Paddy Davitt: Daniel Farke, Norwich City and the ties that bind
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Daniel Farke was not a name many expected to feature in the Norwich City transfer gossip columns this close season.
Barely had the dust settled on that wretched final day Championship trek to Sheffield Wednesday, and the anxious wait began to find out the extent of James Maddison's knee injury, and the pistol was being fired.
Not regarding the latest Premier League suitor for the 21-year-old starlet. Oh no. Rather the man who must take huge credit for his breakthrough since arriving from Dortmund.
Farke is reportedly on a long list to replace Bayern Munich-bound Nico Kovac at German Cup finalists Eintracht Frankfurt.
The 41-year-old is doing 'a great job and developing very well at Norwich City' was the sound bite attributed to Frankfurt's sporting director Fredi Bobic.
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The veracity of such speculation will play out soon enough. Frankfurt want a replacement for Kovac in place shortly after that German Cup final appearance in mid-May.
The likes of Slaven Bilic and Jurgen Klopp's former trusted assistant, Željko Buvac, appear to have better claims than Farke.
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Yet admiring glances - perceived or real - in the direction of the hugely likeable 41-year-old do raise a serious question.
Farke was unveiled this very month last year as the preferred choice of City's new sporting director Stuart Webber.
Both men were on the same page when it came to mapping out a fresh direction of travel, navigating choppy financial waters while trying to build a younger, hungrier squad to compete at the right end of the second tier.
There was a palpable sense spheres of influence were being devised and boundaries re-drawn, when it came to this new football pyramid at Carrow Road. Farke was to be unburdened by some of the load heaped on his predecessors in a traditional, British-style model of what constituted football management. The new head coach would focus on that - coaching players.
Webber would oversee transfers and scouting and other key departments such as the academy.
But there has been far more nuance to this roll out, which is nowhere near reaching maturity.
Farke has clearly had a major say in recruitment over the first two windows he has worked alongside Webber.
Look at the markets, look at the clubs where Onel Hernandez or Dennis Srbeny or Moritz Leitner arrived from in January. Go further back to the additions of Marco Stiepermann or Mario Vrancic.
Look at the commitment to youth - driven in part by financial necessity - but nevertheless another key strand of Farke's growing influence, in the manner not just Maddison but Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell emerged.
Then there is the playing style.
That definitely remains a work in progress; a source of frustration for a growing body of Norwich fans who want to see the punch to accompany the panache in possession.
Alex Tettey touched on this very topic last week, after opting to extend his stay in these parts.
Everything Farke is doing on the training pitch, in his team meetings, in the attention to detail, revolves around embedding a philosophy that becomes second nature when transplanted into a hostile league environment.
In essence, a robust methodology when Norwich's pretty patterns jar with the physicality and uncomplicated approach of many other Championship rivals. Step forward Matt Smith and Atdhe Nuhiu.
Take Farke out of this equation and it is not simply a case of a seamless transition to another coach who can buy into what Webber is attempting to construct.
That is why Farke's appearance in the early gossip columns is troubling. So much of what City's top brass is striving to do right now is invested in Farke and Webber as a double act.
Webber would not be doing his job properly if there was no succession plan in place, however hypothetical at this stage.
But with no publicised contract option when Farke strode into Carrow Road for the first time last May, the German is approaching the final year of his current deal.
Farke's response when pressed on the Frankfurt link was to avoid adding fuel to the flickering flame, while reiterating how much he is enjoying his work in England.
That Hillsborough hammering left a sour taste, and the mid-table finish means there is a seam of supporters who feel the jury is out.
Yet it is also true a parting of the ways during this summer would inject even more uncertainty into a period shaping up to be pivotal.
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