The sight of a few new signings and a relatively decent pre-season has some salivating at City's prospect's this time around. Those expectations need to be tempered, or at least Jon Punt thinks so....
It’s nearly here.
Russia was merely the sumptuous appetiser in preparation for the enchanting (or rancid, depending on your point of view) main course that is Championship football. Some people might have you believe dessert will be served sometime toward the end of May at Wembley Stadium. That’s probably wishful thinking.
As ever though, pre-season signings start to foster hope within fans. The sight of a decorated German Youth international or World Cup quarter final winning penalty stopper holding aloft the yellow and green bar scarf, mean excitement can soon reach fever pitch without that much justification.
The fact is the likes of Passlack and Krul could, and should, be astute acquisitions. On the flip side they could be as effective as a Simon Whaley or Goran Maric – remember getting all damp about them?
Yet the sight of fresh blood, ready to go into battle for whatever latest #pitchwar Ivo will inevitably tweet about, is exciting. The reality though is some with fall, some will fight, and some will fuck up. No change there then.
There’s genuine reasons for optimism. In Rhodes, Krul, Marshall and Leitner, City have signed established and seasoned professionals who, on the face of things, would add something to most squads in the division. Then there’s the caveats. On paper, any attacking threat Norwich possessed last term has either been sold to balance the books or spent the summer sulking about possession stats on Instagram.
Maddison’s gifts can’t be replaced on a like-for-like basis. Nelson, is, well, Nelson. Murphy’s prodigious, but often frustrating, talents were well embedded into Norfolk life before he flew the nest yet he wasn’t the given the acclaim he deserved. Often though this trio conjured up goals from a moment of individual brilliance. Now City have to find a new way, a more team orientated way, to prise open defences. That’s no easy task when the state of flux remains. It's also improbable it will all click from the very start.
The starting eleven at St Andrews is highly likely to contain around 7 players who weren’t part of the first team picture this time last year. 5 of them could be made up of this summer’s signings. Expecting them to be ready to go, firing on all cylinders, is at best unrealistic and at worst a leap of blind faith.
There’s been plenty of chatter recently around the fact there are ‘no more excuses’ and that this is the squad Farke and Webber ultimately need to be judged on. That is true, but the same voices seem willing to only give the regime a few games to gel together a squad which is arguably still being overhauled.
The probability is results will be continue to be variable. Players will continue to be inconsistent, at least at first. And because of this, the natives will continue to be restless as expectation levels aren’t tempered toward the situation Norwich find themselves in. Maybe that’s a hangover from previous years, from previous mistakes made, from what could have been. All understandable to an extent.
To suggest City are guaranteed to compete at the top end of the table though, with everything that has preceded where they sit today, is madness.
To judge this squad over 10 games might just be one of the biggest mistakes supporters can make. Every gap or deficiency appears on paper to have been addressed – but the new and untested personnel need time. They won’t be the overnight resounding successes most hope they can be and they will need a period to adjust to their new surroundings – Mario Vrancic is perhaps the most pertinent recent example.
And yet we're all still impatient, fans now demand instant gratification. This is the now perennial challenge the club will face, to balance the immediacy of results being required against longer term evolution – all in the absence of a mystery foreign benefactor.
So strap in. It will be the same as it ever was. The Championship will continue to be a bastard of a league and City won’t be as successful as we all want them to be. But as long as there are signs of tangible progression, then sticking with the team and giving them your full backing isn’t an unreasonable ask.