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Paddy Davitt: Misconceptions are dangerous at Norwich City

Daniel Farke takes his Norwich City to Alex Neil's Preston this weekend. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Daniel Farke takes his Norwich City to Alex Neil's Preston this weekend. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Perception counts for so much when football is viewed through such a short term prism.

Take Alex Neil for instance. Around this time last season, after he was jettisoned from Norwich City, the Scot looked a busted flush.

Neil’s glow had dulled considerably to the point many Canaries’ fans were of the opinion the board should have acted sooner than they did and cut him adrift the previous January.

Contrast that negative view with the first six months or so of his Carrow Road tenure, when the young, abrasive ex-Hamilton chief was a galvanising ball of energy that whipped an under-performing squad into shape and carried them, and 40,000 fans, on a thrilling ride that ended at Wembley and the Premier League.

Neil is busy restoring his reputation somewhat at unfashionable Preston.

City head to Deepdale this weekend looking to halt North End’s play-off charge, which was re-ignited with a vital away league win at QPR on Saturday.

Rest assured, even if Preston fall short in the final reckoning, Neil’s brand has been restored.

The same could be said of Chris Hughton.

He suffered a similar fate as Neil at Carrow Road, but is on the verge of defying the odds by keeping Brighton in the top flight.

This having secured promotion from the Championship a season after missing out in the cruellest of fashion, when they blew automatic promotion on the final day of the regular season in 2016.

Daniel Farke has been buffeted by the same currents.

Perhaps that is the lot of those who opt to prowl the home technical area in these parts.

When he arrived in a blaze of sunshine - armed with his sparkling Borussia Dortmund credentials - there was a feeling Norwich’s new sporting director had pulled off a major coup.

Here was a bold appointment, in the same vein as his predecessor, David Wagner, who had swapped the Bundesliga heavyweights’ second team for Huddersfield.

Neil felt the full weight of the Terriers’ juggernaut, as his Norwich era crumbled, with two emphatic Championship defeats last season.

Wagner’s shock troops appeared the antithesis to the tire, stale air sucking the life out of the Canaries.

Neil was actually on the pitch at Wembley last May, with a microphone in his hand, to congratulate Wagner for completing his mission in a drab Championship play-off final win over Reading that served a purpose.

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Yet Farke is not Wagner Mark II, and any Norwich fans who still expect the same cut and thrust need to hit the re-set button.

Wagner’s football is rooted in the heavy metal variety of his mentor and friend Jurgen Klopp.

Farke’s football is more classical, to his critics, easy-listening.

But the perception in many quarters upon his arrival was that Norwich’s play would be breathless, high tempo, high intensity.

There is also another misconception around this narrative, which Farke himself sought to deconstruct recently.

Pertinent for those who tire of the mantra ‘work in progress’ and crave a great leap forward.

“I had a good relationship when I was with him at Borussia Dortmund. We met several times and had a lot nice chats about English football and the Championship. But you can’t compare this situation,” said Farke.

“Huddersfield came out of an underdog role and it was a team he had built for a longer period of time.

“In his first season they were pretty close to relegation and in the second season they were able to build and go to the play-offs.

“Norwich come from a situation where they have been in the Premier League and now they have had to lower the age of the squad and bring in some money - something like 17 players have left in the last eight months.

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“We have several new players. Hopefully there will be one big similarity in the future.

“I am full of respect for David and the job he has done there.

“To be promoted to the Premier League was outstanding, but the basic situation is very different.”

Farke’s analysis is factual and considered.

But it requires an acceptance of the current situation and a patience to look beyond this weekend’s tussle with Neil’s Preston or the remaining two Championship games.

That is easier said than done when filtered through another afternoon of missed chances or defensive vulnerability.

Norwich’s top brass have not just embarked on a new direction over these past 12 months.

In essence they are seeking cultural change in the way supporters view their club, and football in general.

That is going to take considerably longer.

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