Ian Clarke: Away the lads! Norwich City living the dream on their travels
PUBLISHED: 13:35 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 06 March 2019
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Home may be where the heart is – but I’m increasingly believing that away is where the art is for Norwich City.
The Carrow Road faithful have been treated to some lovely football and thrilling grandstand finishes.
However, for me the key reason we are sitting so pretty at the summit of the Championship with a real belief that this is our season is down to what has gone on away from NR1.
A look at the stats alone says so much.
City are top of the away table with 34 points out of the season total so far of 69.
Daniel Farke’s men have netted 34 goals on their travels (nearly two a game and four more than anyone else) and conceded only 18 (one a game and only bettered by Tony Pulis’ Middlesborough - by the way would you want to watch that lot every week?) The Canaries have only lost twice on the road - very late on at Sheffield United early in the season and then the reversal at Preston which came after that exhausting period of high intensity games.
With five away matches to come there’s a decent chance that City will break the club record of the fewest defeats in a campaign (which was four in the 2010/11 promotion winning season).
There’ll be more facts and figures to come in a bit about success (and otherwise) on our travels over the years.
Why I’m so adamant about the significance of the achievements out of Norfolk is the almost complete package of factors the team has shown - character. resilience, style, more style, domination, relentlessness, control, bouncebackability, adaptability,,,,I could go on.
Way back in August little did we know the importance of the draw at Birmingham on the opening day.
Expectations level were low after last season’s woes. A defeat would have confirmed the start that so many had predicted.
Onel Hernandez’s 83rd and 94th minute goals not only secured a valuable draw and prevented a potentially damaging scene-setting reversal, but they provided a template for what was to come on the road.
It was ultimately two points dropped at Portman Road against the runaway leaders in the race for the drop. But we could so easily have been two down before levelling. Another point was added to the tally and meant we hadn’t lost three in four,
There have been so many significant phases of the season away from home - two wins in a week at QPR and Reading and then those thumpings of Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea, when we really started dominating games.
At Hillsborough - never an easy place to go - City completed 529 passes and had 59pc possession. At Swansea, the four goals came from seven shots - such impressive clinical finishing.
Fans who have seen every away game may tell me differently. However, for me the 3-1 victory at Elland Road was the peak of our total football this term.
Apart from that late slip to give Leeds a goal, every aspect of our play that evening was spot on as we stamped our mark on the promotion race in permanent ink.
The Bolton win was a stat’s fans dream - 70pc possession, 749 passes, 89pc passing accuracy (80pc in their half) and 23 shots. I’m still purring at those goals.
Millwall was a big test - especially after the horrors there last season.
Farke’s men passed with flying colours and former striker turned pundit Dean Ashton had this to say about what City achieved: “If you’re having to chase the ball for 60 minutes, and trying to press and win the ball high up the pitch, then that is exhausting. The game starts to open up in the last 30 minutes and that’s where you see their quality again. They were superb.”
It’s going to need victories in all five remaining games to better the 13 wins in the 2014/15 season.
There’s no doubt, though, that the impact on the road has been among the most significant for many a year,
Even in that never-to-be forgotten campaign in 1992-3, when we finished third in the top flight, only a third of the points came away while the real success was at Carra (we lost 10 away games and had goal difference of -16).
In the promotion seasons of 2003/4 and 2009/10 we got 37 and 41 points on our travels (in reaching 94 and 95 points respectively). Both of those away totals look achievable.
And long away does it seem for those who travelled away in the 2004/5 campaign? Yes, it was in the Premier League but there wasn’t a single away victory that season and just seven draws.
Right, let’s make sure we make the most of home comforts in our double header over the next week. And then carry on the away day joy at Rotherham. OTBC.
Farke perfects man management
I’m not going to win any awards for investigative journalism when I say that Daniel Farke appears to be pretty much the perfect man manager.
As every week passes, I’m seeing more evidence of the wonders he is working in his squad.
He has been loyal to the youngsters, made tough decisions when necessary and seems to have the ability to get the very best out of his lads - as well as creating one of the best team spirits that I can remember.
Ben Godfrey summed it up perfectly when he spoke after the Millwall game.
“The boss is unbelievable to work under because you know that he is fair and when you get your chance, if you take it he will trust you.
“That gives you such a great feeling. He won’t put any pressure on you and you feel like you can just enjoy your football under him, which I think you can see with all of us young boys. That is massive and credit to him.”
You can’t ask more than that.
Loyal fans being rewarded
I was looking back at EDP front pages from the last 20 years this week and the headline FAN-TASTIC jumped out at me alongside a big picture of City supporters.
There are many occasions when that headline could have been used to describe the yellow and green army over that period.
This particular occasion actually came 10 years ago as the Canaries were spiralling towards League One.
Actually, yes. It referred to the “staggering” total of 17,000 fans who had renewed their season tickets ahead of the first deadline despite the prospect of watching third tier action.
At that time supporters could have been forgiven for being reluctant to sign up again - but we showed incredible backing to the club.
The number of renewals continued to rise and Carrow Road was pretty much during that whole League One season.
That oneness was massive then - and a decade on is phenomenal.
The loyalty shown both ways is being rewarded.