Paddy Davitt verdict: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The new currency at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 12:18 13 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:56 14 January 2019
However this breathless, adrenaline-fuelled Championship tour ends now one thing is for sure. Norwich City have earned a new-found respect.
That desperately anaemic second half to last season, culminating in a final day hammering at Sheffield Wednesday and a mid-table finish below Ipswich Town, may have signalled a club in a decline.
If you want to be brutal, perhaps also the failure of a bold experiment borne out of financial necessity to break the boom and bust cycle of reliance on Premier League wealth.
The latter point has surely been emphatically answered.
Cross-reference if you will the shambles at Portman Road that led to a desperate appointment of Paul Lambert.
The cultivation of a new, fresh, bright identity woven around a progressive head coach, supported by an astute sporting director, and visibly carried into battle by a core of academy products appears a robust, sustainable model.
But beyond the boundaries of Norfolk such stirrings are reflected in the almost weekly ritual at present of opposition managers queuing up to frame their own side’s performance in the manner they dealt with a slick, assured Norwich.
Darren Moore’s warm words, after a belting Championship tussle at The Hawthorns, were an echo of what Aitor Karanka - prior to his recent departure from Nottingham Forest - and Derby County’s Frank Lampard also referenced.
You got the distinct sense from Moore’s post-match debrief he had spent most of last week warning his players and then drilling them relentlessly on how to counteract Farke’s footballing philosophy.
There was no trace of complacency or arrogance from a squad that retains the vast bulk of those who featured in the Premier League to get them back there at the earliest available opportunity.
That, alas, is the by-product for Norwich from such a rich seam of consistent league form.
To underline the scale of how high the bar was set prior to the recent festive swing, Norwich only now have fallen out of the automatic promotion places on goal difference, despite one league win since December 8.
That is frankly a remarkable testament to the growth spurts cultivated by Farke. In the cohesiveness nature of their passing, in their defensive resolve and in their goals output, the football Norwich have produced this season is light years away from the slim rations served up 12 months ago.
That is why more than 2,700 flocked to the West Midlands to watch the latest twist in this gripping story.
Moore’s men set about the visitors with a savage intent, marrying intensity in their pressing with undoubted quality.
The opening goal was created by the best player on the pitch, Mason Holgate, currently on loan from Everton, and finished by arguably the best finisher in the Championship, in Dwight Gayle. Even Teemu Pukki might be prepared to concede that billing, given Gayle’s prolific track record in the Football League.
With Gareth Barry schooling City in the centre of the park there was a frazzled, dazed look to the Canaries rarely seen to this point of the campaign. Tim Krul was forced to launch it long and too often wayward in a painful first quarter or so.
Farke alluded afterwards to the lack of experience in front of the Dutchman as a contributing factor, allied to the likes of Emi Buendia who perhaps showed signs of rust after an injury lay-off; both trends exaggerated in such a ferocious environment.
But even in such a febrile setting it pays never to write this Canaries’ collective off. City’s squad does not have the enviable resources available to Moore, who was able to compensate for the sizeable loss of Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes by deploying another young English talent in Rakeem Harper.
But it still enabled Farke to draw on a pair of Scottish internationals to tilt a game careering away from the visitors.
Kenny McLean again served notice, with one delicious swing of his left foot, he can bring something to the party down the stretch before Jordan Rhodes showcased the same predatory instincts as Gayle.
This was another exercise in obduracy.
Another sharp lesson for City’s raw recruits and overseas arrivals.
They are by no means the finished article, they may be performing above and beyond the expectations of even the wildly optimistic, they may come up short this time around, but they are on to something good.
Make no mistake. Championship managers know it. So do City fans.
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