Robin Sainty: Norwich City - the model to follow
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In the early days of motoring, cars often carried the warning: “Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are”, but even with that foreshortening of perspective, Daniel Farke would now require some powerful binoculars to pick out Brentford and Swansea in his.
I’ve often mentioned the effect of pressure on the final stages of a title race, and it currently appears to have consumed the two clubs which have been City’s closest challengers for much of the season.
Having looked impressive for much of the season, both Swansea and Brentford now seem to have lost faith in the systems and tactics that got them there and are pale shadows of their earlier confident selves, with neither managing a win in their last four games.
Meanwhile, Norwich City stick to their system and just seem to get stronger, based on an absolute belief in what they are doing and a level of trust and understanding between the players which borders on the telepathic.
What we have seen this season is actually the culmination of a whole series of decisions over the last four years, and the fact that Tuesday’s peak was reached on the fourth anniversary of the arrival of Stuart Webber makes it all the more special, because the first of those decisions had been his appointment, for which the owners and board, and particularly then chairman Ed Balls, who researched the role of sporting director in extensive conversations with Damien Comolli, who had held that role at Liverpool, deserve huge credit.
It was a big change for City, but they have hardly looked back since, because instead of a short-term gamble they invested for the long term.
They appointed a young, innovative manager and crucially gave him licence to go backwards in order to make progress with a new style of play, and they also invested in a new state-of-the-art training facility, partly funded by the novel idea of a supporter-funded bond scheme as the Championship title was won within two seasons.
However, after the ignominious relegation that followed, perhaps the biggest decision was to ignore those for whom sacking the manager is always the answer to disappointment.
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Even early this season there were a few fans still banging that particular drum after City’s slow start, but now everyone is fully on board as the yellow and green juggernaut powers on.
There is a real sense that the club has all its ducks in a row, both on and off the pitch, although no doubt we will soon be having to put up with big club groupies like Martin Samuel moaning when City don’t break the bank in the Premier League next season.
What’s been achieved this season has actually been a direct result of not following that sort of norm. City, albeit hit by Covid like everyone else, are in an enviable financial position (and a stronger one than when they were promoted in 2019), particularly compared to the likes of Bournemouth who have just announced a loss of £60 million, 50pc up on the previous financial year.
Despite selling two key players, City now have a stronger and more well-rounded squad than two years ago and are already developing the next crop of young talent, both at the Academy and also through their extensive programme of loaning players out.
The latest Academy product, Andrew Omobamidele, whilst benefiting from coming into a successful side, has, just like Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis before him, slotted in seamlessly, and that’s no coincidence.
In fact, it speaks volumes for the environment created by Farke and Webber but also for the structure and ethos of the Clubcas a whole, and more and more clubs are realising that the Norwich approach is the way forward.
Once City used to copy other clubs, but now they’ve become the model for them.