Daniel Farke is eminently likeable. Jon Punt asks if this buys our Head Coach more time to weave his magic while comparing him to PJ (or Duncan - he forgets which).
In life, there are people you just can’t help but like. No matter how foolish they appear or how badly they screw up, they’ll always be thought about fondly.
Ant McPartlin may just be standing on the precipice when it comes to his career, and while you can point to the very real issues he is suffering with around substance misuse and his mental health, his actions were at best ill-judged and at worst (for some at least) unforgivable. Yet when the inevitable vilification and character assassination by the red-tops subsides, he’ll return to our screens.
Everybody likes a comeback, but beyond that, and looking past the fact his forehead was used as part of a blueprint for a third runway at Heathrow, he’s still that cheeky chap we all knew on SMTV. Or for many from my generation one of PJ and Duncan (I can’t ever remember which one. Just that he was shit at paintball). In short, he’ll be ready to rumble again very soon. There’s a reason why, assisted by his vertically challenged friend Dec, he’s been awarded the nation’s favourite TV presenter 17 years in a row. He’s just so bloody likeable.
But are Norwich City fans now affording the same, albeit on a much smaller scale, luxury to Daniel Farke? The German swept into Carrow Road with a silky charm offensive. It didn’t appear intentional on his part, but the club were at pains to make him accessible, at the same time accentuating his affability. Was that always part of the project? To be afforded the time he requires to turn the club around, was it important to make Farke likeable?
We at Along Come Norwich were, and largely remain, fully on board. The new ‘German model’ might have had a lot to do with it, we all look enviously at the culture the country has developed, with supporters front and centre both in terms of colour and noise, also influencing clubs’ decision making with the ‘50+1’ rules in place. But we mainly bought into Brand Farke. Heck, we even made multiple t-shirts with Daniel’s at the forefront and they sold like hotcakes (thanks if you bought one). It seemed most of the Yellow Army were ready to jump on the bandwagon.
Upon his arrival, an inevitable google search yielded results ranging from him clasping Bavarian filled steins to riding horses in the middle of a former club’s pitch. He seemed wacky, burly and more importantly, with some pedigree of coaching youngsters. Big ticks in many boxes.
Then he opened his month, and out came the soothing tones we all now take for granted. Catchphrases seemed to roll off the tongue ad finitum, “I only have compliments for the guyzzzz”, “We don’t go too deep with this topic” and “Dieter-mining” some personal favourites. My wife, a long suffering football widow with no interest in the game at all, even enjoys listening to him, exclaiming regularly “he just seems such a lovely person”. Maybe he is, but his dulcet tones and warm smile all served to make Farke even more endearing.
Soon after he was to attend an open fans’ forum, speaking with authority and panache to a crowd who posed a fair few challenging questions his way, without even an enquiry about a sausage roll. All while speaking in an unfamiliar language and not long after his arrival in Norfolk. His legion of fans grew larger as a result.
Farke also seemed to relish his press duties, much more so than his many predecessors. Maybe he understands just how powerful having the local media onside can be, a premise someone like a rat-faced Roeder failed to grasp. Alex Neil became increasingly frostier in his press conferences as his tenure accelerated towards its conclusion and possibly, almost certainly unconsciously, the metaphorical knives sharpened quicker at the likes of Archant Towers.
Is it his likeability which has gifted him time this season? While it’s obviously more of a complex equation, it’s hard to argue it hasn’t been a factor.
A vocal minority are often heard bemoaning the possession based style employed by Farke, the premise being it’s too ponderous to penetrate opponents. Some point to the fact his substitutions are often introduced too late to really influence proceedings.
Yet he retains his popularity. With every media appearance, public admonishment of Oliveira, or wonderful parka he adorns, the fans’ appreciation swells.
The goodwill that’s been fostered this season is only finite however.
Rightly or wrongly, there is an underlying expectation among supporters that Norwich need to be competing either in the Premier League, or top end of the Championship.
Farke currently has the perfect sandpit to play in for these remaining 8 games. Whether he finds old and decaying cat turds or the balance which could breed a winning formula might just define how long the patience and benevolence he’s been afforded continues.