Chris Goreham: Tipsy Daniel Farke, some cheap beer - and lots of ice
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
“I’m already a little bit drunk.” It’s not necessarily what you want to hear from an interviewee just as you are about to press record.
When it’s Daniel Farke and he’s just clinched a second Championship title, you know there will be some gold.
The Canaries head coach was already drenched from head to foot after being set upon by Onel Hernandez, his team-mates and a bucket of water during the post-match party. Pouring liquid over each other's heads is the approved way for sports teams to celebrate their achievements.
It’s a good job this tradition hasn’t crossed over into the rest of our working lives. The thought of a decent radio programme being received in such a manner is a sobering one. We only have hot tea or coffee available in our studios and while a scalded presenter could be easily replaced, the electrical equipment in front of us is much more expensive.
Ever the professional, Farke put his drink down before we recorded the interview after the title-clinching 4-1 win over Reading. The only disappointment was that it was a bottle of mass-produced lager that you could find in any corner shop. After four seasons of watching his teams play, I had him down as an obscure but exquisite craft beer kind of guy.
Farke’s choice of refreshment can be forgiven when compared to his tastes on the football pitch. Norwich City have become the blueprint for how to do the Championship.
The first half against Reading, for example, was like watching Norwich v Norwich Reserves. The Royals turned up under Veljko Paunovic, a European manager who wasn’t really known in England before getting a Championship job last summer. He fielded a team of carefully scouted, promising youngsters who had the energy to match City in the first half.
The Norwich City approach is an attractive one, but it’s very difficult to copy. Farke oiled the wheels in a non-alcoholic sense at half-time and the Canaries produced 45 minutes of relentless attacking football to steam-roller their way to the title.
There might be a special private members club somewhere near Windsor for teams that play in hooped shirts. I would like to think that Paunovic will be there this week sharing a bag of hula hoops with QPR’s Mark Warburton. Like Reading, QPR matched Norwich for a significant period of their match last weekend. They had a penalty saved and enjoyed spells good enough to cause City some real problems.
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Ultimately, Norwich won both matches with an aggregate score of 7-2. If there was any doubt about them being comfortably the best team in the Championship the last two games have proved it beyond question.
A club record haul of 96 points from 45 games speaks volumes.
The Premier League, with its VAR, staggered anti-social kick-off times and club owners with questionable motives doesn’t feel quite like the promised land that it once did. Those nagging concerns and the lack of fans in grounds has made this season’s promotion more difficult to enjoy from a traditionalist’s point of view.
None of that should detract from what Daniel Farke and his players have achieved this season. They truly deserve their place in English football’s top division, whatever form that takes. As players and staff hugged and danced on the pitch at Carrow Road on Saturday evening it was more than just champagne corks that were being released into the air at the end of a campaign unlike any other. A gruelling Championship season condensed into a shorter time frame, the constant uncertainty of playing during a global pandemic and the pain of a brutal relegation last summer. The Canaries had conquered it all.
The party can continue right up until Norfolk’s pubs re-open properly in the next few weeks. Farke will have a huge queue of City supporters waiting to buy him a drink by then. Especially as we now know that he doesn’t have expensive tastes when it comes to a celebratory tipple.
The final home match of a season always brings mixed emotions.
The summer is always a time of change at football clubs so it’s inevitably the last hurrah for a particular set of players.
On Saturday, for instance, out-of-contract duo Alex Tettey and Mario Vrancic, the on-loan Oliver Skipp and Xavi Quintilla and the highly-rated Max Aarons and Emi Buenida might all have been playing at Carrow Road for the last time. Or they might not have been.
As Iwan Roberts and Malky Mackay found out when City were promoted under Nigel Worthington in 2004, sentiment only lasts as long as the fix is the celebratory champagne. The unfortunate truth is that by helping a team get promoted some players are simultaneously sealing their own exits. Every squad needs to evolve and improve, particularly ahead of an unforgiving Premier League campaign.
What a shame that, if any or all of the above do leave, they didn’t get one final opportunity for a proper rousing reception from a packed house at Carrow Road.
There were some fans outside the ground afterwards. Strictly speaking they shouldn’t have been, with social distancing still in place.
However, the conversations we had with supporters in the car park afterwards put it all into context.
Norwich City’s success has made such a difference to people during this difficult year. I probably hadn’t fully appreciated how much that was the case until Saturday. I had wrongly assumed that behind closed doors football would quickly lose its appeal to those banned from attending games.
One chap had travelled in from West Norfolk because he just needed to be as close to the ground as possible on the day his team were crowned champions. I won’t give too many details about him here just in case he doesn’t want friends, colleagues or employers knowing that he was amongst the crowd on Carrow Road rather than inside it on Saturday.
As he told me his story I felt rather emotional. It seems the sense of Canary community is strong enough to withstand even the most difficult of years. The Premier League won’t know what’s hit it when that opening line of ‘On The Ball City’ is belted out again next season.