Cory Varney: Hold your nerve boys. It is so close - The definitive Norwich City story
PUBLISHED: 12:17 10 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:20 10 April 2020
It was the calculated gamble that led all the way to the Premier League. A new deal for Mr Farke. A painful one for Mr Lambert. City fan and writer Cory Varney continues his magical mystery tour of a Championship title push.
Daniel Farke issues a rallying cry.
The German knows others are really taking notice now. Norwich lead the Championship through smart recruitment and developing young talent. They are doing it their way.
“I would love to spend £10m on a midfield player or offensive player. That would make my task easier but if you don’t have that you must fight with your tools and your plan. We believe in developing players and lads who are desperate to wear this yellow shirt with pride.”
Norwich know they are a surprise. They know others are a bigger favourite to win the Championship.
“We know for many we are perhaps over-achieving and that is good,” states Farke. “Let’s not go for realistic targets, let’s try to create something extraordinary.”
After games against promotion rivals Sheffield United and Leeds, Norwich have the small matter of an East Anglian derby against Paul Lambert’s rock bottom Ipswich Town side.
It takes Norwich just 80 seconds to take the lead through Onel Hernandez.
Paul Lambert loses his head on the stroke of half-time and gets sent off and Carrow Road could not be more delighted.
Teemu Pukki adds a brace in the second 45. Norwich never really have to get out of first gear. They win 3-0.
“I think we completely put them off their stride,” Luke Chambers says afterwards. “After 10 minutes we realised what we needed to do and they couldn’t really get near us.”
Ipswich stay bottom. Norwich stay top. The Canaries are 42 points ahead of their rivals.
There are 45 points left to play for.
Midweek is rough. Norwich lose 3-1 at Preston. Leeds reclaim top spot. Bielsa’s men aren’t playing on Saturday. Norwich bounce back with a 4-0 demolition of Bolton.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” says Daniel Farke, speaking during a Q&A at a Norwich City Fans Social Club event at Carrow Road. “People may get bored of all the passing! In future they may say, ‘yeah, he was solid, sometimes his football was boring but it’s good to see him back’.”
Signing on the dotted line
Farke’s contract – expiring in the summer – has become a growing topic.
“But I can say this is my home in England, and it will always be.”
The first season was difficult, Farke says. It’s felt home from the first day, however. He has a home base in Germany and it could be, in future, he returns there. But he will only have one home base in Germany, just like he now will in England.
There is certainly no place like home on Saturday.
Norwich blow away a Bristol City side who had won seven games in a row in the second-half. They win 3-2.
“Don’t dream too much, don’t think you are too good,” says Farke, fine with the supporters and the city dream, but still keen to keep his team focussed on the 12 games there are still to go.
Tim Krul posts a video in midweek. It is Marco Stiepermann spinning a wheel of fortune after picking up a fine. He hopes he can wriggle out of it.
It lands on cleaning Daniel Farke’s car. Inside and out.
That is the most dramatic thing to happen in Norfolk this week. In Leeds, however, they lose their game in hand to QPR.
Norwich are now outright top of the Championship again.
They celebrate with a 3-1 at Millwall on Saturday, all demons exorcised from that 4-0 mauling in the early days of Farke’s reign.
Nigel Worthington is a man who knows what it takes to get Norwich City promoted.
He is back in Norfolk, delivering a commemorative shirt to Alex Tettey for his 200th appearance, following in the footsteps of other legends as Norwich reconnect with figures of the past.
“We have very similar thoughts in how we approach the game and he is a very upbeat, positive individual,” says Worthington after speaking with Farke. He feels Farke’s got a “very similar group” to what he had.
“There’s a real camaraderie, a real closeness, a real bond there. That’s something that’s very, very important and the reason they’ve had an excellent season up to now,” explains Worthington.
“Their work ethic, the way the players enjoy their football and the energy they put into the game is fantastic, so you’ve got three wonderful things there which is part of a winning formula – and if they can keep that going hopefully it will be all smiles around Norwich City and the county as a whole.”
Norwich are up first as the weekend’s football begins again, taking on Swansea on the Friday. They win 1-0. There are just 10 games to go.
The City Way
Stuart Webber speaks to Sky Sports beforehand, talking through the progress made.
“There were players here who thought they should be in the Premier League and had maybe lost a bit of the hunger. So, when I came in the attitude was to make the academy work. We have a category one academy and we invest a lot of money in it. But when I came, what were we getting from it?”
Webber cites the Murphy twins as breaking through, but notes it was only really Chris Martin who came before them. Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis all started against Swansea. Todd Cantwell was on the bench.
“What were we doing with it? What was the plan? It was about joining it up. People talk about the role of a sporting director and how it undermines the manager, but there has to be someone creating that bridge for these players to walk over.”
The summer saw big names leave, not to mention a lot of goals with James Maddison and Josh Murphy heading to the Premier League.
“I am big on clarity with supporters because they pay their money so I wanted to tell them the truth that we needed to invest in youth and balance things up. It is all stuff that people are happy to hear but they want to win as well. So it was hard but we were confident that people would start to see progress this season. You just need a bit of time.”
Minutes before Norwich kick-off against Hull, City supporters hear the news they have been waiting for, for weeks.
Daniel Farke has signed a new contract.
Norwich celebrate with a 3-2 win to return to the top of the Championship, after both Leeds and Sheffield United won the day before.
“Of course, it was a bit of a shaky start after two difficult years for the Club with relegation and first difficult year back in the Championship,” says Farke. “I felt even in these times, there was a lot of support and trust and we are all happy that we have been able to pay back.”
There is still plenty of work that remains, however.
“A big topic is to make this Club a permanent member of the best 25 clubs in the whole country,” he explains. “It’s a big, big task, it’s not an easy way to go and there’s a still a lot of work to do with it but I’m happy that I’m allowed to help in a responsible role and to go further on.”
Leeds take on Sheffield United in the lunchtime game on Saturday. They lose 1-0.
Norwich win 2-1 at Rotherham the following afternoon, moving four points clear of Sheffield United in second and five clear of Leeds who now lie third.
They have almost guaranteed a play-off spot.
Iwan Roberts doesn’t think Norwich will need it. He knows what it’s like to be chased, having won this league with Norwich in 2004. “I look at this Norwich team now and they remind me of us. They are relentless, they keep going and going and don’t know when they are beaten.”
He calls it. Neither Sheffield United or Leeds will catch them.
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’