Paddy Davitt: Farke embodies Norwich City's bold way
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
We could talk about the wins, the trophies, the brand of football. Even those amusing Daniel Farke asides from any number of press conferences since he was first unveiled in 2017.
But I want to tell a story about the man, not the manager. A story personal to me and my family. When my mother passed away last season my first game covering Norwich City again was December’s Championship trip to Reading.
A hard fought affair on the park that night, a game in truth I was present in person when my mind was elsewhere. Any of us who have been through bereavement to a loved one will know it hits in many different and painful ways.
City got the job done on the night against a young, vibrant Royals’ outfit. Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki, who else, were on target. Farke was understandably in buoyant post-match mood as that gathering momentum carrying his squad to another remorseless Championship triumph picked up pace prior to Christmas.
But after the formalities of his press briefing I was ushered outside for a personal audience in a waiting corridor. That never usually ends well, trust me, when a manager wants to interrogate a football journalist in a more intimate setting.
Farke simply wanted to pass on his condolences and enquire if there was anything at all he could do. It was an empathic moment that lasted as long as one of his considered answers delivered the other side of the door.
That anecdote tells you nothing about the manager. It tells you everything about the man.
Perhaps why in these past four years he has been able to galvanise a club, a playing staff and a support to rally behind a common cause.
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Not all have stayed on the journey. If you fall out with this head coach there is usually only one winner. Even if it takes the long game before said individual is jettisoned from the family. There is no need to list them. We all know who has come and who has gone. The name on the front of the shirt means more than the name on the back.
Farke can also be a hellishly tough taskmaster. Ask any of those younger players who he has moulded and in the cases of James Maddison, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey and Emi Buendia harvested tens of millions of pounds for his football club in transfer fees.
But money is not what drives Farke. He has had chances to depart since that first Championship title win. You can be sure there was interest this summer when he repeated the feat. Clubs arguably with more resources, willing to tempt him with bigger personal inducements, and less requirement to ‘pay for the sins of the past.’
Even in recent days, when Farke reflected on Buendia’s club record sale, he mourned the chance to work with the Argentine in the big time while accepting the financial trigger it allows City, in terms of grander recruitment.
Not every coach would be quite so compliant or accepting of this model. That is why the man who arrived as an unheralded development coach from Borussia Dortmund is the perfect fit for a philosophy and a culture set in train by sporting director Stuart Webber.
He identified Farke as far back as his previous career posting at Huddersfield, when the Terriers were succession planning for David Wagner’s potential departure. Thankfully, the marriage was only consummated professionally in Norfolk.
Those questions will now linger around Webber’s own contractual status, despite his assertion he would never leave Norwich in the lurch and the debt he still feels to the majority shareholders.
But for Farke the vows have been renewed. Time to reflect and to look forward. Not everything has gone right, not every decision he has made has paid off. There have been periods of introspection as well as stratospheric highs.
Yet take a step back and look at the transformation on the pitch and off it; both in bricks and mortar as much as in playing talent.
Then bear in mind Farke’s impressive body of work as a coach shows only one face to City’s boss. Both personally and professionally, Norwich’s fan base can be reassured they are in safe hands.