Fact from fiction: Four years of Farke at City

Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber have left their mark on Norwich City

Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber have left their mark on Norwich City - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City as we know it changed on May 25, 2017. That was the beautiful sunny day at Carrow Road a man called Daniel Farke was officially unveiled as the club’s first overseas head coach.

Alongside him, sat their first ever sporting director, Stuart Webber. A largely unknown duo embarking on a journey few surely expected to unfold in quite such thrilling fashion.

Two promotions, two Championship titles, a playing style to admire, astute work in the transfer market, a transformation at Colney, faith in youth and much more. 

But was the devil in the detail?

We have gone back to that very first press conference to re-produce what was said, and with the benefit of hindsight try to separate fact from fiction. 

“For me, this project and the moment is the right one. I believe there is so much potential in the club and the city and I try to help fulfil all the hopes and the dreams to create this time of change. 

“The fans can expect from me the same as the team. I want in the future when you watch Norwich there is a clear sign of who we are, you see what the club want, what the idea is and what the football should be.

"I know there is a big support here and I want them to dream, think big and have great dreams. I hope to make them happy and content with our way of football and that they identify with that,” Daniel Farke.

FACT: The impact of the pandemic, alas, meant for the most part Norwich fans had to savour this latest episode remotely but surely they would agree, even with a painful end to that first Premier League tilt, it has been the stuff of dreams, given the wreck Farke inherited?

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Two Championship title winning sides with a brand of football so pleasing on the eye. The only manager in the club’s history to deliver two titles. The conductor of the orchestra, the chief architect on the pitch.   

“It depends on the players you have got but to bring it to the point I like to have the ball. I like to be in possession and dominate the games. I want my players to stay compact, to defend and react well. I want a brave team, an offensive team, a team who will press high. I like my teams to be in possession, and it is the quality of possession that makes a difference.

"That is what determines which positions you lose the ball and how dangerous those situations are. I work on concentrating on an idea with the ball, but with my last team (Dortmund II) we had the fewest number of goals against us. I hope to bring it to the guys so we can fulfil the hopes and expectations.

"I will create with the board, Stuart, my staff and the players a football that fits Norwich. For me, fitting to Norwich means to be brave, to act, not react,” Daniel Farke.

FACT: Goals and invention in players like Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia, especially in that first sublime Championship title win, and this past season added defensive resolve, with the numbers to back it up in terms of goals leaked and clean sheets. A team where possession is king and the late dagger an ever-present danger for weary opponents in the final stages of games. 

Norwich head coach Daniel Farke and his coaching team savour the Championship title at Barnsley

Norwich head coach Daniel Farke and his coaching team savour the Championship title at Barnsley - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

“Daniel and I spoke about this a lot during the process. Trying to have that person to help him and, to be fair, it is little things. Maybe if, for example, you go away to Burton and knowing the pitch is small, which is something we might take for granted but for these guys it might be new.

"Maybe we go to Leeds away and the dressing room is tiny so the normal preparation we do for a game we can’t do that there. It is standing on the sidelines with 10 minutes to go and a club is bringing on a player with a deep throw. A British coach would have that knowledge of the small details.

"Of course there are cultural differences as well between the two leagues and you might have to help the British players to buy into that mentality. If we go with that, then it is designed to help Daniel and Edmund (Riemer) be the best they can be,” Stuart Webber. 

FALSE: With the greatest of respect to current goalkeeping coach, Ed Wootten, Farke opted not to retain or recruit that wise domestic counsel. Alan Irvine, Frankie McAvoy and Dean Kiely all departed.

Perhaps that testing debut season in the Championship was all the time Farke needed to understand the intricacies and the nuances of what Burton or Leeds is all about. His trusted countrymen have remained a constant, with Farke returning to Germany to replace Christian Flüthmann with Christopher John.

As Farke himself has said, key to embedding his own philosophy and ideas was having like-minded individuals alongside him on the ride. 

Nelson Oliveira challenged Daniel Farke's authority early in his Norwich City tenure

Nelson Oliveira challenged Daniel Farke's authority early in his Norwich City tenure - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

“To be a good and successful coach you have to play all the roles. I guess I try to get really close and build trust with my players, but we will be a hard-working team. They will know when it is time to work and when it is time to concentrate and to give everything.

"We can speak a lot about my ideas on having the ball and possession but I also want the elementary, basic skills in football like team spirit, like fighting, like showing heart on the pitch.

"I appreciate those skills and I want them to do this, but within a relationship of trust. If there is a player who is not so disciplined or against our team spirit then you have to show you are the coach,” Daniel Farke. 

FACT: You should have kept that shirt on, Nelson Oliveira. The Portuguese’s petulant show of frustration at not starting Farke’s first league game at Fulham in 2017 did not end well. Farke reminded him in the immediate aftermath it was the name and the badge on the front, not the name on the back of the shirt, that mattered.

That was the beginning of the end, although it would be two more years before he departed. Add Marley Watkins and Ben Marshall to that list.

But there have also been plenty of examples when a short, sharp reminder was needed to bring players back onside.

Think back to a public dressing down for Josh Murphy and this past season the omission of Buendia and Todd Cantwell at Bournemouth when their head coach cited a ‘lack of focus’. Do not always be beguiled by the smile and the warm persona. 

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