There comes a time in every man’s life when things other than football start to take over his Saturday afternoons. For me, it was choosing to watch Last Night of the Proms ahead of Norwich with the girlfriend, sister and nephew last weekend; this week a walk around Peckover House with the girlfriend and her parents was the alternate option.
This marks a seismic change in my attitudes towards football, towards the people closest to me and towards life.
Following a third successive clean sheet and possession stats that read 68%-32% in the opposition’s favour, Daniel Farke’s football philosophy it seems has been adjusted if not completely changed, too.
Winning dirty = Winning
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was not a happy man at the final whistle. To be fair to him, he wasn’t much happier at 13:45 when Norwich handed in their team sheet. On time, but later than expected. That was the bus driver’s fault, according to the Yorkshireman. Then the was the fact the City players stayed in the dressing room longer than the home side at halftime. Farke’s fault. And that Norwich did to United what Burton had done at Carrow Road four days earlier – time waste. The player’s fault.
There was probably someone else to blame for Wilder’s second-half red card, which was shown for entering City’s technical area and kicking over any water bottle that looked at him funny. It was probably their fault the Blades were unable to scythe through the now much more organised Canaries defence.
Mark Rivers on Radio Norfolk called him an idiot. The response on social media was equally scathing.
Wilder’s response was probably more akin to a fan than a professional football. Although smacking of sour grapes, it was one born out of frustration rather than malicious.
The reaction of the Blades’ fans was rather nastier. Throwing projectiles at Angus Gunn following an overly long goal kick is one thing. Attacking fans leaving the match quite another. Given Norwich were supposedly the ones that played dirty, the reaction of some United fans after the match was filthy and unpleasant.
The return of this kind of thuggish behaviour is not welcome change we want in football. Hopefully, it’s one that South Yorkshire Police can deal with swiftly. Especially now they’ve worked out who the true culprits were.
— SouthYorkshirePolice (@syptweet) September 17, 2017
Norwich are no longer an easy touch
One change that was welcome has been the Canaries’ improved defensive performances. I said after Burton that the result would be worthwhile if it was a step on the road to a stronger defence.
Given that the shutout against United was their third in a row, we may be able to say that City ARE getting there. Given the battling performance in Yorkshire, we can probably say the summer signings are starting to get the Championship too.
Marco Stierpermann, Tom Trybull, Christoph Zimmermann are all starting to emerge as grafters as well as technically gifted individuals. With Angus Gunn also growing into the role, things are certainly looking more positive than before the international break.
Another who has come to the fore this season is one of Alex Neil’s most maligned signings – Yanic Wildschut. His pace and direct style gives Norwich a different outlook, and as his finish against the Blades showed he has an eye for goal too. With a more miserly defence, having an outlet such as Wildschut is a necessity. Combined with the ever willing running of Cameron Jerome and the unpredictability of Josh Murphy and you have a potentially devastating attack. With Oliveira and Pritchard to come back, the second half of the season could be when City really come into their own.
‘Thirty is the man-up year’
⬆️ So says Uncle Dysfunctional, the late A. A. Gill’s Agony Uncle in Esquire magazine. At 33, maybe this is why Norwich City has started taking a bit more of a back seat in my life. Or perhaps as my old man said after the Wembley Play-Off win: “They’ll never be a better day as a Norwich fan than this.” Afterall, what can top winning at Wembley?… A cup win perhaps. And we all know how unlikely that is.
There’s still life in this young adult yet though. Against Uncle Dysfunctional’s advice, I do still have a kick-about football with the other balding, paunchy blokes (them, not me. I have a full head of hair!) And I still wear trainers. On Saturday, while walking around a historic house, I was glued to Twitter checking for updates from Bramall Lane. I managed to catch the second half on the radio. And I watched the goal on Channel 5’s highlights package.
Norwich taking a backseat? Nah mate, just moved across a bit!
A.A. Gill does suggest one more thing of a thirty-year-old: “At 30, when people ask, you should be able to say what you are rather than what you hope to be.”
I feel this question should be asked of Daniel Farke’s Norwich City.
As Gill says, six games into the season we’re still not sure what this Norwich side is. We know where it wants to be, what its aspirations are.
Hopefully, after 30 games its reputation will be able to tell us what it is.
And hopefully it’s been succesful.