Chris Goreham: A tribute to Alex Tettey, 101 not out
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Another Premier League adventure has ended for Norwich City. It says something that many fans were relieved that Manchester City didn’t run up a cricket score against the Canaries on Sunday.
That’s ignoring the fact that a few England batsmen over the years would have been quite happy if they had got five.
The voting for the Barry Butler Trophy neatly summed up the frustrations of a season that promised so much for City. It’s impossible to argue with the fact that Tim Krul was Norwich’s Player of the Season. Todd Cantwell and Alex Tettey came second and third respectively.
The start of this elongated campaign seems an age ago, but it’s worth remembering that back in those pre-Covid days there was anticipation about how this young Norwich City squad might take on the Premier League. That promise has been underlined by Cantwell this season. He is arguably the only member of Daniel Farke’s squad to have exceeded expectations in the top flight. Others have had fleeting moments of magic and some can use injuries or lack of game time as mitigation for an inability to grasp their big opportunity. Ultimately, the dressing room at Colney contains too many players who have dropped out of the Premier League without ever really making a proper mark on it.
Those who get another crack at it will do well to take inspiration from Cantwell. The Dereham boy wasn’t a regular starter in the Championship and yet he was able to make the leap up and sparkle more regularly than most of his team-mates.
That youthful exuberance will only get you so far in the Premier League. The Canaries lacked the necessary know-how to deal with the mammoth challenges that come week after week in the billionaire’s playground. The only two members of the City squad to have played 100 games in the Premier League are the first and third in the Barry Butler voting, Krul and Tettey.
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Tettey’s century is made all the more remarkable by the fact that all 101 of his appearances have come for Norwich City. Considering he has now been relegated three times, nothing underlines both his importance to the club and the difficulty they have had finding someone as good at doing what he does.
The Norway international fits into a narrow band of players. The gossip columns have been full of rumours about Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Cantwell and even Teemu Pukki possibly leaving the Canaries this summer. Anyone who shows a hint of promise while playing in the Premier League for City tends to get snapped up before they’ve even clocked up a half century of games.
Tettey’s game has just the right amount of flaws not to attract that kind of attention, but not so many that he’s ever been discarded by the club. Since arriving in 2012 he has been an important part of squads managed by Chris Hughton, Neil Adams, Alex Neil and now Daniel Farke, winning two promotions along the way. There is no greater tribute to Tettey than the fact he has remained vital under so many bosses with such varying styles. He’s even captained the club regularly in the season just gone.
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Perhaps that’s the sort of player Norwich City need to have more of as and when they next earn the right to rub shoulders with the big boys. Those highly-promising youngsters need to be better balanced with a few wiser if unfashionable stalwarts.
The squad that came up and survived under Paul Lambert in 2011 and Sheffield United this season are examples of how far you can get with a group of players who know they have probably reached their career pinnacle together.
At the end of a long hard season we can at least toast Alex Tettey: 101 Premier League games for Norwich City is the kind of cricket score we can applaud.
Norwich City fans often talk of their longing to see the Canaries become an established Premier League club.
I’m not sure whether anyone outside the top six ever really does establish themselves at the top table.
It was a point illustrated by the relegations of Bournemouth and Watford at the weekend.
Those two clubs came up with Norwich City in 2015 and, while the Canaries went straight back down, their fellow newcomers were able to cling on for a full five years. But now their time is up.
Come September, the scramble for survival will start all over again for West Ham, Aston Villa, Brighton, Burnley and the rest who were blessed by the fact that three worse teams existed in 2019/20.
This may sound like the start of one of those arguments about Norwich City being better off in the Championship, but that’s not a theory I subscribe to. The final night of the Championship season last week was thrilling, but that division wouldn’t be anywhere near as gripping if a place in the Premier League wasn’t the ultimate prize.
It’s actually the bottom half which serves as more of a reality check for Norwich City fans.
Hull, Wigan and Charlton were all relegated to League One. All three have enjoyed spells in the Premier League since the turn of the century with the last two certainly feeling ‘established’ for a good while. Birmingham, Huddersfield, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City, Reading and QPR all finished 13th or lower. Pick the cautionary tale of your choice as to what can happen to clubs who do not bounce back quickly.
For now, the Championship has to be where it’s at as far as Norwich City fans are concerned. A place with no VAR, more Saturday 3pm kick-offs and fewer squads capable of dishing out an absolute hiding could prove cathartic after a bruising year in the Premier League.
Feeling like you support a team that ‘belongs’ in the Premier League is one thing, but getting there and staying up is an enigma that has proved impossible to solve, even for those with some proper cash to throw at the problem. Villa may have managed it this time, but Watford and Bournemouth have had five years’ worth of transfer flurries and they are no better off.