Jon Punt: The evolution of Alex Tettey and how City are reaping the rewards
PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 27 November 2018
City’s extended sparkling run of form has rightly seen the likes of Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki receive the plaudits they deserve.
Offensively the Canaries have been irresistible, but the team is now built on much more solid foundations. That starts with the current skipper.
During Norwich’s last return journey to the Premier League, there was a moment which may just have defined the remainder of Alex Tettey’s career in Canary yellow.
With club stalwarts such as Russell Martin injured ahead of a home match to Swansea, there was much talk of who would take the captain’s armband. Conventional wisdom pointed to a few of the squad’s ‘Steady Eddies’, yet Alex Neil decided to place his trust in the Norwegian international. It raised more than a few eyebrows, even though at the time it was to be for a solitary match.
Alex Tettey?!? Yes, THAT Alex Tettey. The joker. The man who dances badly-constructed-jigs* in front of adoring fans. The man who the club’s media team never really trusted to put in front of local journalists for fear of him saying something outlandish, swearing, or sometimes both.
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Neil saw something everyone else hadn’t. That Tettey had the credentials to be a dressing room leader. His experience, both at Carrow Road and in his previous stints on the continent, meant he could rally those around him and guide the younger heads through times of trouble.
At the time, Tettey’s role as dressing room sergeant was to be short lived, but it could have proved more to himself than anyone else that he had what it takes to step up in the leadership stakes.
Fast forward just over three years and Daniel Farke sees the same qualities that his predecessor had astutely identified.
When Grant Hanley’s absence created an uneasy sense of foreboding, Tettey stepped into the void and proved himself more than able.
He’s still the joker, still the character we know and love – it’s just now that he’s so much more, relishing the additional responsibility given to him.
The man has reinvented himself under Farke’s tutelage. The quality of coaching he’s received, and role he’s played in this upwardly mobile City side, underlines Tettey’s growing confidence.
In a team packed full of able technicians, his colleagues need someone to read opposition attacks and quell them before they become a threat.
He’s always been able to do that, yet now he plays with a freedom rarely seen since he joined from Rennes in 2012.
The passing on display is more measured. The license to roam, and potentially shift his side higher up the pitch, has seen Tettey appear on the edge of the opposition area more times this season than ever before.
Cries of ‘shooooooooooooot!’ when the ball arrives at his feet are now bellowed in hope rather than jest. His transformation from potential scapegoat to pivotal player is complete.
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This is all at the tender age of 32, with supposedly glass knees. While his international retirement has surely helped, City fans were told incessantly over the past few seasons that the midfielder wasn’t able to play twice in the space of a week.
2018-19 Tettey has already done that four times this season, also appearing three times in seven days at least once. The difference is that now he’s being sensibly managed by the sports science team, his rehab recently being undertaken at Colney rather than a Tampa sun lounger and Boeing 747 restricted legroom seat.
It’s recognition that Tettey represents one of the most vital cogs in the City engine room. Remove him, Moritz Leitner or Timm Klose for any sustained period of time and there might be genuine reasons to be fearful City might not sustain their form in the manner fans have been accustomed to.
Farke’s young charges have been exceptional this season, but their impact has been well documented elsewhere.
Tettey’s impact is altogether more understated, less exciting, yet it’s just as important – an essential component of what makes Norwich successful.
Get that man a proper terrace chant - his role in what is becoming our most exhilarating team for years needs to be acknowledged.
*disclaimer - Alex Tettey’s badly constructed jigs are a thing of beauty and I wouldn’t change them for the world. Celebrate them for what they are, not what they should be.