Chris Goreham: Rolling with the punches is underpinning City and Farke’s promotion assault
PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:11 22 January 2019
Does being British ever make you feel inadequate?
Don’t worry this isn’t going to be another column that rants about Brexit, I have enough issues of my own to resolve before starting on those that currently hang over Westminster.
My insecurities stem from a couple of meetings with a German journalist over the past two weeks.
Gregor Schnittker has been in Norwich for the last fortnight working on an article about the German influence at Carrow Road.
He interviewed me to get a reporter’s perspective on the past 18 months in the life of the Canaries and hopefully some of my pearls of wisdom will make it into his magazine ‘11 Freunde”’ once he has translated them.
Gregor is a lovely man, a Borussia Dortmund supporter and one of those visitors who thought it was necessary to apologise for the quality of his English even though his command of our language was arguably at least as good as mine.
There was no point conducting the interview in German because my two years of struggling with it at school have left me with an ability to do little more than ask directions to the swimming pool, tell him that I am 12-years old and explain that I have one brother. That’s not the sort of insight that the editor of ‘11 Freunde’ wanted when he dispatched Gregor for his Norfolk adventure.
The experience has made me reconsider the work that Daniel Farke has done at Norwich City and provided a reminder that all of those interviews, team talks and astute tactical plans have been transmitted in his second language.
It’s something I can only admire as a bit of a one trick pony when it comes to linguistics.
Farke is clearly more adaptable than I am and it is something that has shown in his recent team selections.
There cannot have been many Carrow Road regulars who would have picked out Marco Stiepermann has the natural successor to James Maddison as the furthest forward of the City midfield, a teenage Max Aarons as not just a first team regular but a key player at right back and that Christoph Zimmermann and Ben Godfrey would be able to justify selection as a central defensive partnership with both Timm Klose and Grant Hanley fit and in contention.
All of those things have happened in recent weeks and helped Norwich City reclaim second place in the Championship.
Farke has admitted that Aarons has performed even beyond his own expectations and the form of the youngster explains why City have been happy to allow Ben Marshall to join Millwall on loan for the rest of the season and be relaxed about Ivo Pinto possibly leaving for a Turkish club.
Those two players looked to be competing for the right back berth at the start of the season along with Felix Passlack who is still yet to feature in a league game but is, according to my new German friend Gregor, “a quality player”.
The pace of change at Carrow Road is best illustrated by a look at the back of any recent matchday programme.
The days of players wearing 1-11 have long gone but even in the age of squad numbers you would think those with low numbers must have been at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts at some point.
If we take Pinto and Marshall out of the equation, Norwich currently don’t have anyone allocated to shirts 2, 3, 5, or 7 while 9 belongs to the lesser spotted Nelson Oliveira and is highly unlikely to be worn by him again any time soon.
The ability to calmly adapt with circumstances as they come along and change plans with a minimum of fuss is the sort of thing the Germans probably have a word for.
I wouldn’t know about that though.
Six of the best
If the best part of two decades working on BBC Local Radio has taught me anything it is that people love a bit of nostalgia.
The current Canaries can prompt anything from glowing tributes to wailing and gnashing of teeth depending on the prevailing form but nothing generates a quantity or warmth of response like talking about old football.
It’s something we discovered again last week when, after watching one of those Masters five-a-side tournaments on TV over Christmas, we came across some archive footage from the late 1980s of an event where those exhibition tournaments were not a showcase for retired footballers.
It seems extraordinary now but 30 years or so ago it was a regular feature of the winter months for top flight clubs to send their first team players into battle in five and six-a-side tournaments during the actual proper season.
It’s one of those quirks of football that is still loved by those of us old enough to have watched the highlights on Sportsnight and barely believed by anyone younger. It is the equivalent of Harry Kane, Mo Salah and Paul Pogba taking part in a competitive indoor kickabout in between Premier League matches.
It turns out that Norwich City were pretty good at small sided football in the late 80s and even won the Daily Express National Five-A-Side tournament at Wembley Arena in 1986. The tournament’s unlikely top goal scorer was City defender Ian Culverhouse.
When I asked BBC Radio Norfolk’s local football expert Nick Bowler to mention this to the current King’s Lynn Town boss after interviewing him before the Linnets’ game at the weekend it raised an eyebrow but Culverhouse spoke fondly of the tournament, what it meant to the players and how much fun it was.
There’s a video on YouTube of all Norwich City’s matches from The Guinness Soccer Six which was played in Manchester a couple of years later. Again, all of the top Canaries of the day turned out to represent their team with one notable exception.
We asked Bryan Gunn why back-up goalkeeper Jon Sheffield got a rare chance to impress during that tournament. Gunny referenced the tournament sponsors and was honest enough to admit that his love of football hospitality may also have started at around this time.