Robin Sainty: A very strange Norwich City away day

Norwich City's Ben Gibson celebrates victory after the final whistle during the Premier League match

Norwich City defender Ben Gibson savours the feeling of victory at Brentford - Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd

Last Saturday was a very strange Norwich City away day at Brentford.

All sorts of hold-ups and transport problems on the journey down were followed by a City performance that saw a welcome return to a short passing game resulting in the sort of atmosphere in the away end that we haven’t seen much this season.

Then came the news that Daniel Farke had been sacked.

Sitting in a carriage full of City fans on the train back from King's Cross the euphoria that we had all been basking in evaporated like a pricked balloon as the news spread. There was a mixture of anger and stunned silence as it sunk in that a man that we had revered for over four and a half years had gone.

In fairness, it was primarily a shock because of the timing because I think that most City fans realised that Farke’s job was on a knife-edge when the debacle at Chelsea was followed by a home defeat to Leeds, and it is now clear that the decision to replace him was made before the Brentford game.

At least Saturday’s win meant that he left on a high. Given what we now know, it would have been awful if City had lost on Saturday and he had been denied that one last moment of ecstatic connection with the fans.

A lot of people were disappointed that the club’s announcement wasn’t delayed until the following day but, given that the news had already leaked out on social media shortly after Farke and the players were notified, I don’t think that was a realistic option.

Ironically, City’s performance on Saturday was by far their best of the season and seemed to catch Brentford completely by surprise as their energetic high press forced numerous mistakes.

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It’s true that City started to sit deeper as they tired and individual errors started to creep in again towards the end, but Brentford weren’t good enough to take advantage and the Canaries were excellent value for their first win of the season.

The fact that the home team weren’t able to build up a head of steam owed a lot to City’s improved game management as they consistently broke up the game in the closing minutes to the fury of the home crowd. It may be cynical, but every team does it and City have been on the receiving end many times.

However, although it was a vital result the bigger story was inevitably the departure of Farke, a manager who has been dominant in the Championship, but sadly couldn’t produce the required results in the Premier League.

It’s worth remembering the state that the club was in when he arrived, with underperformance on the pitch and a major restructure taking place off it as its debts threatened to drag it under.

Although his first season was far from stellar as players, and many fans, struggled to come to terms with how he wanted his teams to play, and ended with his star player James Maddison being sold to relieve the financial pressures, we were then treated to some of the best football I’ve seen at City in over 50 years of watching as exciting young talent was given its chance.

That would have been enough in itself to win over most City fans, but Farke also proved to be an engaging, articulate personality who totally bought into the ethos of Norwich City.

His humble nature and the fact that he so obviously “got” the club and its fans was what endeared him to us and why so many, even whilst accepting that results didn’t lie, were so sad to see him go.

I for one am glad that he can leave with his head held high and there can be little doubt that he will be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in due course.

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