Chris Goreham: How Norwich City are leading the pack on and off the pitch
Who has got the easiest job in football at the moment?
Raheem Sterling’s agent must be reclining in his office chair, the back of his head resting on his hands, with the Manchester City and England winger’s stock well and truly on the rise.
Other contenders include the person who has to count out the win bonuses for Ipswich Town’s players but, closer to home, Norwich City’s physio seems to be having a quiet time of it at the moment.
It was remarkable, as we enter the final month of a bruising Championship campaign, to hear that the Canaries’ treatment room is currently empty. Louis Thompson and Carlton Morris are back in training and that means Daniel Farke has a fully-fit squad to choose from as things stand.
The important thing to realise is that, despite my earlier tongue-in-cheek suggestion, the Norwich City medical staff deserve huge credit for helping to create a situation that could prove to be very handy during the run-in.
The days of a physio simply being a bloke who turned up on match days with a bucket of water, a first aid kit and a sponge are long gone.
Teams have entire departments dedicated to sports science nowadays and while the exact nature of the work they do is mystery to those of us who judge a club entirely by what we see on the pitch for 90 minutes every week it’s important to pay tribute to the unsung heroes behind the scenes at Colney who have played a massive part in preparing this push towards the Premier League.
There’s an element of luck in City’s embarrassment of riches.
No amount of heart rate monitors, GPS trackers and fitness data can entirely eliminate the risk that comes with a player taking a kick or being the victim of a bad challenge but the fact that not a single first team player was listed as injured for Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough cannot be a coincidence.
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Norwich’s ability to score late in games and very rarely looking jaded has backed Farke’s focus on fitness which has consistently been one of his key messages since he turned up in Norfolk two years ago.
It’s very easy to be dismissive about the amount of staff that are visible around first team squads on match days now.
I have certainly had a couple of ‘What do they all do?’ conversations at games on days when I’ve felt a bit like Geoff Boycott on Test Match Special or a parent trying to make sense of all the ‘noise’ that passes for pop music on Top of the Pops but it’s vital to move with the times.
I recently interviewed the Performance Analyst Dave Carolan who came to Norwich City in the early part of this century when the notion of ‘sports science’ felt like witchcraft to some of the pros who were longer in the tooth.
He talked about the battles he faced at the beginning to get a Canaries squad which featured strong characters like Craig Fleming, Malky Mackay and Iwan Roberts to embrace a new way of doing things.
Carolan has since gone on to work at a number of clubs including Birmingham City, Derby County and Stoke City and a role that was once regarded with suspicion in a sport that can be awfully reluctant to accept change is now considered to be absolutely essential when it comes to understanding how to get the very best out of the playing assets at a coach’s disposal.
There’s an awful lot of unseen work that goes into constructing a successful football team.
Thankfully I only have to concentrate on what happens during the matches and, the way it’s gone this season, there is certainly an argument to say that commentating on Norwich City is the easiest job in football at the moment.
It’s definitely one of the most enjoyable.