Paddy Davitt verdict: Smith's City impact is not a one way street
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You get the distinct impression Dean Smith feels he is onto a good thing at Norwich City.
Many will already rush to label him the saviour, alongside canny assistant Craig Shakespeare, after that opening day offering at Southampton was topped by the manner of a well-deserved point against Wolves.
Granted, on face value, an inferior deposit to the Premier League points account, but the way City prodded and probed and nullified one of the current form teams was another step forward.
The work both Smith and Shakespeare have already undertaken is evident in two Carrow Road tussles where Norwich looked the equal of well-established top flight clubs.
What we do not see is the overhaul they are instigating away from the matchday spotlight, in the more secluded environs of Colney.
This is the same set of players Daniel Farke was unable to extract a consistent seam of results. Or performances. Yet under Smith they look rejuvenated and reborn.
Billy Gilmour has gone from the shadows to front of house. Kenny McLean has gone from the ‘mayoral’ balcony to, in the second half against Wolves, a force of nature.
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Milot Rashica’s switch to the opposite flank, within a collective template where City seek to squeeze the play, press with urgency and force high turnovers deep in enemy territory, offers the Kosovan a platform to shine. You could go on. City fans will hope under Smith this squad do.
It is not enough simply to respond to a new voice and a new sense of purpose but slip back at the first signs of adversity.
This is the Premier League. Such fallow periods for a club landing from the Football League are inevitable.
We are still in the honeymoon phase under Smith, where the sunsets are epic and the possibilities fresh and exciting. But what you see on the pitch, and what you hear from those around the camp, is Smith and Shakespeare are constructing something of real substance.
For the new head coach to inherit the same pieces, and meld them into such an effective fighting force in short order, is a testament to his impact but also perhaps the quality in the building.
He was not signing up to mission impossible. Cut through the noise and what we have witnessed in his first two outings is what most hoped was plausible yet maddeningly elusive under Farke.
The new head coach said it himself on his first official day in charge, flanked by the man who appointed him in Stuart Webber. Not many in his position take over a team who had won their last game.
Not many find such a receptive environment, or a squad containing a large collection of internationals and talented youngsters, who simply crave direction, organisation and the wisdom of someone who has navigated this Premier League terrain and come out the other side.
He really is pushing against an open door.
We have witnessed many positive things in back-to-back Carrow Road duels shaped by Smith. Chief among them is a fighting spirit and desire to earn respect and shed this label as a laughing stock.
Rightly or wrongly, City have long been derided and written off in many quarters at this level before a ball was even kicked against Liverpool on the opening night. In truth, the compliant manner they rolled over in too many games thereafter only fuelled a lazy narrative.
But that has started to evaporate already. Perceptions are altering.
Norwich are still alive and they will have a say. Three points are now in the balance for opponents rather than a charitable donation.
The imponderable is what happens when setbacks arrive. The wind is in City’s sails as they head to Newcastle but one glance at the league table tells you all they have achieved under new management is to re-attach themselves to a large pack still above them.
Smith speaks in favourable terms about the depth of his squad but one would fear injuries to key personnel, and how that would expose talented but unproven options at the highest level.
Albeit Lukas Rupp more than compensated for the early exit of Mathias Normann against Wolves.
You suspect Smith and Shakespeare will find a way. Much as they have successfully deconstructed two Premier League home tests unfolding in real time.
It is not only belief and momentum being harnessed. It is reassurance Norwich’s new leadership understand what is required, and have the players to deliver.