Paddy Davitt: Too much, too soon. With one major difference this time for City

PUBLISHED: 17:22 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:30 12 November 2019

Alex Neil's Norwich City era gave way to a new direction of travel under Daniel Farke 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil's Norwich City era gave way to a new direction of travel under Daniel Farke Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Daniel Farke and Alex Neil are bound by more than a shared connection to Norwich City.

Alex Neil admitted after his City exit he was too loyal to the players who earned Championship promotion 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdAlex Neil admitted after his City exit he was too loyal to the players who earned Championship promotion Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Canaries' head coach went into the international break staring up at the rest of the Premier League. Neil is peering down on all bar West Brom in the Championship, after fashioning what looks a genuine promotion tilt at Preston.

Last season it was Farke the master of all he surveyed in the second tier and Neil's Lilywhites falling short in a play-off bid. Such fluctuating fates and fortunes underline the turbulence that comes with the territory in a precarious profession.

By Farke's own measure Norwich's Premier League residency has come well ahead of schedule.

The German reckoned that gloriously unexpected Championship title triumph came two to three seasons ahead of a projected timescale that, at heart, is designed to establish City as a regular staple in the big time. Neil's majestic first six months in the job at Carrow Road ended with another wonderfully uplifting promotion secured in thrilling fashion at Wembley.

But the following season brought relegation, recrimination and a sense of decay around an ageing squad which would eventually drag Neil into a spiral that led to his demise and paved the way for Stuart Webber.

Both bosses essentially over-achieved with the Canaries. Neil paid the price. Farke, for all the angst from seven winless games culminating with defeat to Watford, will not.

All smiles for Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber at the German's unveiling in 2017 Picture: Denise BradleyAll smiles for Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber at the German's unveiling in 2017 Picture: Denise Bradley

The culture as much as the infrastructure has been transformed since the Scot's abrupt departure just hours after attending a pre-match press-call at Colney where he had outlined his plans for revolution that coming summer; an episode which cast few in positions of power at the club in a favourable light.

Webber is the kingmaker now. The Canaries' sporting director has made it clear publicly there is no emotional attachment to Farke that would preclude him from triggering a change - if such a scenario was ever required.

But the factors that might prompt such a major decision encompass far more than a weekly quest for three points or even Premier League survival this season.

Farke was anointed by Webber in 2017, and then handed a new, improved deal last season, because he understood the direction of travel, he knew the tight financial parameters woven around a newly-created role and the attendant need to develop young talent.

He has delivered on every measure and engineered a remarkable promotion into the bargain.

To reiterate, well ahead of schedule.

Viewed through a Premier League prism, Farke's faith in certain players, his preferred tactical approach, his inability to stem the alarming number of goals conceded - set against a chronic injury backdrop - and of late a dry spell in the attacking third are all justifiable charges.

But without Farke Norwich would not be competing at the top table.

If supporters accept the stated premise, framed by both Webber and Farke as far as back last summer, that City may need to go backwards to again leap forwards - in the manner of a Burnley or before them a West Brom - then Farke has already shown himself to be adaptable, innovative and able to compete on an uneven playing field.

Webber said prior to Watford's win it is not defeatism to plan for the likelihood of a return to the Football League.

See it as more of the forward planning that saw them recruit the likes of Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia, or radically transform the training ground and invest in the academy while insulating the club from future financial shocks.

None of that was attempted in Neil's era, and the Scot ultimately paid the price.

The ripples have been felt in every transfer window since.

The price once again for over-achievement on the pitch may ultimately be a brief Premier League stay this time around, but there the similarity ends.

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