This is where it all starts to feel very really: a league opponent who were in the Premier League last season. Let’s catch up on what’s been going on out in Norfolk.
Ground: Carrow Road (since 1935, capacity 27,359)
Second tier seasons: 37 (+26 top flight)
Major honours: League Cup (1962, 1985)
Last season: 20th in Premier League
Norwich’s return to the top flight could barely have gone much worse. They won just five times (ok, one of those was against Man City, but still) and lost 27, conceding just shy of two goals a game on average. Relegated with three games to spare, they scored only once in a run of ten straight defeats to end the season.
Having romped to Championship glory, it was a big reality check. That said, they didn’t spend big in a bid to stay up – they didn’t have the means – and were badly hampered by injuries. The lack of any radical change on any front also ought to leave them in good shape to mix it at the right end of the table in 2020/21.
The gaffer: Daniel Farke
Apppointed: May 2017
Previously managed: Borussia Dortmund II, SV Lippstadt (Germany)
Played for: SV Lippstadt (3 spells), SV Meppen, Bonner SC, SV Wilhelmshaven, Paderborn, SV Stenhausen (all Germany)
Norwich league record: P130, W47, D34, L49
A young starter in management, Farke took the reins at Lippstadt in 2009 and guided them from the sixth to fourth tier of German football during his six years in charge. He then moved on to Borussia Dortmund – who Jürgen Klopp, a keen admirer of his, had just left – to take charge the reserve side, before become Norwich boss ahead of the 2017/18 season. After a mid-table finish in that first campaign, he propelled the them to their fourth second tier title a year later, earning himself a three-year contract extension to 2022.
Singing From the Nest‘s Jack Green casts an eye over the Canaries.
How confident are you that Norwich can mount another promotion push in 2020/21? I’m quietly confident that we will make an immediate return to the Premier League. Last season was torrid, mainly because of the amount of injuries we suffered. If we can keep hold of our young assets, I do think we can have another crack at the title. The fact we spent so little money does work in our favour, but it’s simply because the money wasn’t there to be spent when we got promoted due to previous financial mismanagement. We’re now in a position to spend, which we have done very wisely – our sporting director, Stuart Webber, has a knack of finding hidden gems for low prices!
In terms of transfer business this summer, you’ve been one of the busiest clubs in the division. What have you made of the signings and departures so far and what do you still need to do? I’ve been very happy with our signings. We’ve invested in a lot of youngsters with good reputations at the clubs they were signed from. The likes of [wing-back] Sam McCallum from Coventry and [midfielder] Bali Mumba from Sunderland are great additions because of our history with bringing through young English players. [Midfielder] Jacob Sørensen and [winger] Przemysław Płacheta look to be good signings, with both in their respective U21 national sides, along with [midfielder] Kieran Dowell from Everton and [striker] Jordan Hugill from West Ham. We’ve invested in a mixture of youth and experience at Championship level – a great balance to try and get straight back up.
As with any relegated club, a number of players – Emi Buendía, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis, among others – have been linked with moves away. You seem to be holding out for the right price – as you should – but does that run the risk of ending up with unsettled players in the camp? Of course, but the ‘Jamal Lewis to Liverpool’ saga was more of an insult to the player. It’s great for him to be linked with such a club, but to offer less than half the asking price of £20m was shocking!
Ben is a fantastic centre-back, despite it not being his natural position, and has the backing and support of Rio Ferdinand, which isn’t a bad person to be representing you at all. The one that gets me is Buendía – by far our best player and one of the best I think I’ve ever seen play for us. I’m hopeful he’ll stay, but I won’t hold my breath. Because of relegation, we’re not in a position to hold players back from moving to the top leagues, but we can definitely demand a substantial amount with good justification/
Daniel Farke certainly seems to have the backing of the board. Does he still have the full support of the fans? A promotion, even if you come straight back down, can inflate expectations and turn people impatient! Whatever club you see, there will always be fans who demand the manager be sacked. The problem with our campaign last season was the fact that we were never meant to be in the Premier League – we were promoted three years early according to our five-year plan! The large majority of the fans understand that and know that Farke is probably the right man to drive us forward. He’s done brilliantly in bringing through players, like [Max] Aarons [cousin of Rolando], Godfrey and even James Maddison – and look what he’s gone on to do!
Some Norwich fans are fickle and forget the highlights of the previous season. He’s contracted to 2022 and I, for one, would keep him here until that time, whatever happens between now and then.
Finally, taking everything into account, realistically, how do you think Norwich will fare this season? As mentioned, I am quietly confident about going back up to the Premier League, but I’m expecting it to be far from easy. I agree we should be one of the favourites at the minute as we have kept hold of our prized assets thus far, so things are promising. If we can keep hold of them for the season, then I’ll expect top 6. The Championship is famously the most challenging in England, because there’s always about 10 teams that could go up! I’d be happy with a play-off place but automatic promotion should be the aim. If we can achieve that, I’ll be a very happy man. At the current time, anything less than top 6 would be considered an underachievement!
When we last met
The 2018/19 League Cup Round Three clash between the sides produced a thrilling encounter at Adams Park, our old enemy Jordan Rhodes scoring another hat-trick on our patch as the Canaries advanced as 4-3 winners. Our only league meetings came in League One in the 2009/10 season, when we went down 5-2 to Paul Lambert’s men at Carrow Road (Jon-Paul Pittman and Matt Harrold were on target for the Blues, for what it’s worth) and 1-0 in the reverse fixture.
Did you know…?
Norwich’s ‘On the Ball, City’ dates back to 1890 and is said to be as the oldest football chant still in use today.
Header photo: Amdamsky via Wikimedia Commons
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