Lee Payne: Norwich City have got to play their way out the transitional phase
PUBLISHED: 06:00 08 May 2018
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Another season is done and dusted. After 46 league games, Norwich City won 15, drew 15 and lost 16. The definition of mid-table.
Back in August, City were entering a new era under their first manager to hail from somewhere other than Britain or Ireland.
I spent this season repeatedly being told that this was a ‘transitional’ one. This is the one where Daniel Farke sets his ideas into practice and come next season Norwich will be a machine, powering their way to promotion. Or something like that.
The price of my season ticket wasn’t transitional, though. I had to pay the same price as I did when we were in the Premier League. I think that gives me, and all the other City fans, every right to make it clear that we have seen some very poor performances this year.
The fresh faces took a while to settle in, as was expected. But by the end of October Cristoph Zimmermann was already a fan favourite, really stepping up to the mark and becoming a reliable defender once he had Timm Klose alongside to guide him.
Tom Trybull did a superb job protecting the back four, and his deserved contract extension was widely celebrated, though it remains to be seen whether he has been merely unlucky with injuries this campaign or has a bigger problem.
Grant Hanley looked like something of a panic buy from Newcastle, but his superb defensive performances since breaking into the side earned him second place in the Player of the Season award. Even the much maligned Mario Vrancic was earning praise for his performances by the end of the season. Onel Hernandez, signed in January, looks promising and it will be interesting to see how he gets on next season.
For those successes, there have been failures. James Husband did little in his appearances at left back for City, and the breakthrough of Jamal Lewis from the academy has masked what a pickle they would have been in if Husband had remained the only real option in that position.
There was uproar whenever Marley Watkins was seen on the team sheet. Having arrived with many Barnsley supporters expressing their affection for him, Norwich have seen nothing to explain how he is remembered so fondly there. Dennis Srbeny has not looked like solving City’s severe lack of goals. The loan signing of Marcus Edwards from Tottenham was a complete waste of time.
It is also worth noting that some of Norwich’s best performers have only been here on loan from other clubs.
Angus Gunn may have been born in the city and been in our academy, but he is a Manchester City player.
Any Norwich future for Harrison Reed, a tireless worker who is willing to play anywhere he is asked, surely depends on whether his parent club Southampton are a Premier League or Championship club next season. Moritz Leitner would also be welcome back.
I fear that too much pressure is being placed on next season. This season’s bad days, like the disasters at Millwall, QPR and Sheffield Wednesday, have been explained away by the idea that ‘the project is in its early stages’ and ‘it will be better next season’. What if it isn’t? What do we do if we get to Christmas and City are in the same trough – or worse?
The obvious answer would be to sack the manager, but replacing Farke would render this whole revolution a failure.
At the end of the Leeds match, the last home game of the season, I watched the players and the coaching staff do their lap of the pitch and there seemed to be a real team spirit. They all get on. I saw Farke laughing and joking, and I felt this overwhelming desire for him to succeed.
I like the man, I want him to do well here, but we must improve.