In many ways, David Wagner’s only full season as Norwich City head coach has felt like a bit of a dream.

Up until 8.08pm on Thursday evening there was an incredibly real possibility that he’d lead the Canaries to their second-ever appearance at the new Wembley Stadium, a decent chance that they could even achieve a record sixth promotion to the Premier League.

Within 34 minutes of that, however, all hopes of a trip to the capital were dashed, and a surreal campaign was flashing before the eyes of the travelling supporters.

It started a year ago with a hazy session of random access memory, vaguely recognisable names from football past signing up for Wagner’s promotion push.

Remember Ashley Barnes scoring 12 top-flight goals for Burnley? Remember when Shane Duffy helped keep Brighton in the Premier League? What about Adam Forshaw, who seven years earlier was being tipped for England?

They were all brought along for the ride, even if they felt nothing like the sorts of players fans associated with the yellow and green.

Those signings epitomised what Wagner was about, and where eventually his time at Carrow Road came apart at the seams. In the short-term they weren’t bad signings at all, but they weren’t like Norwich and they weren’t for the future.

That divergence has been a key theme throughout the German’s time at the club: how important are results compared to ideology, and how long can one sustain the other?

Ideological clashes were even more prevalent when Ben Knapper arrived as sporting director, his desire for youth and control at odds with Wagner’s pragmatic stance. Their tug of war became increasingly public as time went on, the latter’s briefing at Birmingham a rather direct criticism of his boss.

In that press conference he mentioned former chief Stuart Webber four times, as if fans needed anything to make that particular beating stick any bigger. The 52-year-old’s status as Webber’s man was enough to turn plenty against him, and it continued to be a point of tension up until the very end.

The Pink Un: Wagner was always seen as Stuart Webber's manWagner was always seen as Stuart Webber's man (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Wagner’s original appointment, made within a fairly poor market when Norwich needed a quick appointment mid-season, felt like a marriage of convenience for the pair, even if it wasn’t quite as lazy as some suggested.

Norwich needed a head coach, Wagner was out of a job, the duo had helped Huddersfield through the play-offs in 2017 and that was the only way of achieving promotion 16 months ago. For the short term it made sense.

But when 31-year-olds were being signed on three-year contracts and young players were being shunned in favour of experience, the alarm bells began to ring.

Two years after winning a record-breaking Championship title fuelled by home-grown talent, academy players were questioning whether this was the place for them to develop.

The strangling of that pathway has been one of numerous issues Wagner has tried to airbrush from his tenure, with shortcomings given abrasive dismissals and successes extensive analysis.

Take, for example, his final press conference as Norwich head coach, warming the desk for predecessor Daniel Farke at Elland Road. “If you consider where we came from, last season we finished 13th, now we finished in the play-offs,” he said. “I got told in January that we had an 11pc chance of doing that.”

But those weren’t situations Wagner was dropped into without his doing, they weren’t just unlucky places for him to find himself in. City went from a top-six place in March 2022 to mid-table via one win in 11 games, and the former Schalke boss oversaw every minute of those games.

It was the same with the poor form in the autumn, whose abject performances were based on Wagner’s drab and defeatist tactics. The constant treatment of his own failures as extraneous matters only angered his detractors further, and it’s easy to understand why.

There weren’t only negatives to his reign, however, and there consistently remained at least a pocket refreshed by what Wagner was instilling in NR1.

For years now Norwich have been accused of being too soft, lacking experience, lacking physicality and lacking mental fortitude. He increased their levels of all those things, and he took the play-off promotion dream nearly as far as it can go.

The Pink Un: The German did have his supportersThe German did have his supporters (Image: Andy Sumner/Focus Images Ltd)

But prioritising those elements over the values City have always stood for was never going to end well, even if two miserable relegations left the ground fertile for a different approach.

Wagner picked up the mantle at the right time for him, but in truth he was the wrong man for Norwich. After 498 days the dream is now over, the experiment concluded.

Knapper’s new man, whoever that may be, is likely to bring fans closer to what they’ve traditionally wanted. He knows he has to get this appointment right, or it’ll go from hazy, foggy dream to nightmare very quickly.