David Freezer: Underdog spirit essential to Norwich City proving they belong in the Premier League
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City are too good for the Championship and under Daniel Farke their style of play is ready for the Premier League. Sound familiar?
That was the view of the vast majority of the Canaries community after last season's title success, myself included. It seems those expectations were overly optimistic though.
Not from within the City camp, it should be stressed. Farke and Stuart Webber were quick to take on their mountain climbing analogies and describe this season as akin to climbing Everest without the required tools.
Yet still, the expectations that a squad which had shown off such an impressive mix of attacking verve, determined spirit and winning mentality looked well placed to progress to the Premier League.
Ten games in and already any expectations of a smooth transition have been swiftly stamped upon by a succession of established top-flight players.
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Injuries have of course played their part. Every promoted team know they will have to build quickly on their Championship foundations but when the core of that successful team has been so severely disrupted, it's felt like Farke has been fighting an uphill battle at times.
So any delusions of grandeur now have to be firmly parked. This Norwich City squad and its loyal following must forget any notions that they belong among the glitz and glamour of the world's wealthiest league. The mission is now one of an underdog.
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None of the teams the Canaries have faced so far have been anything less than full of respect for the job Farke has done and well aware of the threat they pose. Every team, apart from Newcastle perhaps, have been ready for the ambitious attacking approach of the new boys.
"They are a really good team with good players who have quality, we saw that in the way they destroyed the Championship last year," said Pep Guardiola, the man who has engineered back-to-back Premier League titles at Manchester City.
The irony is, that was after the champions had been left shell-shocked by a 3-2 loss, after a game when an almighty effort by an injury-ravaged team saw every player empty the tank in pursuit of a special victory, with that desperation echoing around Carrow Road.
Just remind yourself of the match stats though. The visitors had 69pc of possession, 25 shots and eight on target. Norwich didn't play the super-rich giants off the pitch, they took their chances and clung on desperately.
It was inspired, it was special, it was deserved in the circumstances, but the reality was that Guardiola's superb team were thwarted - in a game when the Canaries very much knew they were underdogs.
Yet when it comes to a trip to Brighton, or a home game against Watford, is that same underdog approach being taken? Perhaps that belief that Norwich belong in the Premier League has allowed expectations to out-pace the development on the pitch.
Farke has repeatedly used the phrase 'underdog' during his interviews this season and it was intriguing that he batted away the suggestion that Brighton could be a role model for City, pointing to the big fees the Seagulls have been able to spend.
Brighton, Watford, Southampton, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Aston Villa - all clubs which are direct rivals and all clubs with wealthy financial backing bolstering them.
Norwich are the underdogs of this story in comparison. Financially they may be on steady ground but they are clearly the top flight's poor relations this season.
But are they Charlie Bucket, winning a golden ticket to an exciting new world, or are they Rocky Balboa, fighting to defy the odds and prove everybody wrong?
The opening 10 games have provided a harsh reality check as to just how steep the climb will be. With four of the next six games against teams currently in the bottom half, as well as a home clash with rivals Sheffield United, a chance for a fresh start beckons.
But Norwich City have not proved they belong in the Premier League - yet.