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The brave Canaries who couldn’t soar the heights for long : A review of the rise and fall of Norwich City FC

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“On the ball, City” – a famous Norwich City song from back in the 1890’s is an epitome of Norwich City Football Club. A song sung by generations and generations, yet been missing from the Premier League for three long years.

The famous OTBC Chant at Carrow Road (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

There are almost 2000 clubs playing in the National League structure in English Football, and every since one of them dream of being one of the twenty in the Premier League. Norwich City were no different. A team that had been on and off in the Premier League scenario for a couple of seasons needed a change. A change that could deliver the dream of every single Canaries supporter in the world, the dream of the return to the Premier League.

Alan Irvine managed in the first season back into the Championship (Image Courtesy : Norwich City FC Twitter)

Alan Irvine took charge of the Canaries when they got the drop into the Championship in 2016. The team lacked a definite style of football, they lacked the cohesion, the passion and the youthfulness as well as the excitement within the club in their first season back in the Championship. It was but obvious the promotion playoffs was a distant dream for them.

One fine day in May 2017, the club appointed their first foreign manager, a less known gentleman named Daniel Farke. A move which raised plenty of eyebrows, “Who Daniel Farke?” they said. The German had a very modest playing career playing in the lower leagues in Germany. He went on to become a reverse team coach at the mighty Borrusia Dortmund after managing a certain SV Lippstadt 08. Next step, Norwich City and the hurculean task of guiding those Canaries on their way to the Premier League.

Daniel Farke was a surprise signing by Norwich City FC (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

Farke was one of the managers devoted to the beautiful and efficient brand of football from his German roots of course. His own blend of the 4-2-3-1 was a mix of a fluidic offense matched by a solid defense. Farke believed in something which the previous management didn’t – Youth.

You could say that Norwich’s promotion to the Premier League was indeed a promotion that built its roots in the Bundesliga. The Manager, the style of football, the cultural influence aside Norwich City got players like Teemu Pukki, Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann, Tom Trybull, Moritz Leitner, Timm Klose, Dennis Srbeny and his own former Dortmund reserve team captain Christoph Zimmermann. They also had come up with some fine British talents in Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell and Ben Godfrey.

Farke brought in ex-Schalke striker Teemu Pukki from Brondby IF (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

It did take a little time in itself for the German culture of football to blend into the East Anglian club. Norwich finished 14th in their first season under Farke which was lower than under Irvine. It was significantly visible now though that the blend of talent and experience was there to push on next season for a promotion.

The push for the Premier League which seemed as a pre-mature belief in the early parts of 18/19 season looked like a beautiful reality when they overtook Leeds United in early November to the top of the table. A run of eight straight wins between February and April took them to the drivers seat and now they were on the brink.

Norwich were one of the best attacking side in the Championship during the 2018-19 season (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

5th May 2019. The Canaries travelled to Villa Park. The scene was set. A whole season of hard work and it all came down to the final day of the season. Norwich had secured the Premier League promotion a couple of weeks before but this was about adding the cherry on the top. The German roots finally blossomed that day. It was Vrancic and Pukki, the two Bundesliga recruits who got them a 2-1 victory on the night to seal the EFL Championship Title.

The team who never even looked close to that achievement an year ago had done something so wonderful, it looked like a story the German Gods had written in Daniel Farke’s script. The Canaries flew back into the Premier League as Champions of the Championship. Carrow Road and its aura was back where it belonged. “On the ball, City” indeed sung its way back into the Premier League !

Being promoted to the Premier League isn’t always as glorious for teams as you might think. Clubs fear the drop again. They change management. Change style of football. Change their players. They almost change everything they believed in that got them towards their dream in the first place.

Back in the Premier League ! (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

“When you work in football, you are always unbelievably greedy to create something extraordinary. And sometimes you have to dream and think big, and of course we were convinced of our methods. Sometimes when you stick together and you have this unbelievable spirit, and work really hard, then you can achieve extraordinary things.”

 

Daniel Farke was someone who always believed in himself, in his club and most importantly in every single one of his players. He backed them to play sleek football and at the same time compete with every other team in the Premier League. He was brave in the decision he made and established a precedence right there. Norwich City Football Club was going to embrace the Premier League with what they had !

A spirited performance at Anfield by the Canaries on opening day (Image Courtesy : Premier League Twitter)

Norwich started the 2019/20 Premier League season at Anfield. Wow ! Only someone so unkind as that could have given them such a tough start. Liverpool were flying, the European Champions of course. The Premier League had its first glimpse of the ability of the Championship’s top scorer Teemu Pukki. They were on the neck of the Reds, even scored at Anfield, played some beautiful football but the sheer relentless quality of Klopp’s team meant the Canaries lost their first game 1-4. They sure did win many hearts in the Premier League though that day.

It didn’t take any longer for the Canaries though as on the following weekend Teemu Pukki created a special trend of #PukkiParty as the Finland striker scored his first Premier League hat-trick against Newcastle at Carrow Road which gave them the first Premier League victory of the season. A proper welcome back indeed to Carrow Road.

#PukkiParty begins in the Premier League (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

Their style of play kept pleasing the Premier League fans although results were hard to come by after that. It was mid-September when the Premier League’s reigning Champions came to East Anglia. Norwich had won just one Premier League game till then.

Daniel Farke’s side came out of the blocks not like a canary but like a lion waiting to pounce on his prey. Two beautifully crafted goals from McLean and Cantwell which was later added onto by Teemu Pukki in the second half gave Norwich a massive boost.

A top defensive and offensive performance against the Champions (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

The canaries then hung onto their lead on eventually got over the line in a match that looked like it lasted ages for them as the Canaries beat the Champions 3-2 at Carrow Road. Talk about a back page headline for your paper, Norwich made it to the Front Page with that performance.

While Pukki and Cantwell seemed to be in the limelight with their goals, a 23 year old Argentine was creating his own masterpieces. His guile, swiftness, quick feet and clinical vision seemed to be running the show for Norwich. He made as many as 7 assists in the early part of the season. Only the best of Kevin De Bruyne was ahead of him at that point. Talk about making your mark, Buendia was making a huge impression on the Premier League fans globally.

The Little Magician in the Canaries Rank (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

Like an ECG graph has its sudden highs and lows, Daniel Farke’s men had their low very soon while the hangover of the Man City win was still in their minds. Fellow promoted club Aston Villa, where Norwich had sealed their Championship title only back in May came to visit Carrow Road with an agenda to have their way.

A masterclass from Grealish and Wesley meant that Dean Smith’s boyhood club Villa won 5-1, Yes ! 5-1 at Carrow Road, a defeat that left so many unanswered questions in the mind of the Norwich City fans that night. Were they doomed as early as September, was the Man City win just a bluff, were they not good enough. Questions which Daniel Farke had to answer.

Manchester United, Brighton and Watford made Norwich look like a Championship team indeed as the Canaries lost 3 out of their next 4 Premier League matches. They went into November with just 2 wins in the Premier League, the form that only lead one way which was back to the Championship.

The Canaries needed a win to boost their status (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

Goodison Park of Everton was their next destination in the Premier League. Daniel Farke had noticed the high-pressing Everton style of play. The German manager decided to drop the pretty football for a game and went Route One. Boom ! They had 24 aerial attacks that day at Goodison. The result ? Norwich City won 2-0. A tactical success and another day of the #PukkiParty. Not a bad one eh !

Norwich’s first half of the season was like watching a player shooting from the half-way line all season. A couple hit the intended target, the rest were pretty abysmal really ! Norwich ended 2019 with just 3 wins in the Premier League.

It was a summer where not much was invested in the squad and to expect them to fire was going to be improbable anyway. Players like Lewis, Aarons, Pukki, Cantwell and Buendia showed a lot of promise individually but as a collective bunch, Farke’s team was not well equipped to face the might of the Premier League. They had the right beliefs, the right intentions but they lacked the quality on the pitch to make it even a minute success.

The dawn of the New Year meant the return of the FA Cup, a competition which not only provided the club and its fans with an opportunity to have a good run in and fight for a trophy but also provided a much needed breather from the troubles of the Premier League.

Adam Idah scored his first hat-trick in just his 2nd start for Norwich (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

Norwich won 4-2 at Preston in their initial round with an exciting academy product Adam Idah completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot. As it turns out it was only a slight relief from the gloom that seemed to have grabbed the wings of the Canaries. They went to Old Trafford next and got battered 0-4 in one of their worst performance of the season until that point.

It almost seemed like Daniel Farke’s men had developed a habit. A habit not very good in its whole but a habit that is needed for any relegation threatened club. The habit of showing up to a bout with a fight.

Farke’s men came back strong, both with the performance on the pitch with sleek football and the mental strength of an East Anglian warrior as they beat Bournemouth in an important early relegation six-pointer in mid-January. They further lost to Spurs, rather expected loss to end January in the Premier League. Their FA Cup run continued to another stage where they beat a fellow Premier League side Burnley at Turf Moor. Where the Premier League looked like a lost cause already, the FA Cup provided some much needed joy for the Canaries.

February was another tale of woes for Norwich with a disappointing and stale draw at Newcastle before losing to Liverpool and Wolves. But their fighting spirit was always there.

The German was catching the eyes of Premier League fans with his management style (Image Courtesy: Twitter.com)

They welcomed the Foxes of Leicester City to Carrow Road on the last day of the month. A Leicester City that looked destined for the Champions League. The odds were massively stacked against the Canaries. Relegation threat loomed large in East Anglia. They needed something special on the night.

The Canaries fans didn’t disappoint. They created one of the best atmosphere in the Premier League at Carrow Road that season. The place was buzzing. And Farke’s team responded to the cry of their supporters ! Full back Jamaal Lewis scored an absolutely wonderful goal crafted by his fellow full back on the other side Max Aarons. The goal wonderful not just by its quality but also by its sheer importance. Norwich won the match 1-0. Just their 5th win of the season in the Premier League.

Uncharacteristically, Norwich started March like they ended February. They were drawn against Spurs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the FA Cup. While Spurs took an early lead and looked on their way, Drmic scored a 78th minute equalizer which took the game to penalties. Tim Krul, remember him ! The penalty saving genius back in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Dutchman was back at it against as saved three penalties to tip Norwich over the line and into the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Tim Krul grabbing all headlines at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (Image Courtesy : Twitter.com)

They lost their next game to Sheffield United before the Coronavirus pandemic brought a stop to football. Interestingly, Norwich still had a chance to make the great escape and keep their place amongst England’s elites.

What has happened post the pandemic break has been a disaster. Daniel Farke’s squad lacked the quality and depth in the entire season. Injures to defenders and key forward players, lack of adaptability to their style of play to the Premier League demands, it got really worse for the canaries. It was more of a case of when rather than if they would get relegated.

Their FA Cup run also ended in the due course as an extra time winner by Harry Maguire saw Manchester United triumph for the second time this year against the Canaries, a game that ended their Wembley dream.

Harry Maguire broke all Norwich hearts in FA Cup Quarterfinal (Image Courtesy: Emirates FA Cup Twitter)

Southampton, Everton, Arsenal, Brighton and Watford all came and beat Norwich City with much ease. The sleek style of Farke or the traditional Route One style, nothing seemed to be working for Norwich.

The D-Day came in 11th of July, 2020 when West Ham United lead by a 4-goal Michael Antonio beat Norwich at Carrow Road to confirm what had been pretty obvious for almost all season long for the canaries. Their bravery and effort was all in vein as the defeat meant, Norwich City were relegated back to the EFL Championship.

Their last home game came against Burnley where the canaries supporters couldn’t be present to celebrate in with rather tearful eyes their last Premier League home game for a couple of years atleast.

Premier League bid farewell to Carrow Road once again ! (Image Courtesy: Twitter.com)

Norwich City got relegated but they did show something beautiful to the world. Their brand of football, their exciting young crop of players and their very talented manager Daniel Farke were highlighting the rather long-term ambitions of the club. The ambition to play in the Premier League with their own swagger. A significant investment in the previous summer could have helped but the “what if’s” is what the football club can ponder upon and possibly work on.

One thing for sure, Norwich City have the right culture and the right management at the helm to be successful. They will just have to do it all over again next season in the Championship. Hopefully, we will see them back sooner. For now, Adieu Carrow Road, Adieu Daniel Farke and Adieu Norwich City Football Club !

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