Paddy Davitt: Consistency is not a dirty word for Norwich

Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke are on course to emulate their previous Championship title winning success

Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke are on course to emulate their previous Championship title winning success - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Consistency does not mean settling for the status quo. Nor is it a dirty word at Norwich City. 

Much was made of Thomas Frank’s post-match promotion concession, after his Brentford team came up well short recently against the Canaries. 

The slenderness of a 1-0 scoreline belied how controlled and composed the hosts were at Carrow Road. 

Less traction was given to Frank’s assessment of why Norwich appear to be so dominant, and destined for another Championship title under Daniel Farke. 

Frank was certainly in no doubt Farke’s current vintage will pick up the baton in the Premier League next season considerably stronger, on and off the park, than the club which meekly exited less than 12 months ago. 

For the Bees’ boss the genesis of this evolution lies in Norwich’s consistency; consistency in personnel, consistency in approach, consistency in philosophy and culture. For Frank, Norwich attempted to ‘tweak’ rather than overhaul on and off the pitch in the midst of a painful relegation. 

You can see why from the outside this is an easy conclusion to reach. 

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Farke remained in post after presiding over an abject attempt at top flight survival, once football had resumed following the first pandemic lockdown. 

Stuart Webber, similarly, was tasked with continuing to lead the fightback as the club’s sporting director and, despite perhaps the volume of player turnover last summer, many of the core elements remain just as important now as two seasons ago.

From Tim Krul to Teemu Pukki you can see the same outline in many parts of a Norwich starting line up which has relentlessly turned up the heat in recent weeks. 

But when Frank’s assessment was put to Farke it elicited a sharp response.  

“Consistency is not always the answer if I am honest. We have changed,” he said. “Not our philosophy or approach but the squad has changed. We decided maybe in terms of midfield and the centre of the pitch we needed some different players; some fresh blood. So consistency by itself is not enough if you have the wrong people, the wrong quality, the wrong idea.  

“Our key people thought Stuart was the right choice and I was the right choice on the coaching side. I can not speak about myself but we feel we have the right values, the right philosophy and the right dressing room.

"We know this football world is crazy but you have to stick to your beliefs. Each club has to make their own decision when it comes to the best people in charge.” 

The more things change, the more perhaps they stay the same at Norwich. But peering from a safe distance, well away from the precipice, Norwich appear far better insulated to weather the inevitable longer-term ramifications of the pandemic across the professional game.

Webber spoke himself earlier this year how the financial cost, in terms of the tens of millions of pounds of revenue from playing in empty stadia, had checked the rate of development and progress he is keen to accelerate. 

Yet Norwich remain a club moving forward. How many others in the Football League, particularly lower down the tree can say the same? For them it is about survival not plotting for future success.

Be in no doubt Norwich will seek to use the next expected Premier League windfall in the same careful manner they used the last to protect the pillars of what has now been put in place, and to reap dividends beyond the short term.

That does not come from adhering to the status quo, that comes from thinking outside the box, as they did quite radically in 2017 when English football was not quite as receptive to their direction of travel as it appears now. 

Which is why Farke was quite so bullish at the idea consistency, of itself, had been one of the cornerstones of this concerted fightback as we enter the final furlong. 

Maybe it was even bolder from Norwich not to respond to relegation with the wholesale changes you tend to associate with failure in top level football. Failure, in that narrow, defined sense is not how Webber or Farke or Norwich City as a club chose to measure themselves. The true test will be can they leave the Canaries in a better shape than what they inherited?  

Getting back to the Premier League in the next few weeks is only another phase. Attempting to stay there with a fully-functioning, self-funded model built on developing precocious and highly valued young talent is the measure. Achieve that and it will go down as re-inventing the wheel rather than consistency.     

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