Lee Payne: Being top-flight tourists is a non-starter for Norwich City
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I wish I could be starting this column by referring to Norwich City’s promotion in the past tense, but life is rarely that simple.
Brentford did City a favour on Monday evening, though, so it would take something extraordinary in the next two games for them to be consigned to the play-offs. I want to talk about how the Canaries should tackle the Premier League this time around.
It’s not quite set in stone yet but, believe me, Norwich will be playing in the Premier League next season. They are no strangers to the top flight, having been promoted to it twice in the previous eight seasons. Compare that to their promotion rivals Sheffield United and Leeds, who have been away from the elite for 12 and 15 years respectively.
Therefore, I feel City should be aiming for more this time. Of course, it’s going to be incredibly difficult and the first target will be to stay up, but I feel they need to learn from the mistakes they made up there in the past and expect to be there long term.
As fans, we can indulge in what supporting a Premier League football club means. Proper highlights on Match of the Day. Seeing some of the best players in the world on the Carrow Road pitch. Visiting some of the finest stadiums. I recently went on a guided tour of the London Stadium – home of West Ham – and was in awe of the place. But I don’t want us to feel like we are tourists, or that we somehow don’t belong.
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The reason Norwich are going up is that they have played some of the best football in the Championship this season, and I feel it could translate to the Premier League. Farkeball needs to be mixing it with the best. Too often, promoted teams have been too timid to persevere with the style of play that got them up and I am desperate for Norwich not to do that. Fulham got promoted earning rave reviews for their attacking football, only to abandon it. Paul Lambert’s team attacked the Premier League in 2011 with what seemed to be a completely open mind, and that’s what I would like to see from Daniel Farke’s group. City need to keep the faith with their possession-based philosophy. It has worked in cup ties with Arsenal and Chelsea before.
As for the players, young stars such as Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis do not now need to leave Norwich to play in the big league. There is no reason for this tightly-knit squad to be broken up. I am sure the club have long been looking at the positions that could be strengthened and that should be the focus. Though having said that, I cannot see huge sums being splashed on transfers. I expect recruitment to be shrewd, so anyone hoping for tens of millions to be spent are going to be disappointed. I have my views on who will cut it and who won’t, but that’s for another day.
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We have responsibilities as fans too. The novelty of being promoted to the Premier League wears off quickly and by the middle of winter we may find ourselves watching defeat after defeat and avoiding Match of the Day like the plague. That’s what I was like the last time City were up there. We’ve got to give the team all the support they will need. We all have a part to play in helping Norwich establish themselves in the top flight.
So that’s next season, but let’s not pass up the opportunity to reflect on what an incredible campaign this has been. To have achieved the ultimate prize with a squad made up mostly of academy products and German second division recruits is remarkable. Norwich City have shown how it can be done. Now it’s up to the rest to catch up.