Paddy Davitt: Canaries boss and Guardiola have more in common than it might seem
Pep Guardiola and Daniel Farke share a nice line in sartorial elegance. They also have the same deep faith in youth.
Guardiola may have seemingly limitless funds to acquire world class talent but in the midst of such glittering jewels he also has an 18-year-old Manchester City fan who hails from Stockport.
Phil Foden might be the future of English football never mind a homegrown antidote to this Middle Eastern backed, Spanish led experiment at turning the Citizens into a global football superpower.
Norfolk’s very own Paul Warne felt the full wrath at the weekend in a 7-0 FA Cup third round hammering for his Rotherham outfit at the Etihad that also brought a landmark first senior goal on home turf for the boyhood City supporter.
Foden understandably has had limited opportunity to impress in the Premier League so far. Hardly surprising when you consider he competes with the likes of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne or Raheem Sterling for a place in midfield.
But Guardiola scoffed at suggestions Foden may be available on loan this month when questioned by journalists in his post-match FA Cup debrief. ‘Impossible’ he snorted. ‘No way. Phil Foden is here for many, many years.’
Guardiola’s Barcelona may have had the genius of Leo Messi but there was also Andres Iniesta and Xavi; homegrown products who trod the same path as Guardiola in Catalonia. The former Bayern Munich coach can compete for any player in the world, yet Foden seemingly remains a core part of his philosophy.
Farke does not have the same financial choices. His commitment to youth, certainly at Norwich, is borne out of necessity. But this is also a head coach who moved to England from working in a development role at Borussia Dortmund. Farke emerged as Stuart Webber’s preferred candidate because he understood the risks associated with a football masterplan that flies in the face of knee jerk short termism rife at the sharp end.
Webber labelled Farke a ‘brave’ coach for opting to blood Jamal Lewis in his full City debut 12 months ago, for what felt at the time a potentially fraught Boxing Day league trip to Birmingham. Norwich were on the slide down the Championship standings but Lewis was exposed to the harsh realities. He finished the season as his club’s first choice and a full Northern Irish international.
James Maddison similarly and spectacularly responded to the same encouragement. Maddison grasped his chance in thrilling fashion but it was Farke who brought him in from the cold and thrust him centre stage; a decision rewarded in goals, assists and £20m plus.
This season the likes of Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell, Ben Godfrey, even Emi Buendia, have carried on the mantle in the second phase of Farke’s mission.
Setting aside what happens now with Farke’s contractual situation at Carrow Road for a moment, his lasting legacy may not simply be conjuring a promotion push from impoverished circumstances, it might be in achieving a cultural shift. Aided of course by Webber and those around both working towards the same end.
What Norwich fans are seeing now in vibrant, colourful brushstrokes is the German’s vision of how he wants to play the game and who he ideally wants to play it with. Like Guardiola, in a cynical, money-obsessed industry there is a purity to their work on the training pitch and the technical area. That is why fans of both clubs can sit back and enjoy homegrown talent flourishing in front of their own eyes.
For Norwich, it might not be enough to achieve a remarkable passage to the Premier League but that would hardly constitute a failure. It would be a recognition how unique this experiment is and how difficult it is to compete against far wealthier rivals.
But however this season of discovery concludes, there is enough circumstantial evidence to continue down the same path; refining and revising a philosophy woven around youth. If it’s good enough for Guardiola at Manchester City, it should be good enough lower down the pecking order.