Chris Lakey: Farke and Southgate, Norwich and England - there's so much to like about them all
PUBLISHED: 19:43 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 19:44 29 March 2019
One of the joys of this football season has been watching Norwich City's performances.
It is hard to recall witnessing another team which has provided such entertainment on a regular basis. Yup, you can cite Manchester City, and perhaps Liverpool when they are not blipping. But when it comes to pound for pound – and interpret that whichever way you wish – City are the best.
For me, the Canaries have been more than value given the leading scorer is a free transfer, there’s a bunch of lower league players, for want of a better word, kids, plus the odd seasoned and experienced (but not old) pro here and there.
One of the other joys this season has been watching a similar team, one which reminds of Norwich and one which no longer has me tearing my hair out. It’s England.
Watching the national team play was a bit like pulling teeth, just less painful. I watched as old boy after old boy was guaranteed a place in the team by dint of his name and standing at club level, not by playing well. I watched as manager after manager came and went by dint of their CV – sound, but not exciting. Not proven. Importantly, not with a plan.
Now I watch England and I just think yellow and green.
Perhaps best explain..
The managers are both thinking types who know a footballer when they see one, but know that it’s how you treat them away from the 90-minute explosions of their art that can be as valuable as the coaching you give them. Instil a respect for the institution, the fans, each other, one that ensures that there are not outsiders.
The pathway that England are so proud of exists in this way at Norwich - no longer do young players feel they are being nurtured to play for someone else or, in England’s case, not at all. Teen talent isn’t going to waste.
For Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis read Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho. For Emi Buendia and Ben Godfrey read Declan Rice and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
For Gareth Southgate read Daniel Farke, men who have a vision for the future and a philosophy for the here and now. City have been delightful to watch and England aren’t far behind, because both men are using players who take joy in expressing their skills. Sterling is absolutely ripping it apart at the moment, and Southgate is allowing him his head with the national side. And reaping the rewards.
Farke has a number of players on a similar vein of form - Buendia probably the best example - and is doing the same.
There’s an ‘old hand’ or two: City have Tim Krul and Timm Klose, Alex Tettey perhaps. Southgate has Kyle Walker, Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson.
Neither has fallen into the old boys trap – if you don;t want to fit into the system, then you are out. Ask Nelson Oliveira.
Both managers need their teams to be like conveyor belts, picking up ready-made replacement when players are injured, lose form, get old. Farke has been able to effectively replace (not discard) Klose with Godfrey and Tettey with Tom Trybull.
And they know where players’s strengths really – between their ears.
They will treat them properly and create a mutual respect: Southgate’s reaction to the disgraceful racist behaviour by Montenegro fans in midweek showed his full support for his players without resorting to jingoistic and implausible support that sounds like it is being forced out of a manager’s mouth. Fake views.
Southgate is respected by his players, Farke by his: I’m not sure that has been the case with their predecessors. I doubt there is much negative chatter about Farke when the players get together. Why would they? He’s the one giving them a big opportunity - Premier League football. And in Southgate’s case, a very genuine chance of European or World Cup success.
What matters to fans are the results and the performances. And that’s where the bonus is: not only are they darned fine chaps and all that, buy they win, and in style.
England have played 32 game sunder Southgate, winning 20 and drawing seven. Farke has had 95 league and cup games in charge of City, winning 44, drawing 26 and losing 25. Perhaps the more important stats are that Southgate has had six wins and a draw since the World Cup last year and Farke has had 23 wins, nine draws and six defeats in 38 Championship games this year. Which is phenomenal. And hugely enjoyable.
We’ve all seen City and England lose far too regularly. That’s all changed now.
Next week: Comparing Ipswich and Scotland...
Kick it out... again
I can’t begin to say how shocking the racist behaviour by Montenegro fans towards England players was in midweek.
There are no words to describe it.
So, straight into the question: what do we do?
I have heard suggestions that guilty clubs/countries should play games behind closed doors. That punishes far too many people, not least the opposition and their supporters. How about a ban for the offending team’s/country’s supporters only? Why should the fans of future Montenegro opponents be punished too?
Is that sort of ban too big a blanket, though? Thing is, racism has been around for a long time and has made a bit of an unwanted return of late, partly through the actions of hideous publicity-seeking individuals. If you are going to get rid of it, you perhaps need to fight fire with fire and react strongly, otherwise, these fools just won’t learn any lessons and innocent people will suffer for no good reason.