Paddy Davitt: Farke's pact with Canaries' fans

Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke has led the club to two Championship titles

Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke has led the club to two Championship titles - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City has got under Daniel Farke’s skin. 

It should come as no real surprise the head coach is keen to extend his stay in Norfolk, as revealed by the club's sporting director Stuart Webber on Thursday.

How much so is emphasised in this little, seemingly insignificant anecdote from those joyous, unscripted, unprompted celebrations that heralded confirmation of the Championship title. 

His side had just taken matters into their own hands with a 4-1 drubbing of Reading. Kieran Dowell’s brace, Xavi Quintilla’s superb free-kick and, fittingly, Teemu Pukki’s last goal of another prolific season to subdue a young Royals’ team who arrived in these parts clearly intent on delaying the party. Such as it was.

There was no trophy presentation - that would have to wait until the final day trip to Barnsley. 

What there was instead was a dousing in cold water for the unsuspecting Farke, stood in his technical area, from his players and chief ringleader, Onel Hernandez. 

There was also what in time will come to be iconic images reflecting the pride, the love and the enduring sadness of this campaign played out in sterile, empty stadiums. 

A small but vocal band of Norwich fans had gathered in the vicinity of the access road that runs parallel to the City Stand. They just wanted to be there, distant but still part of this shared experience. 

But we live in a different world to the one that last heard a throaty rendition of ‘On The Ball’ rippling around packed Carrow Road stands. 

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Now face masks, vaccinations, social distancing and coronavirus have permeated our vocabulary and dictate how we all live our lives, until a point in the future when this past year is the anomaly rather than the painful normality. 

Framed in this context, City’s euphoric players were initially prevented from spilling out into the street by the club’s security staff keen to adhere strictly to those protocols. 

That was until Farke strode purposefully through an exit door to lead the advance guard. Much as he has done from the very start in tandem with sporting director Stuart Webber. 

The City head coach was determined not to deny him, his players or those waiting supporters a special moment in time. It may have been brief, it may have been fleeting, it may have been no substitute to how his previous Championship title triumph was heralded inside Carrow Road, inside Villa Park and on the balcony of City Hall.

But it was an act that spoke volumes of what this club and those fans mean to Farke. 

An emotional bond that was beyond his own comprehension when he accepted the invitation to swap Borussia Dortmund for Norfolk in 2017. 

“I was not thinking intensely about feeling this way about the club. But if I didn’t think it was possible I probably wouldn’t have chosen Norwich City,” he said. “My gut feeling was great. But my first thought, if I am honest, I knew the situation of the club with the financial necessity to sell our best players.

"Also the club was searching for some values. You went to the training ground and the young academy lads were changing in these temporary rooms.

"At that stage you realise it is so difficult to lead this club to success, because the expectations and the ambitions and the history were so high.  

“We had a pretty old squad that needed an overhaul. Then to do all this as the first manager appointed from abroad, the first who was not a native speaker, to lead a club with an unbelievable history and the emotions that such a big club generates with its fans.

"Well, you would think if you could manage this situation and bring success to this club then you don’t have to fear anything else in football. That was my realistic judgement. I was not even willing to believe we could achieve this type of success.” 

Farke wisely knows the circle can turn just as easily the other way in football, yet irrespective of what happens beyond the end of his current Carrow Road deal in 2022, that attachment will always remain strong. 

“To know I would in time have such an emotional bond to this city, this team, this community is maybe something you dream about in the back of your mind. But you don’t take this for granted,” he said. “From day one I have to say there was so much trust and also so much goodwill. I will be forever grateful and thankful.  

"I know at some point in the future the people might want something different. Maybe they get fed up of all this passing and fluent football. 

“They want 4-4-2 and long balls and fighting for second balls. I will get that. Maybe you want something new. I also know in 20 years time I won’t be in this responsible role. But I value that I have the trust to do it now. With all the backing and the support that comes with that. It is hard to value these things when you are in the process, you are leading and looking to go forward. 

“But in the silent moments, maybe this summer, when you reflect you can look back and value these things and this attachment a lot.” 

Farke’s next mission is to keep Norwich in the Premier League. A task for so many reasons arguably even tougher than dominating the Championship. But the City chief was quick to make a pledge with those absent Norwich supporters if they manage to achieve the feat. One he fully intends to keep. 

“If we are really capable to fight for our right to stay in the Premier League next season we will definitely do a promotion parade,” he said.  “Whatever the club says. If I have to do it all alone with my players I will definitely do this. And we will invite the guys back like Alex (Tettey) and Mario (Vrancic). 

“Then we won’t have to worry about missing out on a party for winning the title but we can have one for staying in the league. We will find a way to value these achievements and celebrate together, once we are allowed.  

“Although the supporters were not allowed in the stadium we know they are with us.”  

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