Ian Clarke: So impressed that City keep refusing to be beaten
PUBLISHED: 10:15 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 02 January 2019
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There are so many reasons to be impressed with Norwich City this season.
There has been the fantastic free-flowing, high tempo football with the refreshing renaissance after last year’s flatness.
We’ve had the emergence of a new wave of heroes including Teemu “possibly the best ever free signing” Pukki, Marco “comes from nowhere to be a hugely influential Number 10” Stiepermann, Max “looks like he’s been a top pro for years” Aarons and Mo “yes he really is that good” Leitner.”
Daniel Farke’s management has been superb and the delightfully likeable German has proved so many of his doubters wrong.
And the team has recovered impressively from big changes at Carrow Road including the loss of James Maddison and Josh Murphy.
Record after record has been broken and to start the new year in second place with 49 points and 48 goals is beyond anything any fan could have dreamed of.
However, what tops all of these endearing features in the class of 2018/19 is the continued refusal to know when they are beaten even when the odds are really stacked against them
If you are of a certain age you will remember Weebles (if you’re not then turn to Mr Google!) When I was a kid, the funny looking round characters were all the rage and they adopted the phrase “Weebles wobble but they won’t fall down.”
This Canary side has exactly the same streak of bouncebackability.
City have lost just five times in 26 league games. That’s a pretty impressive stat in its own right.
When you consider that three of those reversals were in the first five matches of the campaign, the growing resilience of Farke’s troops displayed in two defeats in 21 moves to another level.
How many times have we thought that the bubble may burst?
How often have we felt that it was going to be “one of those days” and we’d end up empty handed?
Let’s think about Birmingham away, Ipswich away, Forest away, Millwall at home, Bolton at home, Forest at home and then at Brentford on Boxing Day.
They are all examples of matches when fitness, bloody mindedness and sheer courage have seen us through to secure draws or wins.
They were games when in the past we would have expected to have lost.
I think supporters would have accepted more reversals this year bearing in mind all the mitigating factors such as the starting point of the squad after last term, the emergence of the youngsters and all the injuries.
It’s the never-say-die, we won’t be beaten, let’s stick together mentality which has been at the heart of the success and which has meant supporters love the team so much.
Think about the singing after the Stoke and Derby games - yes the only two league defeats since August 25.
We see the honesty, the endeavour, the passion and the desire from these lads to wear the shirt and dream the dream.
Even when they are tired and below par, there’s no doubting the total effort for the cause - and that means so much.
It’s tough at the moment - and certainly going to be a massively challenging month ahead.
After the welcome distraction of the FA Cup - where I’d expect pretty much a different starting team - City have a run of five games which will go a long way to shape the direction of our season.
Three are against the other sides in the top four, one is at one of the league’s form clubs and the other is the East Anglian derby.
A trip to the Hawthorns is up on Saturday week. West Brom would go above us with a win and we’ll almost certainly head there without a clutch of key players,
Then eighth-placed Birmingham head to Carra for a live TV clash before Sheffield United pay a visit,
The Blades are in the third, just two points behind us and with three wins and a draw over the festive period.
February will begin with a mouth-watering trip to Leeds ahead of Agent Lambert returning to NR1.
Having heard about some comments he’s made, you just know how desperate he’ll be to get a result up here.
That’s all not supposed to sprinkle new year gloom over Norfolk and if we can emerge from this next month there or thereabouts it will be a fantastic achievement.
Farke has indicated he is not expecting to do much business in the transfer window - and I’m happy with that.
Too much change could disrupt the amazing spirit he has created.
So let’s roll up those sleeves and battle on. OTBC.
Flying the flag
I’ll be heading down from my usual seat in the top deck of the River End to join the singing section in the Barclay for Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Portsmouth.
I’m really looking forward to sampling the newly-rekindled atmosphere inspired by the brilliant people from Along Come Norwich and Barclay End Norwich.
Clearly having a team doing so well on the pitch and seeing such pulsating matches massively helps Carrow Road rock.
However, the flags and other initiatives are ensuring the feel-good factor and togetherness are even stronger.
Pompey have sold all their allocation so should have getting towards 3000 fans there.
They’re flying in their league and will be in great spirits.
For too many years we had very a flat early round atmosphere in cup matches.
Things are different now and whatever team Daniel Farke fields will certainly get a real roar behind them.
Keep it festive
There’s been renewed talk in some quarters about changing the make up of the football season, with the introduction of a winter break and fewer games over the festive period.
You may argue there is a logic to that argument when you look at City’s mounting injury list.
Games on the Saturday before Christmas, Boxing Day, last Saturday and New Year’s Day was a challenging schedule.
The loss of Tettey and Stiepermann at Brentford was a double blow on top of knocks that Leitner, Buendia and Lewis have picked up recently.
However, the vast majority of people I have spoken to would be fiercely opposed to changing the system - despite the risks.
Festive football is a massive part of the English game.
There is so much excitement about the rapid run of matches which - as has happened this year - can have a huge impact on the season.
So please decision makers, leave it alone.