Paddy Davitt verdict: This is your time, Canaries. It might never come again
PUBLISHED: 14:12 27 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:23 28 January 2019
Norwich City might be a long way from the finished article. But this is their time.
You saw again in a no-holds-barred Championship encounter against Sheffield United with youthful exuberance comes a dash of naivety.
But if the trade off for the goals and entertainment this City collective are conjuring is the odd defensive lapse from young men at the start of their journeys then it feels a price worth paying.
Emi Buendia’s desire to back up Max Aarons was commendable but such rashness was capitalised on by first, Enda Stevens, and then Billy Sharp.
Once Tim Krul’s distraction tactics had failed to have the desired effect prior to that crucial first half penalty following a superb opening period from the hosts.
A streetwise side, a team packed full of old stagers who have been around the block may not have made such an error of judgement.
But whether a squad with too many miles on the clock and too many scars from previous battles would have the desire to keep coming in such thrilling fashion game after game is debatable.
Norwich have engineered a position of strength through freshness and energy.
Through fearlessness and, bravery in both style and approach, that is earning them points and plaudits in equal measure.
For all the gnawing sense they are still defensively vulnerable, still conceding too many goals over the duration, it is now one league defeat in 17.
Preserve that particular statistic after this weekend’s epic league trip to Elland Road and Paul Lambert’s pending return can be relished.
This is it. This is as good a chance as Norwich will get to get back to the Premier League. And then set about the task of staying there beyond a sight-seeing tour or two.
By no stretch could you contend Daniel Farke’s squad has reached full maturity. That would be a ridiculous assertion based on the sum of the parts. By every measure they have smashed the expectations of even the most optimistic. Yet that is to dwell on the past.
To try and suggest if they were to fall short over the coming weeks there would be another opportunity as good down the line is to disregard the financial reality. Or the desire of a player to test himself should a Premier League opportunity present itself as early as this coming summer transfer window.
Until Farke’s contract situation is resolved there remains a question mark over who will actually be at the helm next season. Should the German renew his vows but City remain in the Championship then a squad makeover is inevitable.
It might be tweaks instead of wholesale changes, given the remedial work that has put City on a firmer fiscal footing.
Nevertheless, in all probability the chances of repeating this current shot at the Premier League would still be diminished.
Farke will know that. So too those under his command. Norwich have gatecrashed the promotion scrap, now they need to do everything in their power to be the last to leave the party.
The sense of anxiety and excitement is tangible. Those in attendance at West Brom recently, in a packed away end at The Hawthorns, will have felt a different edge to that duel compared to other Championship contests. The same intoxicating mix was the backdrop to this latest tussle against a rival just as buoyant and chasing the same tantalising dreams.
Chris Wilder is an abrasive, spiky character.
A bigger contrast to the more measured, urbane Farke you would struggle to find. But they have moulded teams cast in their image, and the clash of styles whenever they meet is fascinating.
The Blades edged the previous two league meetings. Farke’s first brush with Sheffield United has since passed into folklore as the ‘Battle of Bramall Lane’. Or the ‘coach driver’s revenge’, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
The latest episode proved just as gripping.
Norwich scored a magnificent team goal that captured the very essence and purest form of Farke’s philosophy, before Teemu Pukki conjured a memorable second. Sharp salvaged a point with his predatory instincts.
Anything less would have bordered on a travesty for the visitors, given the manner they refused to go under. City possess similar traits; which is why both are striving to overhaul Leeds at the summit.
Norwich get the first shot this coming weekend. They might not get another one quite as good in the broader context.