New class are settling down at Norwich City after nervous start to term
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It’s good to see some old friends at the start of September.
The novelty of the summer holidays has well and truly worn off and bored children are back in the classroom rekindling relationships that have been on hold for a couple of months.
Remember those familiar faces who helped you get used to the funny rules imposed by the new teacher and made sure you didn’t get lost when you started at big school? That’s how it felt to see Alex Tettey and Timm Klose back on the pitch for Norwich City.
It’s not that I don’t like Mr Farke, he seems like a genuinely nice man and he hasn’t told me or any of my mates off for talking, texting or asking silly questions during his press conferences yet but with so many new people all starting at the same time I was struggling to settle into this new school year, particularly after what those bigger boys from Millwall did to us during our last play time.
The rate of change at Norwich City has been unprecedented this summer. One fan pointed out to us on BBC Radio Norfolk at the weekend that the club has been involved in more than 40 transfers if you include the comings and goings at all levels. That is an extraordinary turnover but, given the clamour to freshen up a stale squad and the much explained need to reduce budgets, it’s a case of needs must.
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The revolution was artificially hastened by an injury list that perhaps Farke hadn’t been cut enough slack for. He included seven summer signings in his starting line-up on the opening day at Fulham, on Saturday the balance had shifted to five new recruits and six who had played under Alex Neil. It’s worth remembering that City’s team at Craven Cottage relied on Russell Martin having pain-killing injections to make it into the starting line-up while Ivo Pinto, Wes Hoolahan and Josh Murphy were named on the bench despite being nowhere near fit because the numbers needed making up. Pinto featured in just one friendly in the summer but has now played catch-up to an extent that he was able to captain the side for the first time against Birmingham on his 50th league appearance for the club.
The completion of that extensive work in the transfer window, coupled with the timely return to fitness of Timm Klose meant that Farke had the luxury of leaving experienced players like Martin, Steven Naismith and Marley Watkins out of his squad altogether for Saturday’s game. Suddenly there does look to be strength in depth in the City ranks and if that mini injury crisis of early August taught us anything it was that we’ll need to rely on all of those players at some point over the next 40 matches of this Championship slog.
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Tettey played his first league game since Good Friday at the weekend. To borrow a term from the classroom he has a wonderful ability to ‘spoil it for other people’ if those other people are an opposing football team trying to build an attack.
The affable former Norway international’s erratic passing ability means he doesn’t necessarily fit into a side that wants to dominate possession but how and when Daniel Farke uses him will be interesting. In five seasons with City, Tettey has never started more than 34 league games, partly because of a nagging knee problem, so it’s unrealistic to expect him to be an ever present but there’s no doubt that life in the Canary classroom is more settled when his name is on the register.
During the international break I went with my dad to watch England’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia at Wembley.
It meant coming out blinking into the daylight from the comfortable surroundings of the press room and rediscovering what it was like just to be a fan. I even remembered not to commentate, much to the relief of people around me.
The one thing that really stood out on my return to the terraces, and I do realise this is going to make me sound like a very old man, was the reliance supporters now have on their smart phones during games. The man next to me whipped his phone out to broadcast the national anthems live to his followers on Facebook. It might have been a good idea had we not been so far up in the top tier at the national stadium and behind one of the goals that we were basically in a different postcode to the two teams as they lined up halfway.
We were certainly too far away to be able to spot how many fingers Dele Alli was pointing in Kyle Walker’s direction. My new neighbour seemed to be oblivious to the fact that most people could just switch on the TV and get a perfectly decent view of the anthems.
Then, as the match went on, the focus of the frantic swiping turned to the betting apps and that’s despite being spared the floating head of Ray Winstone that TV viewers are subjected to above the stadium during the half-time adverts. There was more talk about when the right time would be to ‘cash out’ on England’s 2-1 win than there was about the game itself.
It’s more of an observation than a criticism. I can’t pretend that I didn’t take a couple of sneaky pictures or have the odd glance at some of the other scores during lulls in play but if I was the sort of person that could invent things, I’d be straight into the Dragon’s Den with a stadium seat that comes with his own integral port for charging phones. The first club to introduce them will be onto a winner. If you see Ray Winstone’s big head on your travels ask him which ground he makes the favourite to bring in what feels like the inevitable next step of the match day experience.