: Shane Higgs, Richard Naylor, Neill Collins, Shane Lowry, Michael Doyle, Neil Kilkenny, Andy Hughes, Jonny Howson, Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio, Jermaine Beckford. Subs: Bradley Johnson, Max Gradel, Leigh Bromby, Casper Ankergren, Paul Dickov. Tresor Kandol, Mike Grella
The common denominator was the mother tongue: City’s team had six English players, two Scots and three Irish players in the starting line-up. The most exotic they managed was the American-born Scouser that was Zak Whitbread on the bench.
Leeds were a tad more cosmopolitan: among their starters were four English players, two Scots, two Aussies, an Irishman an Argentine (Luciano Becchio) and a Jamaican (Jermaine Beckford).
Fast forward to the team’s last game and it’s a different story. City’s line-up against Sheffield United contained five players from Germany, one by way of Cuba, two from England, one Dutchman, two who represent Northern Ireland and one from Boznia-Herzegovina.
Leeds’ starting line-up against Rotherham containing six Englishmen, a clear nod to the club’s youth policy, plus two Spaniards, a Macedonian, a Scot and a Pole.
City: Tim Krul, Christoph Zimmermann, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons, Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann, Onel Hernandez, Tom Trybull, Emi Buendia, Teemu Pukki. Subs: Grant Hanley, Kenny McLean, Felix Passlack, Denis Srbeny, Michael McGovern, Todd Cantwell, Jordan Rhodes.
Leeds: Kiko Casilla, Kalvin Phillips, Ezgjan Alioski, Lam Cooper, Luke Ayling, Jack Harrison, Adam Forshaw, Mat Klich, Pablo Hernandez, Jack Clarke, Kemar Roofe. Subs: Tom Pearce, Aapo Halme, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jordan Stevens, Jamie Shackleton, Leif Davis, Tyler Roberts.
A potted look at how each club has changed...
City remain with the same majority owners, Delia Smith and husband Michael Wynn Jones, but things began to change after chief executive David McNally left in May 2016, and his successor, Jez Moxey lasted just six months, leaving in February 2017.
Steve Stone became interim chief executive, but two months later came the biggest change of all, as Stuart Webber became sporting director and then appointed little-known German coach Daniel Farke – the first foreign head coach in the club’s history.
The blinkers were off, the door to the continent, and further, opened wider. City, working under financial constraints, shopped cleverly, but the complexion of the squad changed dramatically. There’s a reason Blur’s Park Life is played at games – not just because it rhymes with Farke Life, but because of the line “It’s got nothing to do with Vorsprung durch technique, you know.” German, innit?
Leeds have had a traumatic few years, but are steadying the ship. In 2010, the A word – administration – was a far too recent nightmare, and in May 20111 Ken Bates took ownership. Then the fun began, with ownership changing to a Middle East company before, in February 2014, it was bought by Massimo Cellino’s family consortium Eleonora Sport Ltd and then in May 2017, Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani was owner.
See where this is going?
It’s been complicated, but foreign ownership has perhaps produced a different outlook in terms of manager and player recruitment. City’s changes aren’t necessarily ownership-inspired, although it’s fair to say it was they who took a different approach in appointing Webber... the rest, as they (sort of) say, is becoming history.