Michael Bailey: Don’t get distracted by comparing Norwich City’s progress to events at Huddersfield Town
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The biggest development this season has been my use of the hashtag #WIP – after all, in Twitter world Work In Progress just takes up too many characters given the countless times it seems to be required.
The theme won’t be going anywhere soon either. From the callers into this week’s PinkUn Show on Wednesday night, most expect to be reserving judgment on how Norwich City are faring under new head coach Daniel Farke until Christmas approaches.
The reality is it’s such a difficult balancing act facing City’s German boss and his boss, sporting director Stuart Webber – because despite the vast changes the football club has under gone and continues to under go, this season is not a free hit.
Come the summer, the parachute payments are over and the tough choices that faced the Canaries in the last few months will be on another level come 12 months time.
There needs to be patience. But even Webber and Farke would tell you, there also has to be an expectation too.
All of which leads me to Huddersfield Town. Now, in slagging off a host of national pundits in my previous column I’m aware that this was my last line: “Once City do start flying, it will all be Huddersfield Town comparisons anyway.”
And maybe it was the fact Huddersfield were in live action on Sunday TV, 24 hours after City had played (they’re not flying yet!) that drew the comparisons from some supporters.
It was something I found myself wondering the previous week, so I had a little look.
Firstly, you can’t compare Farke four games into this season with David Wagner four games into last. The German had actually taken over at the Terriers the previous November, when he had to bring in a new philosophy, fitness regime and tactical plan during an actual season.
Town won five of the first 17 games under Wagner. By the end of the 2015-16 season, they had won 10 of 33 and finished 19th in the Championship table. With free rein to prepare and expectations outside the club almost nonexistent, the rest is history.
Most stark perhaps is how Huddersfield have played under Wagner – the energetic, high-press, expansive countering team who were too hot for most teams to handle last season and have already made a promising start to this.
City fans need to realise that despite so many similarities, Wagner is not Farke. Farke’s teams do not play in exactly the same way.
In fact, Farke’s more patient approach was always more arguably suited to the squad he was walking into at Norwich – even with all those changes – than had Wagner been parachuted in.
And that isn’t me making a rash judgment on a handful of games. That is as much what Farke, Webber and those who saw both men’s Borussia Dortmund II sides in action have also said.
The most important word in #WIP is the last one: progress. Patience will come if progress is seen, regardless of the expectations and in some cases, comparisons.
That is what will mark Daniel Farke out as the coach we all hope has been brought into Norwich City – and regardless of people’s varying timescales to cast judgment, the good will is there. That is the best start you can ask for.
• Needless to say, I don’t feel the Carabao Cup third-round draw was maximised in terms of me being able to see it. You doubt anyone in the UK felt like that – despite the EFL’s protestations.
Sure, the Football League and its competitions need financial support from partners that can help secure a healthy future for such an important part of our national game.
But sticking on said draw at 4.15am in the UK was a disgrace. Nothing short of it. Nothing less.
The Premier League has had to work out how to deal with huge financial partnerships and how they might affect the integrity of its competition. They started in a stronger position of course, but likewise they have valued their product enough to make sure its decisions – even the ones that have generally gone down badly – have rarely diminished that integrity.
Conversely, the EFL seem so desperate to earn some actual money that nothing is now off-limits – and not only does that damage the game and its integrity; it poses serious questions about where it will lead and how far the EFL will be happy to go, just to ensure there’s as much money in the coffers as possible.
• It may have been the close-season, but it was one of the toughest grillings I got all year.
It was great fun to be asked by Pete Brown to take questions from the Community Sports Foundation’s Extra Time programme – set-up for those over 55 who are keen to keep active and social.
Pete and his team do a great job, and the people I got to speak to know so much about Norwich City Football Club that their input and opinions should always been valued.
If you’re reading this and fancy getting involved with their sessions, which include walking football, dodgeball, hockey cricket with numerous talks and chances to socialise, then check out communitysportsfoundation.org.uk or call 01603 761122. They were a really friendly group – and I’m sure they only keep their grillings for visiting journalists.