Paddy Davitt verdict: A coronation without the crown prince beckons
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke is not always a man of his word.
The Canaries’ figurehead has engineered a remarkable Championship title tilt from inhospitable terrain.
Selling the family silver and promoting from within, while panning for specks of gold dust in untapped markets, is not generally a recipe to hurtle towards the Premier League.
Farke is front of house but this is also Stuart Webber’s achievement, and the board’s, and the staff, and the fans, who demonstrated voluminously against QPR they are now fully signed up to nudging Farke’s squad over the finish line.
But the man himself sounded a note of caution on the eve of facing the managerless Rs at Carrow Road.
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“The players feel the pride at being allowed to wear this yellow shirt, to fight and struggle for this amazing club and amazing fans,” said Farke, when he spoke at Colney on Friday afternoon.
“I hope they do not have this attitude in these next games that they want to be entertained, that they want to see nice periods of football and many goals and an easy win.
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“We are not Manchester City and looking to win 7-0 or 8-0. At this stage, let’s not be too confident.
“Let’s keep working in the same spirit. We need this trust from the fans in these difficult periods.”
He got one thing right. Albeit even that epic score prediction could have come true if Norwich had taken all their best chances in a feast of attacking verve and thrilling dash.
QPR were woeful in the first half at Carrow Road.
Rudderless and lacking in self-belief. Little wonder, given they arrived in Norfolk on the back of one league win in 16 that ended Steve McClaren’s reign.
The tactical approach adopted by caretaker, John Eustace, to park men deep inside the visitors’ own half before engaging with the Canaries echoed Bolton’s compliant attitude in February.
No surprise the outcome proved to be identical.
Farke’s philosophy is to build from the back, incrementally moving through the pitch for the most part, caressing the ball and pulling opponents out of position. Championship rivals should have worked out by now you do not get the better of this Norwich squad by allowing them time and space to do what they do better than any in the second tier.
To be fair to Eustace, perhaps, the champions-elect have also shown they can grit it out and arm wrestle the likes of Millwall, or Rotherham or Middlesbrough in recent weeks.
But at least in those type of muscular contests, Norwich have been hustled and harried and kept honest until the very end.
This one-sided affair was essentially over by the time Emi Buendia and Marco Stiepermann had put them 2-0 up inside 15 minutes. Then the only question left unanswered was by how many.
Yet accepting QPR’s limitations, given the pressurised situation and the huge stakes in play, Norwich’s freedom of expression was breathtaking. The sense of adventure and the artistry on a par with their most free-wheeling football of the campaign.
It sold a lie to Farke’s pre-match warning this could be tight, tense and taut. It was a carnival and arguably a coronation, given when the dust settled elsewhere they had extended their lead over the chasing pack.
Sadly, the crown prince may have to watch from the sidelines while his team mates seal the deal from here.
Buendia’s late red card, for a frustrated lunge on Josh Scowen, was a sad exit after another vibrant, uplifting appearance for the man from Mar del Plata. Another goal, another two assists and another virtuoso display.
Possibly another set of bruises as well - by way of mitigation - when QPR rather belatedly settled on foul instead of fair means to try and curb his pervasive influence.
Farke labelled Buendia’s act impetuous and naïve.
It was both but a potential three game ban may prove more sobering than mere admonishment.
To watch Buendia bring a ball under his spell, and to see how he mesmerises opponents, is to observe a footballer who simply loves to perform. To be denied that thrill - should his punishment be confirmed - would be a cruel interruption.
Farke, however, is hardly short of resources or replacements.
The mantra prior to relegation-threatened Reading’s midweek league visit may carry echoes of the same guidance to the fans prior to QPR.
It is hard to see the Royals offering quite as much encouragement, albeit they were beaten 3-1 at Hull City over the weekend.
But it might be advisable not to rule out more entertainment.