Norwich City report card: A triumph of fighting spirit and a refusal to give up, Tim
PUBLISHED: 12:05 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:52 14 May 2019
Norwich City's season to remember ended with a title win and a place in the Premier League. In the first of our report card series Paddy Davitt looks back at Tim Krul's massive impact at the title-winning Canaries.
Tim Krul started the season patting Jay Rodriguez's long-range shot into the net, in his first Canaries' league game at Carrow Road. He finished it being feted by tens of thousands on the City Hall balcony.
As turnarounds go that was pretty epic. The beating heart of Norwich's remarkable Championship title success was a keeper who had to prove all the doubters wrong. Those who said a long term knee injury that effectively ended his career at Newcastle United had claimed his best days; dulled the edges of a genuine Premier League-grade performer who had starred for Holland at the World Cup.
To go from that career plateau to effectively a watching brief on Brighton's bench for most of last season must have been mentally difficult for the 31-year-old.
Sat at City's Colney training base in recent months, a relaxed Krul felt able to speak about the darkness of that period from injuring himself on international duty to a bit-part role on the south-coast. Losing something perhaps he had not fully appreciated before when he was on an inexorable rise to the top of his profession. That is why this title and this past season rank so highly.
Krul just wanted to get back playing regularly at a decent level when he pitched up in Norfolk. Seagulls' boss Chris Hughton told him this time last year he was too good to be a number two and to go and prove himself all over again.
City's recruitment brains have been feted for the manner they unearthed the likes of Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia. Do not downplay the significance of enticing Krul to Carrow Road to replace the departed Angus Gunn. That needed a keeper of substance and quality.
Gunn was second only to James Maddison in terms of effectiveness during Daniel Farke's debut tour. Whoever came after the boyhood Norwich fan was accepting a huge challenge. But we have seen enough of Krul now in green and yellow (or perhaps orange) to suggest he was the perfect character.
You can measure his effectiveness in the faultless 46-game Championship season he produced. Or the clean sheets. Or those vital saves at vital times which more than compensated for the odd error against the Baggies or later in the season a miscued clearance at home to Hull.
That is the stock in trade of the last line. Krul himself, rather prophetically, suggested earlier this year in that same Colney interview even the likes of David de Gea have an off day or two. How right he was about the Manchester United keeper's own downturn in form. But class is permanent. And Krul's massive impact should be measured in his influence on and off the pitch for Norwich.
Farke's philosophy hinges on a number one comfortable with the ball at his feet, who retains a calmness to his distribution to build the play from deep. But much more than what Krul brought on the park was the experience and temperament to play behind a backline stacked with raw young talent and a German defender plying his trade in regional football two seasons ago. Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann have all rightly been lauded before, during and after the post-promotion haze for their consistency of performance and the accelerated nature of their development. Do not under-estimate Krul's soothing presence behind them; the right word at the right time from an experienced operator who had been over this course and distance.
Pukki's status as the best free transfer signing of this or any other season at Norwich is secure. But Krul in his own way, and in a different park of the pitch, proved just as vital.
Yet Krul knows the nature of this hard-headed business better than most, after his career-defining knee injury. He may be firmly established now as Farke's main man. But you can already hear the calls for reinforcements. If not to oust the Dutchman then to provide stiff competition.
Given the adversity he overcame to stand proudly on that balcony at City Hall, as thousands roared their approval, only the foolish would suggest this is as good as it gets for the 31-year-old at Norwich City.