Paddy Davitt verdict: Gone but never forgotten
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Tears were the only thing spilt by Norwich City this time around in an emotional Championship swansong.
Goodbye to the Football League. Goodbye Alex Tettey. Goodbye Mario Vrancic.
Little wonder Daniel Farke was left rubbing his eyes as the Norwegian made his way to the touchline at Oakwell for an orchestrated exit befitting his status and longevity.
Farke was right. Both Tettey and Vrancic deserved a raucous ovation from supporters. One hopes the virtual space can give way to a suitable public show of affection for the midfield duo at some point in the future.
A week previous, Farke was drenched by cold water in a touchline ambush to celebrate confirmation of the Canaries’ coronation. Wisely, chief ring leader Onel Hernandez opted not to repeat the trick this time around.
Farke himself seemed to take a step back at the very moment Grant Hanley and Tettey jointly lifted the handsome Football League trophy aloft on the special stage erected at Oakwell.
Maybe the German simply wanted to leave the limelight to his troops.
Barnsley were every bit as robust and committed as the two previous league and cup duels this season. The Tykes will take some shifting in play-off battles ahead.
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Norwich, clearly, had only pride to play for but you suspect Tettey, in particular, would have loved the way they ground out a result which proved a victory for resilience and character.
What more is left to be said about the club’s longest-serving player? Or Vrancic for that matter, a player indelibly linked with the defining part of the maiden Championship title triumph under Farke, and sporting director Stuart Webber?
In each case, you can talk about the player, you can talk about the person. You can reflect on their playing ability and their character. Farke perhaps summed it up best in the immediate aftermath of a season surely never to be repeated for so many different reasons.
Once the champagne has gone flat, once the trophy is polished and secured in the Carrow Road cabinet, once this squad scatter for rest and relaxation over the summer and once new faces have arrived to replace the old, only then perhaps will it sink in Tettey and Vrancic have stepped off the train.
Farke spoke of how the absence of Tettey at the training ground will be surreal. For now, savour the memories and the magic. Soon it will be time to look forward and have another go in the unforgiving Premier League.
Norwich need to be better in every aspect of the challenge than that first tour under Farke. The decision to part company with Tettey and Vrancic should be viewed not simply through the prism of nostalgia but within the bigger picture. At the core of the huge task to survive, and then in time flourish in the big league, is hard headed pragmatism.
In Webber, City have the right man for the job.
Both Tettey and Vrancic have clocked up enough miles in the professional game to know why a parting of the ways was inevitable.
Olly Skipp’s consistent seam of Championship form underlined what the prototype looks like in a key area of the park. Whether it is to be a favoured return for the Tottenham loanee, a quest seemingly made much tougher given his 12-week summer layoff following surgery on a broken foot, or an alternative option in the upcoming transfer window, Tettey’s combative influence belongs to a different era at Carrow Road.
Likewise, Kieran Dowell’s eye-catching end of season form, particularly his productivity and growing relationship with Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia, perhaps finally settles the internal conversation about who looks a more viable option in that attacking midfield role.
City fans will always have Mario’s masterclass at Leeds, that Sheffield Wednesday free kick, the title-sealing goal at Villa Park and even in this latest campaign key interventions against Wycombe and Birmingham.
But the heavy lifting and the headlines belonged elsewhere for the most part. On a human level, they go with the warmest of best wishes, with a place secured in a special period in Norwich’s recent history.
The wheel had already started to turn with promotion triggering permanent deals for Ben Gibson and Dimitris Giannoulis. Expect a dizzying pace to City’s work in the window, albeit the delayed European Championships may have to be delicately navigated as Norwich embark on another makeover.
Not in scale perhaps - the beating heart of this group will be the same for Farke’s Premier League crusade.
But that can wait a little while longer. Just until the silhouettes of two legends disappear over the horizon.