Paddy Davitt verdict: Now we find out how bold City’s vision really is
PUBLISHED: 16:11 05 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:31 06 July 2020
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Ignore the noise is the mantra that has defined this era at Norwich City. From here they must be more than just words guiding Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke.
The Canaries’ Championship return will be confirmed in due course. In a season unlike any other, in a world changed for ever, City’s demotion is inconsequential beyond a sporting context.
But it matters. Deeply, to those fans barred from stadiums and forced to endure a socially distanced, sad trudge back to the Football League.
Silence might have been preferable at full-time at Carrow Road on Saturday against Brighton for Farke and his under-performing players; angst and agitation a more likely soundtrack from full terraces.
Not simply for what unfolded against the Seagulls from a team bereft of confidence or belief.
But for the fact it has been the culmination of a season where, setting aside the unprecedented backdrop of a global pandemic, they have come up short on so many measures.
Injuries are mitigation but it is stretching the elasticity to use them as cover for a chronic shortage of goals or creativity. Or to excuse the incessant flow of individual errors which have beset whoever seemingly pulls on the green and yellow since that early season enthusiasm and wide-eyed innocence dissolved.
Farke and Webber operate with an honesty which at times may jar.
It is unvarnished and used as a construct for inclusivity with their fanbase, not a tactic to alienate. When they framed this challenge as the quest for another footballing miracle they were right.
In recent days, Farke himself revealed he felt they had barely a 5% chance of succeeding. When Webber openly admits they got the recruitment wrong it is a similarly stark admission that leaves both exposed to searing public scrutiny.
The key architects of City’s remarkable Championship ascent and Premier League promotion must prove themselves all over again now.
It is not enough to ‘live in the past’, as Farke himself said when explaining the omissions of both Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell from his Brighton starting roster.
To do so it is imperative they stick true to the course they set but armed with the knowledge of a sobering brush with the top flight.
They know they need to refresh a squad well short of what was required.
Not only to compete at the right end of the Championship again but with the potential to really flourish should they return to the top table.
Allow any hangover to persist, or err on the side of loyalty to players who have not cut it, and they risk slipping into a Championship comfort zone. Or worse as those with longer memories need no reminding.
The parallels with Alex Neil’s squad, who departed the Premier League in 2016, are clear. They too got stuck in neutral beyond the turn of that year. They too looked like reluctant actors in a drama where they had no control over the plot.
But Neil, by his own admission, was too loyal to the group he took down. He paid the price and what followed paved the way for Webber and Farke to take this club in a bold new direction.
To repeat the same mistakes from here will rightly have many fans questioning has this episode marked a modern twist on a familiar story at Carrow Road. The circumstantial evidence suggests not.
Webber’s desire to avoid any repeat of the calamitous transfer dealings from those previous Premier League incarnations leaves City on a sounder financial footing. They possess an enviable asset base of young talent.
The transformation of Colney – both in bricks and mortar and mindset – should now bring residual dividends for a self-financing club.
But at the heart of this project stands Webber and Farke. They have to block out the inevitable criticism and lead from the front.
It is one thing to acknowledge your mistakes and learn your lessons. It is quite another to harbour self-doubt or question the tenets on how you have built this Norwich revival.
The underlying difference next time around is they can no longer operate in the shadows, shielded from any expectations and freewheeling to the top.
By their own stated measure, the aim is to establish Norwich as a top 25 club in this country.
That requires a serious tilt at an immediate return.
Right now the air feels stale, the mood one of resignation. Webber and Farke have to remain bullish and self-confident, and offer ample evidence over these coming weeks, to convince the doubters to stick with them on the journey.