Paddy’s CHAMPIONS Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s title-clinching 2-1 Championship win against Aston Villa
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Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his Aston Villa verdict after the Canaries’ 2-1 Championship win
What a way to seal the deal for Norwich City. Sheffield United failed to hold up their end of the final day equation but Daniel Farke’s superb squad did it their way. As they have done throughout this most memorable of seasons. Teemu Pukki notched inside 10 minutes.
Mario Vrancic confirmed the win in the final 10. In between, a much-changed Aston Villa looked anything but disinterested. They may have bigger battles ahead but the fringe players looked keen to lay down a marker or two. But City dug in.
Then scored a winner which encapsulated everything about this special group. Tim Krul bowled the ball out to Ben Godfrey. A young defender who has grasped his chance. Godfrey shovelled it onto Jamal Lewis. Another young defender now first choice for club and country.
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Emi Buendia took over. A brilliant creative spark who has driven City on in the second part of the campaign. Then finally, Mario Vrancic. A cultured footballer with perfect timing. A low, rifled shot into the bottom corner that sealed Norwich’s coronation.
Five points clear of the Blades and 11 of third-placed Leeds when the dust settled. Wow. Just wow.
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2. The party is only starting
As good as the celebrations were at the end, City’s civic parade on Bank Holiday Monday will give the thousands back in Norfolk and further afield a proper chance to hail the achievements of everyone on and off the park who has made this possible. There will be a few hangovers no doubt. A few bleary eyes but what a day in prospect. A proud day for the city, the county and the region. Norwich City are back in the big time.
They achieved it with a swagger and freshness that means they can attack the top flight with optimism and vigour.
There will be plenty of time ahead to focus on what is required. Just savour the flowering of a project conceived by Stuart Webber and Farke and brilliantly executed by far too many too mention.
Norwich’s template will now be copied copiously by other aspirational clubs in the Football League. That is flattering. But no-one will do it better than the Canaries.
A philosophy that goes far beyond those players who did the business over nine epic months. What a ride. What a journey. What a day in store on Monday.
3. Golden eye
Pukki’s coronation as the Championship top scorer this season was effectively sealed before kick off when nearest challenger, Tammy Abraham, was omitted from the Aston Villa 18.
But ever the showman, the master marksman needed just seven minutes to underline why he has been the stand out goalscorer and the stand out performer in the second tier.
Kenny McLean’s sublime inside pass enticed Onel Hernandez to the byline and the Finn was sharper in thought and deed to anticipate the cut back for a simple tap in from close range.
Pukki, speaking at Colney on Thursday, said it would be a campaign he would never forget. The striker went further and revealed long after he retires he will be back to watch the club where he enjoyed an unforgettable period.
There is a special, indelible bond now between player and football club. No amount of awards can match that.
4. Thanks for the Magic
The large travelling support was in carnival mood before kick-off. The yellow and green dashes mixed with the claret and blue to generate a cracking atmosphere to greet both sides. In a corner of the lower tier of the away end a banner was unfurled that said simply, ‘Thanks for the Magic’.
It was a sentiment which captured the essence of the magic carpet ride Farke and his players have swept those supporters along.
The most unexpected of promotions, the most satisfying of ways to accomplish the feat.
A diet of attacking football, breathless late drama and a group of young men willing to give everything for themselves and those who followed to every part of the land. The end-of-season compilations will take some editing.
Thanks for the Magic. Thanks for the memories.
5. One for the notebook
No criticism allowed. But an observation you can be sure Farke and his coaching brains, his data analysts at Colney, and in all probability his players will already be well aware of.
Norwich have shipped too many goals this season in the aftermath of striking themselves.
We saw it again at Villa Park. Pukki got them off to the perfect start.
But a needless free kick conceded by Buendia and then a failure to sense the danger and track Jonathan Kodjia gifted the hosts an equaliser and altered the course of the contest for long spells.
Both Farke and sporting director Webber have made it crystal clear, since promotion was sealed, the philosophy will remain the same in the big league.
A boldness and a bravery is stamped right through this squad. But there will also need to be a pragmatism and a realism they have to more efficient at both ends in the Premier League. They have a whole summer to fine tune.