Cory Varney: Remember the name - The definitive Norwich City story
PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:17 07 April 2020
It was the calculated gamble that led all the way to the Premier League. Unknown commodities but a club now on the rise. Norwich fan and writer Cory Varney reaches a pivotal summer for Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber.
James Maddison is okay.
After his injury on the final day of the 2017/18 season, he will be out for eight weeks. He will be back for pre-season training. There is no need for surgery. There is no need to panic anymore.
There are sighs of relief all round.
Norwich get stuck into their summer plans.
Emi Buendia becomes the first arrival. The Argentine’s transfer to Norfolk has been done and dusted for some time, having impressed Norwich’s recruitment team while on loan at Cultural Leonesa.
Josh Murphy leaves for Cardiff City. Marley Watkins leaves for Bristol City.
“It’s been well-documented by me and Stuart (Webber) that there is a financial gap to close this summer,” notes managing director, Steve Stone. “I wouldn’t expect it to be anywhere near the turnover of last summer because we have got the nucleus of a decent squad in my view.”
Maddison then gets the move that he deserves and Norwich need.
He joins Leicester for over £20m.
“It’s quite obvious that we have lost some quality players with Josh Murphy, Marley Watkins and James Maddison having to leave the club,” says Daniel Farke.
“The last few days have been important for the financial future of the club, because it has been very necessary to sell players. But now it’s important to pay attention to getting the strongest squad that we can get.”
Moritz Leitner returns, permanently this time, from Augsburg, soon followed by Ben Marshall from Wolves, Felix Passlack on loan from Borussia Dortmund and Teemu Pukki, a striker on a free transfer from Brøndby. More on him later.
Jordan Rhodes, having been linked with the club as early as May, signs on loan from Sheffield Wednesday.
The squad then jet off to Germany for a pre-season training camp.
“To be together 24 hours a day is important, from the point of getting the squad to gel,” explains Farke. “They need to create relationships and that togetherness. This is a crucial phase. I work a lot on the character when we are signing players.”
Farke feels they have made some good signings in that regard.
Things go well in Germany.
Norwich beat Paderborn 3-2, lose 2-1 to Union Berlin before finishing up with a 1-1 draw against Wolfsburg.
Paddy Davitt suggests that goals could be easier to come by next season.
“There has been plenty of evidence here on foreign soil Norwich may well have added some genuine punch in the final third to hint the enduring quest for Championship goals may not be as arduous as last season.”
Timmy, Timmy Krul
Back at home, goalkeeper Tim Krul joins on a free transfer and Farke is convinced he’s going into the new season a better coach.
“Experience always helps,” he begins. “On each and every level. Even if Arsene Wenger right now joined Spain or Germany’s national teams, I can tell you after one year he would be better prepared.”
It’s not even a case of being prepared for the Championship, he explains. It’s about knowing his squad. Last season, he was faced with 27 lads who had to get used to him and him to them. Now, it’s different. He feels a lot more comfortable.
“I was ready for a break. 100pc. Even the summer before it was a late decision to come here, we had to do so much business and Stuart was only in the job for a matter of weeks. It felt like two years without any break. I was happy to get some quality time on holiday with the family and refuel the energy, come back relaxed and refreshed and highly motivated in a positive mood.”
Webber is singing from a similar hymn sheet, targeting improvement in the season ahead.
“We know what we have to do is believe in our way and find our way through it,” he explains. “We’re not chucking the cheque book at it, we’re chucking hopefully hard work, a mentality, a style of play, a direction, young players – but we’ve certainly got to work hard and improve.”
The season starts in style.
Onel Hernandez scores his first two goals for the club – one in the 83rd minute to make it 1-1, another in the 94th to make it 2-2 – as Norwich draw at Birmingham.
The first game of the season at Carrow Road, meanwhile, is equally dramatic, as Norwich lose 4-3 to West Brom. Rhodes scores and misses a penalty. Krul spills a speculative effort from Jay Rodriguez to gift the visitors the lead. Pukki also manages his first goal in yellow and green.
It’s not quite enough.
“Tim will not concede a goal like that again, 100pc,” Farke states, defending his goalkeeper after the match. “In both the games we were the best side, much the better side, but we have conceded poor goals.”
The first win of the season comes in the League Cup. Norwich defeat Stevenage 3-1.
Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons make their full Norwich debuts.
While it took a little while to implement ideas, the work behind the scenes is now bearing fruit, Academy manager, Steve Weaver says afterwards. “I’m pretty sure we’ll see more Jamal Lewises making appearances for the first team this season.”
Norwich City’s quest for marginal gains reaches a whole new level.
The away dressing room has been painted ‘deep pink’ to the ridicule of large parts of the footballing world. The idea comes from techniques used in America. The aim is to lower aggression and promote empathy.
In stark contrast, the home dressing room has been plastered with motivational phrases.
While it’s funny for some, notably Leeds United in the not so distant future, senior psychology lecturer at the UEA, Dr Andrew Bayliss, believes it could actually swing marginal games in Norwich’s favour.
The work on the make-up of those inside the home dressing room, meanwhile, could strengthen this City side.
Sheffield United are next.
Farke talks bad luck in the build-up.
“When you work in this business, you get the feeling at times maybe it is better to stay in bed,” he jokes. “I had this feeling at the start of the season, because we had two league games where we were much the better side and created so much but weren’t able to win.”
Kenny McLean has got injured. Norwich also have to go to Wales to take on newly-promoted Premier League Cardiff in the next round of the League Cup.
At the weekend, they miss a golden chance and lose in the final minute to Sheffield United.
“To be here with one point after our first three league games is ridiculous,” bemoans Farke. “I had the feeling, in general, football is determined by small situations and we have to be focused on them.”
Norwich do win their first league game of the season at the fourth time of asking, defeating Alex Neil’s Preston 2-0, but then find themselves brought back down to earth by league leaders, Leeds. They get beaten 3-0 at Carrow Road despite a flying start in the opening quarter before Marcelo Bielsa’s side over-power them.
The long trip to Wales sees changes, with the first East Anglian derby of the season looming large.
Ben Godfrey, Buendia and Aarons all come into the starting XI. Aarons scores as a Dennis Srbeny brace inspires Norwich to a 3-1 win over their Premier League hosts.
The young guns make a real impression.
Farke praises Godfrey as having all the attributes to be a ‘world-class’ centre back, despite having made a name for himself in holding midfield at Shrewsbury last season.
“To play in midfield at a lower level helps you to improve your performance in defence, because he knows what types of passes those holding midfielders need,” Farke explains. Gerard Pique, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Rio Ferdinand are all world-class centre backs Farke cites as having started in central midfield.
“I have the feeling when he gets used to this position and can have more games to learn the decision-making in the last row, because it is different, he has all the ingredients to be an outstanding centre back.”
He also notes the best is yet to come from Buendia after a disrupted pre-season.
“It is just important to find Emi a position where he can influence the game with many touches, play the final pass and to produce assists,” Farke says. “It is also one of his strengths that he is flexible and can play on the left or the right and number 10.”
That’s good as opponents will never know what to expect.
Farke tips the Argentina ace to be ‘pretty, pretty important’ for Norwich’s future.
Aarons, meanwhile, is determined to grab his chance, stressing his outings in the Norwich first-team show the pathway is there – if you are prepared to work hard.
“When Daniel came in we saw the pathway and the coaches in the academy used to speak to us about it, about there being a route to break into the first-team – so I took that chance and I have tried to grab it with both hands.”
He does, however, admit he may have to go out on loan for regular game time.
Aarons starts the East Anglian derby at Portman Road. His first career start in the league. As does Buendia. Godfrey will finish the game after coming on at half-time in a youthful backline where only Grant Hanley of the outfield defenders has any real first team exposure in front of Krul.
Ipswich are bottom with only two points to their name.
But when Gwion Edwards gives them the lead, via deflection, Portman Road is rocking. He so nearly makes it two.
Norwich’s young backline have to dig in. But they survive.
Then Moritz Leitner equalises.
The derby ends in another 1-1 draw. The third in the last four. Norwich are 17th after just five points from six games, trailing the play-offs by six points and the automatic promotion places by nine.
At 1-0 down, with the stadium ‘burning’ and Ipswich inching towards their first derby victory in ages – and first win of the season – Farke is proud of his young stars.
“You could feel it, but those young lads helped us to turn the game and then defend the situation when we basically had 10 players towards the end because we had made all the changes. I can’t think of any club on this level who has integrated so many lads in the first team.
“That shows our way and if we can go on in this style, our future is bright.”
City cult hero Iwan Roberts, however, isn’t quite so sure.
The former striker, writing in his regular newspaper column, feels on the available evidence the draw was fair. Neither did enough to win.
“After just one win between them in 12 games, it looks as if it’s going to be one long season and a bottom-half finish looks on the card for both clubs, with a long winter ahead.”
Part of that prophecy would come true.
Cory tweets about Norwich City on @iwritethings23 and @coryvwriter for business. He has also written a short film which explores mental health which you can support through the crowdfunding site for ‘I Love You Guys’