Di Cunningham: Trust in our process and be proud to be a City fan

Norwich City boss Daniel Farke plans to shuffle his pack for the Cherries' cup test

Daniel Farke with US international Josh Sargent - the Canaries boss will be hoping his international players come back unscathed - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

As with any crisis, one tiny consolation embedded deep in the unfolding of the coronavirus pandemic was that it offered a sense of perspective on which things really matter.  

And though we were reminded that being part of a fan-family can be a significant fillip to mental health, it was also clear that league positions and points gained, in themselves were comparative irrelevances. 

While I try to maintain that rational overview most of the time, my outlook along with many other NCFC supporters has become skewed on Saturday afternoons in the last few weeks when we’ve been desperate for the Canaries to propel themselves away from the bottom of the EPL table.  

For me it hasn’t been about loss of face or being disrespected by Mark Lawrenson, Tractor Boys, or any number of fans from other Premier League clubs. It’s in part concern at the ongoing viability of our club, given its reliance on the resources associated with operating at the top tier. But frankly it’s mainly been a quasi-parental anxiety for the players; an overriding wish for them all to do well this season like kids off to a new school. And as for youngsters encountering new classmates, teachers and academic subjects we know how tricky it can be to escape the cycle of a negative feedback loop and re-establish confidence and belief when things don’t go as expected. 

That’s not to say I don’t personally believe that our squad has the potential to maintain a place in the best league in the world. I absolutely do. I was encouraged when I saw the signings Webber and Farke made and am even more convinced now I’ve seen in action the artistry and application of new recruits Kabak, Lees-Melou Normann, Tzolis, Rashica, Sargeant.  

None are the finished product, but in Daniel Farke we have a manager skilled in the fostering of raw or unfulfilled talent - finding the alchemy to reinvent Pukki (and Tettey!) developing Buendia, Cantwell, Aarons, Godfrey, Lewis into the best they could be. 

I’ve been bemused recently to hear some self-appointed pundits bemoan the summer transfer signings with “never heard of ‘em”, without processing that we hadn’t heard of Emi before he arrived in NR1.   

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Old stagers with big names are undoubtedly crowd pleasers - but usually more so as signings than players. John Hartson and Tony Cottee anyone? And though Dion was an exceptional mature addition on the pitch as well as in the dressing room, our club has a great tradition of taking the unheard of and turning them into class acts: Fox, Sutton, Eadie, Ashton, Maddison, Holt… 

Interesting that Rayo Vallecano - comparable to City in both its community ethic and the revolving door into and out of La Liga - signed 35-year-old Radamel Falcao this season and it’s working out; he’s scoring and they’re ninth in the table, ahead of Barcelona on goal difference. But the ultra-fans are staying away from games because of political differences and ticketing issues.  

On the limited budgets of clubs like Norwich and Rayo Vallecano, success on the pitch will always be a gamble - the developmental squad approach at Colney is more calculated and the one that, much as I like star-gazing, I favour.  

Perhaps we’d be happier if we had the ambivalent attitude of many St Pauli fans towards league and cup success. For them the quality of their team’s football is secondary to the club environment and character. But the pre-lockdown memories of our players going toe-to-toe with Manchester City, Spurs and Leicester are too vivid and a new squad replete with young talent too exciting for me not to imagine a step change where unbroken sustained Premier League membership is a real possibility. 

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