Paddy Davitt verdict: Wazza and City's great leap forward

Kenny McLean is hauled down on the charge in Norwich City's 1-0 Championship win over Derby County

Kenny McLean is hauled down on the charge in Norwich City's 1-0 Championship win over Derby County - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

A lot has happened since one swish of Wayne Rooney’s right boot did for Norwich City at Carrow Road. 

Rooney has brought the curtain down on a stellar playing career to take charge of Derby County for starters. 

But the pupil was unable to get the better of the master at Pride Park. Norwich have not lost on home soil since Rooney’s wonderful free-kick earned Derby a smash-and-grab in early October. 

Fitting perhaps Kieran Dowell replied in kind in the return. A quite sumptuous set-piece Farke himself labelled ‘world class’. 

Kieran Dowell (pictured far left) whips a superb free kick past Derby County keeper David Marshall to seal Norwich City's win

Kieran Dowell (pictured far left) whips a superb free kick past Derby County keeper David Marshall to seal Norwich City's win - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

So much now of this Championship coronation will be filtered with the benefit of hindsight. Farke, sporting director Stuart Webber, the players and all the staff behind the scenes will be feted for landing not just promotion but, barring a dramatic late twist, another Football League crown. 

Every decision, every call looks the right one. But transport yourself back to early October and that painful blow delivered by England’s record goalscorer up and over Tim Krul. 

Norwich had just lost the third match of their first six competitive games of the new season. A campaign following swiftly on from a quite abject exit from the Premier League in a ‘Project Restart’ period which stalled alarmingly on the blocks, in that one-sided opening home defeat to Southampton. 

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Farke himself was under scrutiny, for all Webber’s protestations he should be cast in the role of scapegoat. Questions abounded.

Would Teemu Pukki re-discover his golden touch? Could Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell be kept out of the clutches of potential suitors in the closing days of a transfer window which cast a shadow over those early, uncertain league and cup tussles? 

By way of a memory jog, the week prior to Derby’s Carrow Road league win saw both omitted for the defeat at Bournemouth, with Farke citing a ‘lack of focus’ as transfer speculation swirled. 

To go from that point to this is nothing short of remarkable. Norwich trooped from the field of play in the East Midlands sitting well clear of the rest on 90 Championship points. All manner of records have been scattered.

Pukki has plundered, Buendia and Cantwell brought firmly onside and proven to be the most creative of wing men.  

Ben Gibson’s signing was inspired until his untimely season-ending ankle injury, but Grant Hanley now appears a man on a mission as part of a backline who have surpassed Swansea as the division’s misers. 

Farke might not be deemed good enough in the eyes of some to win a Championship manager-of-the-month bauble but he knows the way to the Premier League. 

The degree of re-invention between the last Championship triumph and this one is a testament to his pragmatism. We witnessed that in those hesitant early months of his tenure and a watershed defeat at Millwall. We have seen it again when they landed with a bump back in the Football League.

Norwich can still plunder, as Huddersfield would testify to, but there is a defensive steel they simply did not possess when the shocked this division two seasons ago. It is a by-product of their brush with the top flight and a flawed approach to survival that does not need Steve Bruce to point out.

The Newcastle boss recently highlighted Norwich’s pure commitment to attacking football as their downfall last time around in the big time. City’s brains trust long since arrived at the same conclusion, and everything since is about refining a template that will prove more robust when they meet the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea again.

Dimitris Giannoulis has established himself as Norwich City's first choice left back since his move from Greece

Dimitris Giannoulis has established himself as Norwich City's first choice left back since his move from Greece - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

In the meantime they had to navigate the not inconsiderable feat of bucking a trend which suggests relegated clubs have it devilishly difficult to come back at the first attempt.

This achievement is not unique. Both Newcastle and Burnley won second tier titles in recent years immediately following relegation. But it is a rare feat and when you factor in the seismic financial fracture the pandemic has left across the professional game it is special.  

Rooney himself spoke of regret Derby had showed Norwich too much respect in the crucial opening phase. But that respect has been earned the hard way.

Norwich kept their nerve, remained true to their core beliefs, accepted their limitations and addressed their deficiencies. They deserve to glory in the praise that will pour well beyond the borders of Norfolk once promotion and the title are confirmed.

But the real prize still lies ahead. Now they have a second chance to make a big impression in the Premier League. This ride is only picking up pace again. 


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