James Maddison: Hillsborough tears and the debt he can never re-pay to Farke and Webber
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Ahead of a first Norwich reunion this weekend, James Maddison spoke exclusively to Paddy Davitt about the tears shed on his final City outing and the debt he owes Daniel Farke.
Without James Maddison there would be no Norwich City in the Premier League.
A club record sale of the England midfielder to Leicester City in 2018 averted what sporting director Stuart Webber has since labelled a financial 'disaster'.
But what unfolded on his farewell Norwich performance at Sheffield Wednesday could have had far-reaching ramifications.
Maddison left Hillsborough on crutches after feeling his knee buckle in the first half of a final day 5-1 thumping. That stabbing pain may well have reached Webber, as he contemplated a long lay-off for the club's most saleable asset.
Had Maddison not departed, others would have had to leave that summer, undermining any serious tilt at the Championship title-winning success engineered by Daniel Farke.
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"It was the darkest place I have been in football. I was in tears in the changing room while the game was still going on," said Maddison, speaking publicly about that pivotal event for the first time.
"If you knew how I felt on that last day. As soon as I stood up I knew something wasn't right. My knee was almost wobbly and I was putting it on the floor but not really feeling any weight through it.
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"You think the worst straight away, that I've done my cruciate or whatever. I tried to continue, had a little jog, couldn't do it so had to go off and the knee swelled up almost straight away.
"That's why I was so grateful to Leicester, the owners, Claude Puel the manager at the time, because they bought an injured player really. It was a risk.
"I was doing my rehab, the knee was getting better and it was fine, but it is still a risk to buy a player who was not fully fit or cannot train fully. They paid £20m or whatever it was and it's why I will always be grateful to Leicester.
"Now I'm an England international, something I dreamed about as a boy. I'm still just a young lad from Coventry who wanted to play football.
"I believe I belong in the Premier League and now I'm playing for a side second in the table. It's fairytale stuff really."
Maddison may have firmly shaped his own destiny but he can never re-pay the debt he owes to Farke or Webber, who inherited a talented yet unproven youngster.
"He didn't have to play me. I remember he threw me in at Fulham on the opening day of his first season and I'll be forever grateful for that.
"That's why we have such a good relationship," said Maddison. "I remember when I left Norwich and just before the deal got announced I spoke to Daniel and Stuart on the phone and the feeling I got from them was they were so happy for me.
"You don't get that with every move. When I left Coventry for Norwich that transition was a lot different, it was deadline day with people questioning things and fans getting on my back.
"Daniel and Stuart knew I'd had a good season and they had been pivotal in that. Stuart gave me a contract extension in the summer before. He didn't have to do that. I'd played about 20 minutes of Championship football.
"He showed faith in me and then in pre-season I remember Daniel pulling me in for one-on-one meetings and saying I can see it but you need to do this or that a lot more.
"He was on my case a little bit and at times in that pre-season I thought he was on me more than others and I was thinking why is he on my case, but looking back now it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I became a mainstay in the team and felt like an integral part of it.
"I scored 15 goals and that one season got me to the Premier League.
"So I'll be forever grateful for the trust to play me.
"By the end he would ask my opinion on things, we had that type of relationship, and it's not as common as you think in football."
Maddison is not the only Farke graduate to make it to the top table. Angus Gunn got his move to Southampton but the duo's recent Premier League meeting brought contrasting emotions.
Gunn shipped nine goals, including a free kick rifled home by his ex-City team mate, in a league record-equalling loss.
"No we didn't use to face each other at Colney. Gunny always went in after training and left it to the young keepers on the free kick practice," joked Maddison. "Normally we'd shake hands or have a word in the dressing room but he was obviously not going to be in a good mood after that one.
"So I left it and then texted him.
"We were 5-0 up at half-time, I think, and it was just one of those games when everything went in. I couldn't believe it. The messages from the manager to the players at the break was this is 0-0.
"As silly as that sounds, almost like you might hear in Sunday league.
"That was the attitude we had and we went out and we played it quickly, there was no foot off the gas, no feeling sorry for Southampton. Topped off with a free kick, which is always nice."