Michael Bailey: 6 things learned as Norwich City rebook their Premier League berth – Blackburn, respect and realism
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Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey dishes his six things learned, as the Canaries beat Blackburn Rovers and part the night away with automatic promotion to the Premier League assured.
1 – Respect is a two-way street
Some fans of other clubs appeared to be less than impressed with the Norwich City supporters’ response during the Carrow Road promotion party. Fortunately, their opinion is entirely irrelevant.
Even the social media noise before the game seemed to include a lot of exasperation at the idea a pitch invasion would have its drawbacks.
However in the grand scheme of things, Saturday played out to perfection – all four sides of Canaries supporters getting to scream, cheer and applaud to their hearts’ content after a season that at least 22 other clubs would dream to experience.
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The connection fostered between players and supporters is perhaps the most comparable facet of 2019 to 2011. A relentless, organic energy that rolled over an entire division, week in week out.
While winning is the goal, it is also the result of an exceptional belief and gel that has permeated this term. A truly joint effort in all ways.
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2 – Don’t get lost in your desires
Blackburn backed off of course, but the sight of Mario Vrancic’s swirling drive of utter purity was City putting their hand up and saying: we have quality.
While Norwich have added so much to their game this season, their technical ability has always led their list of strengths – and it has oozed out of every pore of their performances since September, with remarkable and admirable consistency.
That is exactly the thought to remember when City tackle the Premier League next season – both on the pitch, and in the transfer window beforehand.
We’ve all done this before. We all know the clamber from here. Signings: big and lots of them. And of course there will be business. That is a necessity.
But the scale of it is the consideration – and don’t ignore your initial thoughts about this group last summer, and how much they have since proved off the back of being given a fighting chance by all; including you.
3 – Now we’ll see what Teemu is
I didn’t know who Teemu Pukki was when his name first popped up on my radar in the summer. A bit of reading up didn’t really add much anticipation.
Given Pukki, Emi Buendia and about 80pc of City’s recent recruitment work in the last two seasons, it says it all that this summer there will be an automatic excitement that may well grow exponentially the less we all know the name.
Once this season hit its stride and Pukki found his forward role, it soon became clear he was a cut above at this level – most Championship managers would now tell you the same.
Which makes this lovely man’s prospects next season, about as intriguing as anyone else’s in Daniel Farke’s squad.
Pukki’s international and club experience is vast. He has already played against top defenders. His pace, work rate and attitude is exceptional. And with all that, City’s attacking needs for next season already have a superb foundation.
4 – Here’s to deserved silverware
Sheffield United have to win at Stoke – a side as Norwich know, that are far from easy to defeat. City themselves need only a point at Aston Villa from a game the hosts can win only an intangible momentum boost – and lose far more, just days ahead of a play-off semi-final first leg against one of their nearest and dearest.
It’s a scenario that makes you think Norwich City really do have a wonderful chance to claim exactly what they deserve from this season – that being the Championship title and a load of medals.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t catch me out a little that the party would be fully on following promotion, rather than waiting another week – but at the same time I really respect that.
Farke is right to ensure the huge levels of hard work put in are balanced with marking the big successes.
Norwich and Leeds have led the Championship for 20 game-weeks each. The Blades just two. Here’s to the party fuelling one more push.
5 – Mowbray thinks it’ll all be OK
It’s hard not to like Tony Mowbray – the way he carries himself usually makes him a man worth listening to, and he’s certainly produced a robust Blackburn Rovers return to the Championship. If he gets the chance to improve again, they will be all the more awkward for those Norwich are leaving behind.
What’s more, Mowbray has a feeling City’s Championship fabric is actually what could serve them well when they take on the big boys – and in this climate the big boys are Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leicester.
“Norwich are a good side. You can’t disguise that – they’ve got some really good footballers,” said Mowbray at full-time on Saturday.
“I think they might do OK in the Premier League if they continue to be as brave as they are and play the way they do. They’ll play some much better teams and have some difficult days. But they are a decent team.”
That says all you need to know about this season.
6 – Remember this is very different
It’s right to think that promotion is the good bit. This group of players will never be forgotten, like every drama that got them back to the Premier League.
But let’s be realistic – the memories are also stored in a different place. Once the Premier League kicks in, it’s a whole new ball game.
Which is where the honesty of this campaign should continue. Where supporters know that 10 wins in a season is good work rather than 25. Where unbeaten runs are replaced by winless patches.
Where being hammered at Manchester City is no drama in itself – rather the focus being on the development, evolution and progress.
This isn’t preaching; it’s continuing. The current set-up and model is something that has worked in other countries – but has felt short of what’s needed in the mega-millions of the Premier League. Maybe it will be. But at the same time, be proud this Norwich City side is going to give it one hell of a go.
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