'It has not been the end of the world' - No free pass for Marco
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
Daniel Farke hailed Marco Stiepermann as the Championship’s best two seasons ago. But the fit-again midfielder must prove he is the best at Norwich City to feature over another promotion run in.
Stiepermann is available for Sunday's trip to Sheffield Wednesday following three months out with a virus. But the German’s misfortune is to return to the hottest area of Farke’s squad with Mario Vrancic, Kieran Dowell and Lukas Rupp all vying to be Teemu Pukki’s wing man.
Farke issued a gentle warning on Friday to both Stiepermann and back-up keeper Orjan Nyland after confirming the duo are fit for selection.
“More competition, yes, but it is not as if the players in those positions have not delivered,” said the City boss. “I don’t think I will leave Tim Krul at home, and Daniel Barden has delivered when we needed him.
"The same with Marco. Mario Vrancic has been solid and reliable and we have won game after game with him in the side. Lukas Rupp, last game, good performance. Kieran Dowell, some promising signs in his last cameo.
"It is not as if we have been praying and crying that Marco stays fit. We have still been top of the league without him and 10 points clear. It has not been the end of the world and we were desperate to get him back in the side.
“No, he has to prove on the training pitch he is better than Mario, better than Lukas or better than Kieran. We won’t make their lives easier. They have to show they are ready and show me they have more to give than perhaps some other players.
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"If so, I will pick them. It is now up to competition and proving it each and every day.”
Stiepermann’s blossoming relationship with Pukki in that previous title win consigned Jordan Rhodes to a bit-part role.
The Sheffield Wednesday striker could come up against his former loan club.
“We don’t have to speak about him,” said Farke. “He was one of our main men, even though we won the title with Teemu, and for me if you judge his record still one of the greatest Championship strikers ever and he struggles to be regularly in their side.
"They have quality and I am surprised to see them where they are. I have admired some of their players for many years. They have good players like (Callum) Paterson, (Barry) Bannan and (Adam) Reach.
“Sometimes struggling teams will look at this type of game as one without the same pressure. They know they need to pick up points but they are playing the top of the league and it is more like a free shot. A massive bonus, a massive confidence boost.
"I value Darren Moore a lot. I think he is a good coach and great at his man management. In his first game they conceded in the 97th minute and in his second they had a man sent off after about 30 minutes.
"I expect a side with a big fighting spirit and a will to change their momentum.”
Moore replaced Tony Pulis at Hillsborough, but Farke feels starting the season with a points deduction for breaching financial regulations was a major psychological blow to the Owls.
“Let’s be honest, without the points deduction they would be in a better position but with this there is the mental aspect to consider,” he said. “When you start the season with minus 12 it is hard to keep the season going, even though it was later reduced on appeal.
"You are not fighting for the play-offs but fighting to avoid relegation so it makes for a complicated season.
"They are such a big name, such a big club and they deserve to stay in this league. Darren is good at creating a spirit and I feel he will have used this week to rebuild a little bit.”