Michael Bailey: The Norwich City mood music that suggests no 2016 repeat
PUBLISHED: 19:07 05 October 2017 | UPDATED: 19:07 05 October 2017
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It's probably a sad indictment of the state of international football, but fortnights like this are definitely good for one thing - taking stock of things at your club.
As England faffed around back in August, Norwich City fans were hiding from the Championship table while Daniel Farke prepared the foundations for a sizzling September – mostly with the players that had stayed behind in Norfolk. In general, those who went away missed their chance and the rest is recent, hugely impressive history.
And there was the distraction of the summer transfer window closing too.
Speaking of which, the ratio between minutes on the pitch and upturn in results since his arrival arguably makes Grant Hanley one of the greatest signings City have ever made. It’s hard to imagine what will happen when he actually gets some proper minutes on the pitch.
This time around, the work at Colney promises to be a little less frenetic and the pressure slightly different – say, a desire to build on so much good work rather than a desperation to force progress as soon as humanly possible. But what we have had this window is chapter and verse from City’s sporting director Stuart Webber; opportunities that come around to almost inadvertently reflect the longer-term nature of his role.
It’s a good time to hear from Webber of course, on the back of an unbeaten month and with his carefully selected head coach really looking the part.
Yet from reiterating Tom Trybull’s remarkable rise, to City’s transfer strategy and academy future, the clarity of vision currently at Carrow Road and Colney is like nothing that has been seen at the Canaries for a very long time.
And while the task that awaits come the summer should City fail in their bid for Premier League promotion remains ugly, the last month has everyone dreaming that Farke’s work could conjure something special.
The swing in City’s fortunes between just the first two months of a new season has been frightening – and that, at a club familiar with roller-coaster rides.
Meanwhile, the reminder of Alex Neil’s September manager of the month award 12 months ago is like standing in a room with Chris Sutton in the corner, tutting at the idea things will end differently.
In some ways it’s still too early to take stock.
The Championship table only approaches its first fair view come the halfway mark. Likewise judging Stuart Webber after just one window of transfer activity is akin to putting a book down after reading the back cover.
And yet, I think we could all name a couple of teams looking good for a promotion push they will go on to deliver. Or two clearly struggling that may already be doomed to failure.
Likewise the signs and noises are good that Farke is getting it, Webber gets it and City will make it – one way or another.
• Having slagged off international breaks, we can at least look forward to the dial being turned up a bit this time around.
It’s crunch time in World Cup qualification and there is a lot at stake for players all over the Championship – City included.
Even quizzing Timm Klose about it last Friday, the Swiss international told me he is still hoping for a ticket to Russia next summer – while those struggling for game time at City come January, may find their international prospects dictating the remainder of their domestic season responsibilities. For the first time in 15 months, it may be worth keeping a proper eye on what happens during the break.
• Even now, I’m struggling to think of something I’ve been a part of in my journalism career that felt more worthwhile than stepping in to host the Norwich City Fans Social Club mental health awareness evening last month.
Some of the personal stories offered by Cedric Anselin and Norman Lamb were tough to hear, yet felt so important – not only that they were finding the time and strength to tell them, but that the significant audience could take them on board and use them to either help themselves or help the ones they love and care for.
The night was always likely to reflect football issues, and it did just that – to the point where those in attendance from the football club will, like all clubs, hopefully do all they can to ensure their players and academy products are supported during their entire journey through the club; but more so, the world that awaits them on the other side.
However the night was about so much more than football and for that, everyone who took time to plan, volunteer and make sure the event took place so smoothly deserves huge praise.