Chris Goreham: Why Mario Vrancic personifies the secret to City success
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mission accomplished. Actually that isn’t doing Norwich City’s return to the Premier League justice because promotion simply wasn’t the mission at the start of the season.
Most of us just wanted to see signs of progress and encouragement that having to balance the books in a post-parachute payment world wouldn’t automatically lead to an irreversible decline in league position.
If Daniel Farke was James Bond he could return to M at the end of the next film to report that he had not only foiled the latest threat to our national security but also sorted out Brexit, got to grips with climate change and found the perfect replacement for Darcy Bussell on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.
It has simply been a stunning season and, for so many reasons, must rank as the most enjoyable one of the 14 eventful Norwich City campaigns that I have been lucky enough to commentate on.
When watching your favourite team every week becomes a job as well as a passion some of that raw fan experience is naturally diluted but, as I watched the players and fans congratulate each other in an outpouring of delight, pride and pure emotion in the moments after the final whistle that signalled a 2-1 win over Blackburn and promotion it was impossible not to be swept away by the tidal surge of yellow and green that has been gradually building at Carrow Road all season.
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It was fitting that a goal from Mario Vrancic should end up being the one that sealed the deal.
The Bosnian midfielder had already played a key role in this promotion push before holding his own personal Goal of the Month competition during April.
MORE: Key dates for Norwich City in the Premier LeagueMatch-winning strikes against Reading and Wigan as the season began to snowball in September, the goal that sparked that remarkable three-goal comeback against Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day and then two more in the landmark win at Leeds in February as everyone allowed themselves to believe that this motley collection of promising youngsters, unheralded Germans and players with points to prove was actually much better than we had dared to imagine.
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In any other season delivering so many key moments in a promotion campaign would have made Vrancic a favourite for Player of the Season.
A claim that would have been rubber stamped by the beautiful 97th minute free kick to salvage a draw against Sheffield Wednesday on Good Friday and then the rocket against Rovers on Saturday. Yet the most startling fact about Mario Vrancic this season, and I had to double check this when I heard it mentioned on a podcast last week, is that he has actually only started 13 of the 45 Championship matches to date.
That sums up why this season has been such a success story. Each and every player has delivered at some point during what has been a gruelling campaign.
The balance between having a squad deep enough to provide genuine competition for places and with the ability to absorb injuries and suspensions but without having a series of highly paid and increasingly frustrated senior professionals not getting a game and potentially placing a dark cloud over the training ground has been just right.
It won’t be long before the next self-destructing message will arrive in Farke’s office outlining ‘Mission 2019/20: The Premier League’ and, inevitably, many questions and theories will arise about how the Canaries should tackle the next few months but if a decade and half behind the microphone and several years in the Carrow Road crowd before that have taught me anything it is that all that can wait.
Times like this have to be milked and enjoyed for all they are worth when they happen.