Paddy Davitt: Diplomacy is a skill City boss will have to use routinely
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Daniel Farke has a nice repertoire when it comes to one-liners.
There was an outing for a personal favourite prior to Norwich City’s Championship tussle with Preston.
When pressed on the onerous task of sifting through enviable resources, and the inevitable by-product of leaving players out, he replied how he is “in the business of winning football games, not the Nobel Peace Prize”.
This was his actual quote:
“They have to deliver on the training pitch and give me plenty of options. That makes it a bit trickier in terms of man management. It is not easy to keep everyone happy. But I want to win football games. I am not here to win the Nobel Peace Prize. They all have to accept this on a professional football level and I have to disappoint players. I don’t like it, but it is part of my job.
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“It is part of their job to take this disappointment and respond. It is tough.”
Which is perfect for public consumption, but requires a whole different level of diplomacy, you would think, when delivering that sour news to a member of your staff who trains all week to have that hit of a game at the end of it.
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Rest assured, there is a small group of professional footballers who may be happy to sit and pick up their wages and take a place in the stand. But the vast majority want to play, want the competitive buzz, want to feel the energy and joy and the shared sense of achieving something with a group of mates.
Farke is aware of the human element to such decisions. But he would be in the wrong line of work if he struggled to make them. The point stands. It is hard to recall a richer level of resource since he arrived at Carrow Road, which places an even greater emphasis on the man-management side of bringing those on the margins along on the same journey.
Whenever he has felt that is not the case, or the player has intimated they want to step off the carousel, it has ended with a parting of the ways. Be it Nelson Oliveira, Ben Marshall or Marley Watkins. Farke places huge store by the collective. Disappointment and frustration is one thing, he would probably see that as a positive sign, but if it tips the other way then it can be divisive and unhealthy.
Few work places resemble elite level football. You can already see hot spots in this Norwich squad when injuries or suspension do not bite too hard.
Central defence will be a huge topic this coming weekend at Bournemouth. And presumably beyond given Grant Hanley is closing in on a return to full training and Timm Klose has yet to make a matchday squad. Ben Gibson was not attracted to Norfolk to prowl the touchline.
Christoph Zimmermann looked strangely off-colour against Preston with Sean Maguire appearing to get under his skin. Maybe after that Premier League finesse it was a shock to the system to experience the direct aerial approach from Alex Neil’s battlers. But it would not be a great shock if Farke feels Sunday is the right time to unleash the Burnley loanee. Zimmermann will certainly come again should that happen and there is no remote possibility he would fail to react in the right way. But take that single selection dynamic and multiply it by those unable to get into City’s starting midfield, like Mario Vrancic and Marco Stiepermann (when fit), or the rising temperature to Norwich’s striking element, with Jordan Hugill and Adam Idah both pushing Teemu Pukki.
Norwich’s summer refresh was designed to renew but also address perhaps a lack of competition, accentuated in the Premier League by a chronic and persistent run with injuries. Farke’s only selection dilemma for large parts of last season was counting fit bodies to field a starting line-up. We can well remember more than one game with more than one reserve keeper propping up the substitutes’ bench. Now that is a coveted seat, let alone making the first XI.
At this stage of the transfer window, City’s squad looks over-populated. Hence why they are keen to thin it out with loan moves for some of their younger players, while Moritz Leitner, Tom Trybull and Josip Drmic are expected to seek pastures new.
Yet Farke’s peace-building skills will be tested with those who remain beyond October’s deadline. That is why the quest for wins is not solely about league points, it bonds a group, it forges a sense of unity and narrows the focus on a common goal. Achieve that and Farke’s task becomes much easier on every level.