Paddy Davitt: Only one winner if Norwich City’s squad step out of line with Daniel Farke
PUBLISHED: 13:54 03 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:54 03 October 2017
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The refrain is a familiar one. The power in modern football now resides with players and agents.
That may just require a degree of revision, if you look at the way Southampton retained the services of Virgil van Dijk or Liverpool rebuffed nine-figure enquiries from Barcelona for their midfield ace Philippe Coutinho in the last transfer window.
But there is no dispute professional football has travelled many a mile from the era of tied contracts and the maximum wage.
In the post-Bosman era, and an industry bloated by spiralling sums of broadcast revenue at the elite end, the need to pander to the whims of players and their representatives must be a constant dilemma for coaches, chief executives - or sporting directors for that matter.
Set aside the financial machinations that accompany every fresh display of largesse in the football transfer window cycle. This skewered shift in the balance of power also seeps into how a coach handles such highly-prized commodities. Game to game, week to week, day to day. On the training field, in the dressing room, on the football pitch.
Man-management is an intangible trait routinely used to link the managerial titans of yesteryear. Bill Shankly, Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson were all perceived as masters of the psychological cut and thrust; their authority unquestioned.
Read anecdotes from those who played under their command and a common theme emerges - of respect and a desire to please. The idea the likes of Shankly, Clough or Ferguson ruled purely by fear was outdated then as it is now. Such longevity and sustained success in a volatile profession is simply not possible without compassion and empathy.
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Daniel Farke has already been tested in this regard on two very public occasions. The fallout from Nelson Oliveira’s bare-chested goal celebration at Fulham was an unwanted early season distraction for a head coach on a steep learning curve in English football.
There was another episode last week, with Josh Murphy’s demotion from the squad that won at Middlesbrough.
Many of Farke’s contemporaries, including one or two who occupied the same Carrow Road hot seat in recent times, may have chosen to deal with both cases in private. Media questioning would have been firmly rebuffed. The wagons would have been circled.
In Murphy’s case, there may even have been a temptation to explain his absence on Teesside with a mystery ailment. Farke, however, offered private counsel and public admonishment. After the harsh words, Murphy was swiftly restored to the starting XI at Reading.
Both the young midfielder and the Portuguese firebrand were reminded what a privilege it is to play for a club of Norwich City’s stature and their responsibility to the fan base.
There was stick and carrot. Farke was also happy to reveal both had apologised in front of their peers.
That self-sufficiency is emerging as a core trait.
City’s head coach will lead but he wants others to share the load. Experienced players like Ivo Pinto and Timm Klose are increasingly influential in a dressing room which has undergone a major summer overhaul.
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You can see it on the pitch in a seven-match unbeaten run that has faced plenty of adversity at difficult outposts like the Riverside and Bramall Lane. You can also feel it off the pitch, in the manner Klose spoke prior to the Reading win about the importance of the collective and the ‘lifejacket’ thrown to Murphy.
Yet Farke clearly sets the tone. Oliveira and Murphy both know they over-stepped the mark. They also know, along with the rest of the Norwich squad, who would have keenly observed how Farke dealt with such incidences for any trace of weakness, there is a clear red line.
Irrespective of reputations or talent, if the attitude or application is lacking, if any player drops below the professional standard Farke demands they will not play.
That phenomenon loosely term ‘player power’ may be alive and well in the professional game, but Farke’s measured response to such early challenges to his authority is a refreshing antidote.