Paddy Davitt: All the cheeky Canaries must do is live up to Klopp’s words
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It might feel like Jurgen Klopp was damning Norwich City with faint praise but it is well worth revisiting his original view on the Canaries.
It was August and opening night back for the Premier League new boys. The first game of the top-flight season and the first competitive return of the Reds to their spiritual home since lifting a sixth European crown.
The intensity and the volume Liverpool's anthem reverberated around Anfield before kick-off was surely the moment Daniel Farke and his squad realised how special last season's Championship title feat was.
This was undoubtedly the big time, with a global television audience for the most part tuning in to witness a walkover.
A 4-1 defeat barely scratched the surface. Grant Hanley sliced a cross from Divock Origi into his own net seven minutes in and by half-time the dazed visitors were 4-0 down.
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The speed and the thrust of Klopp's men was as brutal as it was breathtaking. Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis were both exposed defensively and the punishment clinically dispensed. Yet Norwich did not go under. They rode their luck early in the second period, relying on Tim Krul's reflexes, and got a measure of reward when Teemu Pukki opened his account in the big time after collecting Emi Buendia's perfect pass.
There were plenty of other forays into enemy territory; not least two big chances for Marco Stiepermann before the floodgates had even opened.
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That prompted Klopp to stride into his post-match press conference and declare this about Farke's work.
"I have to say only the biggest respect for what Danny is doing there with the boys. A very interesting and exciting team they have there," he said. "I think the first 60 minutes were really good, really impressive. If you are surprised Norwich City use little moments to be dangerous, I am not. That is how they are. We could have scored more and that maybe would have impressed the opponent more. But they stayed cheeky, they stayed lively and they did what they wanted to do. They didn't change offensively.
"I said to Daniel before the game I like the energy and the fun. They are cheeky like hell and will do what they want to do.
"I had a couple of those players as well so I am pretty proud of what they are doing. They caused us problems in some moments and I am not surprised."
Klopp captured the essence of what Farke is all about and, by definition, Norwich right now. There is a rebellious streak, a refusal to accept either the status quo or the merit from exploring a different path.
Without such traits Norwich and their self-sufficient model would never have left the Championship. A night like Anfield or this Saturday's Carrow Road return would simply not have been possible at this stage.
The intervening period has undoubtedly been kinder to Klopp's men.
They head to Norfolk on the cusp of an achievement that will stand the test of time. They have since added the Club World Cup and progressed to the later stages of the Champions League and the FA Cup. They are a magnificent group of players under a gifted head coach and few inside or outside the Canaries' bubble can surely see anything other than another league win.
But that will not stop Farke and his 'underdogs' trying to attempt what even in a two-horse race looks nigh on impossible.
When staying in the Premier League is packaged as scaling Everest it requires boldness and rich reserves of self-belief to feel you belong on the same turf. Let alone compete.
But it is well worth remembering Klopp's warm words, irrespective of this weekend's outcome. Or for that matter whether the 'little miracle' Farke has packaged survival is beyond the club this time around.
City's 'cheek' is one of the strongest cards they still have left to play. Because it would be far easier to capitulate, to accept the gradient is too steep and the slog too hard.
Farke himself has spoken liberally in the past about reminding his boys why they first started to play the game with their mates. He wants to harness some of that innocence, that fun and enjoyment to try and bridge the gulf to the biggest and the best.
The wily Klopp was attuned to that after the first Premier League meeting. Norwich need to live up to his words again at Carrow Road. Respect but no fear.