Paddy Davitt: Focus on the bigger picture and City can prosper
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s challenge is not merely to survive in the Premier League but to prevent the joy and optimism being sucked out of following the Canaries back in the big time.
Trepidation might be jostling with excitement for many fans at what lies ahead against iconic brands, not merely football clubs, and the instantly recognisable personalities who populate the richest, most watched club league.
Norwich have been here before. In 2005 under Nigel Worthington, in 2011 under Paul Lambert and in 2015 under Alex Neil. On each occasion epic ascents propelled a club and a set of unfashionable players into the top flight against the odds. Yet each time it somehow felt new, fresh and alluring.
Then the dial turned and the good days were increasingly rationed, until finally City slipped back into the Football League looking tired, in some cases dishevelled, and always burdened by a financial overhang which impinged on every subsequent attempt to clamber back to the summit.
Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke have certainly broken the mould. The imponderable at this stage revolves around whether they can escape the same suffocating historical cycle.
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The passage of time might dim the recollections but there feels a healthy realism inside and outside the club this time around. No false promises have been made during the past summer regarding lofty ambitions, ground expansions or transfer outlays.
The philosophy and the messaging have remained consistent. City know they cannot compete with the bloated transfer fees and salaries on offer elsewhere. They now believe in a different model.
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A Championship title win constructed on a thrilling diet of attacking verve proved robust enough in the Football League. The acid test will come against the elite.
Liverpool is a daunting opening assignment as Anfield welcomes home the Champions League winners for their first competitive game since Madrid.
But there is plenty of stardust sprinkled around City's early fixture list, with Chelsea and Manchester City lying in wait.
A run from late September that brings consecutive league games against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Bournemouth might not set the pulse racing in the same manner but perhaps underlines the true scale of this task.
Any given week in the Premier League Norwich will have to perform near their maximum to earn points. There is a higher tariff to every mistake or opportunity. Youthful inexperience will be brutally exposed, a lack of quality likewise. The relentless nature of trying to compete when the playing field is so uneven has eventually overwhelmed previous City squads and management teams at this rarefied level.
That is why there is such an emphasis on the fundamentals shaped by Webber and Farke.
Lavish spending is no guarantee of success, as Fulham proved 12 months ago. The Cottagers appeared to abandon the guiding principles which saw then cut a similar swathe through the Championship.
Everything Webber and Farke have engineered since lifting the title at Villa Park focused on refinement and reward.
To hastily jettison the vast majority of a squad who sealed an improbable promotion would essentially have revealed a lack of faith in the plan as much as the players. It would have smacked of a club who knew they had got lucky and aimed to plug the gaps in pound notes.
Improved contracts for those already in the building made sense financially and from a footballing perspective.
An unstinting belief Norwich's philosophy and culture is the only way forward, within the current financial model at Carrow Road, may ultimately prove unfounded in the coming months.
But should City slip back to the Football League it is hard to envisage the fallout will be remotely on the scale of previous failed Premier League experiments. Changes in personnel might be inevitable, both on the club's terms and perhaps those who have embellished their reputations in a losing cause, but the foundations would be in place for a concerted response.
This sense the Premier League chapter about to unfold, starting at Anfield, is part of a bigger journey towards a sustainable future must always jostle with the mood swings likely to be triggered by the ebb and flow of results.