Alex Tettey and a debt repaid in full
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
Alex Tettey has perfected the art of self-deprecation. But he will be a huge act to follow at Norwich City.
The club’s longest-serving player is in the final throes of his Canaries’ career. Barnsley’s final day Championship assignment is likely to be his 263rd, and last, appearance in green and yellow.
Expect the official announcement in due course. But the man himself will want no fanfare, or fuss or in truth any version of a testimonial further down the line to mark his service.
No doubt he will gaze at that second title winner's medal in his palm at Oakwell on Saturday and reflect privately on a job well done.
Tettey has not had the minutes this time around compared to previous tours. He was not the heartbeat, the driving force of the 2015 play-off winning assault under Alex Neil. The Scot labelled him 'one of a kind'. Or even the renaissance man, who went from the margins to a leading role on and off the park under Daniel Farke, with the same outcome as this campaign two seasons ago.
But his influence and his value is immeasurable. In a period of constant change at Norwich City - of managerial change, of divisional change, of the challenges posed by financial peaks and troughs or even a pandemic - Tettey has been a reassuring constant at Carrow Road.
Even before a ball was kicked in anger this season he knew the dynamic had shifted, and what his role would be within a re-modelled squad constructed by Farke and Stuart Webber with the sole purpose of plotting an immediate Premier League return.
Speaking at the club's regular German tour base he was self-aware enough to have already surveyed the scene and understood what the arrival of players such as Jacob Sorensen or Olly Skipp meant for his own game time.
“Fantastic signings and it’s up to me to give them that push, that ‘you are going to play but don’t take it for granted’ in a way,” he said. “I will help them as much as I can because they should play, definitely, and I hope they play and do well.”
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When Bali Mumba helped turn a big win against rivals Swansea in early November, in a game that actually marked Tettey’s first Championship action of the season, the Norwegian urged the youngster to tell waiting media ‘he was his Dad’ as he strode across the turf after that match.
Beaming smile. A loud chuckle that echoed around the empty stands.
You can see why Farke still wanted him on board. In the Norwegian he detected the qualities he values, as a person as much as a player.
The 35-year-old has given his all for Norwich City and the Canaries had the best years of his career. He is part of a very exclusive club to make 100 Premier League appearances. That is a testament to his longevity and his staying power.
It is easy to forget, in the midst of the inevitable tributes that will follow in the days ahead, at the outset of Farke’s tenure Tettey looked surplus to requirements.
A watershed early league defeat at Millwall ushered his return and by common consent the veteran got better and better under a head coach who values the technical aspects of a midfielder’s craft as much as energy and aggressive intent.
Who could ever forget the majestic volley against Sunderland back in 2014? Or the thumping strike against Neil’s Preston in a previous title-winning Championship season? Tettey has always been much more than a combative fulcrum.
Nevertheless, for many, the abiding memory may actually be that toe poked finish at Manchester United in a landmark Premier League win under Neil in 2015. A strike you will not find in any coaching manual. But that is Tettey. Effective, reliable, dependable.
Now it is time to say goodbye and close this chapter.
Whether he chooses to prolong his playing career, or opt to start the coaching route he hinted at recently as the clock approached midnight, he will always be warmly remembered in these parts.
Loyalty is a rare commodity in the modern game.
He joined in the Premier League. He leaves with the club back in the big time. Consider that a job well done, Alex.