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Paddy Davitt verdict: A full apology is in order. Norwich City have simply been too good

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:07 12 May 2019

Norwich City proved they could mix it with Premier League opponents at Bournemouth in the League Cup earlier this season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City proved they could mix it with Premier League opponents at Bournemouth in the League Cup earlier this season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Ken Jones, a doyen of football reportage, was the Daily Mirror's chief writer when England won the World Cup in 1966.

Onel Hernandez levels against Nottingham Forest Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdOnel Hernandez levels against Nottingham Forest Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

This old school hack reportedly looked on with disgust, on that momentous day at Wembley, when some of his contemporaries in the press box stood up to applaud Geoff Hurst's iconic extra-time goal to seal England's victory.

The implication being Jones felt his press colleagues were there to record and document history in the making, rather than get swept away with excitement and emotion.

Sorry, Mr Jones. Guilty as charged. On at least two occasions following Norwich City's breathless Championship promotion triumph this past season I have been brought to my feet - although I stopped short of applauding Daniel Farke's troops.

Mario Vrancic's 97th-minute equalising free-kick on Good Friday, to grab a point against Sheffield Wednesday, felt like a momentous swing of the pendulum in the battle between the Canaries and their Yorkshire promotion rivals.

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was full of praise for Norwich City Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdBournemouth manager Eddie Howe was full of praise for Norwich City Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Earlier in the season it was Onel Hernandez, not once but twice in stoppage time, with the composure we want to see on a far more consistent basis inside the opposition penalty box, earning another vital point.

Both games and both interventions tell you everything about why this squad of Norwich City players lifted the Championship title.

It cuts to the heart of the matter about the character and togetherness, woven around technical quality and youthful exuberance, that proved such an intoxicating mix.

Farke himself, soaked with champagne as he sat down to take his seat in the Carrow Road press room following the promotion-clinching 2-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers, referenced that festive comeback against Nottingham Forest.

Mario Vrancic celebrates after scoring a sensational late equaliser 
against Sheffield Wednesday Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdMario Vrancic celebrates after scoring a sensational late equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

City trailed by three goals with 77 minutes on the clock. Yet found a way to prevail, just as they did on any number of occasions in dramatic fashion.

Sporting director Stuart Webber has spoken about leaving Elland Road in early February, after dismantling and dispiriting Leeds 3-1 in a bear pit of an atmosphere stoked by the 'Spygate' furore and Norwich's quest for answers, as the moment he realised what an opportunity they now had.

The transformation from a heavy home defeat in the corresponding league fixture, in the first month of the season, could not have been more stark.

There was a cohesiveness and a sense of purpose at Elland Road that had been totally absent back in Norfolk against Marcelo Bielsa's men. What transpired between those two points was remarkable.

Players came to the fore who had started on the margins.

Those viewed as frontline options receded to the fringes. Farke's careful pruning and nurturing was delivered with the skill of a surgeon; his man management keeping the vast majority onside and all pulling in the same direction. Those one or two who opted out were eventually farmed out.

Roughly midway through this critical mid-season spell - spanning the two league clashes against Leeds - came Bournemouth away in the Carabao Cup.

Perhaps some saw this as an inconsequential evening in the bigger picture. Farke made changes to his line up, so too Eddie Howe, but there was still enough Premier League quality on show to emphasise the yawning chasm between these two clubs.

What transpired on the south-coast was a clear demonstration Farke's squad was accelerating through the gears.

Bournemouth were pummelled and prodded in open play.

City were superior in every department, bar the final scoreline. Jordan Rhodes spurned a glorious chance to take the tie to extra-time. Howe strode into his post-match media briefing with the air of a man who had endured rather than enjoyed his passage to the next round.

The Bournemouth manager's first answer, when pressed for his reaction, was revelatory and as it turned out, prophetic.

"Norwich is a really improving team who on that evidence will take some stopping in the Championship," said the Cherries' boss.

Howe knew what it took to get out of the second tier and more importantly survive in the Premier League. That is why his opinion mattered.

Observing City from close quarters he had admired Farke's methods and Norwich's general display.

The Canaries were two points off the top in the league on that night of cup disappointment. They finished the same week joint top with Leeds, after hammering Sheffield Wednesday 4-0.

Farke's first visit to Hillsborough had ended with a 5-1 humiliation on the final day of his debut season. His second underscored Howe's assessment a special season was brewing in these parts.

One laden with goals and attacking endeavour. One full of fighting spirit and resolve. One dripping in quality and technical excellence.

One that lifted fans out of their seats and this journalist occasionally to his feet.

But I make no apologies for that. Except to Mr Jones.

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