Our second debutant of the week as Ollie Middleton considers the effect Daniel Farke's Norwich City v1 and Daniel Farke's Norwich City v2 have made on him, even though he is all the way up in Aberdeen.
Over the course of the final international break of the season, I realised how much of an impact this Norwich City side has had on my day-to-day life.
I cast my mind back to last season and the drab, disappointing displays Daniel Farke’s Norwich City turned out which left me feeling totally despondent and had snatched away my love for a team so close to many hearts. That team made me drag my heels, turning a relatively cheery chap grumpy. Essentially, I fell out of love with this beautiful crazy game.
You may call me fickle, but defeat after defeat after defeat often resulted in the thought, “Who cares, it’s only football?”
Even so, Turn the clocks forward and I don’t think the term “beautiful game” has ever been more appropriate. Even as I look out the window at the gloriously grey City of Aberdeen, its wet, weary, granite walls can’t snatch the smile away from my face.
Forgive me, but I’m going to look back on last season again, and trust me, I plan to make it as brief as possible, but without this disastrously drab affair in our collective memories, this journey we all find ourselves on now wouldn’t be anywhere near as sweet.
The 2017/18 season was a minefield of inconsistency and disappointment. There were times (several, let’s be honest) where being a Norwich City fan just wasn’t in the slightest bit fun anymore. Yet those slithers of hope: impressing away to Chelsea in the Cup, a 10-game unbeaten run, albeit one of the dullest I’ve ever witnessed, and a late equaliser against the basement boys next door, were all that prevented me from launching one of Delia’s cookbooks through the screen of my television.
I was confused, they’d said Daniel Farke was a great coach? They’d said Stuart Webber would make things better again? They’d said James Husband was an astute signing? LIES. Or at least that was the thought at the time.
Offensively we were boring and ineffective, defensively we were feeble and many of the goals we conceded were simply painful. We were destined for mediocrity and the trap door was leaning in to tap us on the shoulder. Hell, we even finished below Ipswich to top it off, wonder what happened to them?
It was also a period that helped me realise just how important our football club can be. Looking back on the period between 2017-2018 in general, oddly between August and May for some reason, I don’t remember being particularly happy. I don’t remember doing anything particularly good. Overall, I had a spectacularly average time.
The fact is this Norwich City team affected me more than I could possibly imagine. I fell out of love with football itself and it made me into a grumpy old sod at the age of 22.
To outsiders we Norwich City fans must appear as some of the most ungrateful out there. In the past 10 years we have seen our side promoted three times, had the privilege of seeing our heroes play four seasons in England’s top flight, and don’t even begin to get me started on the Play-Off final exploits of 2015.
For a small city in the middle of nowhere we’ve done alright for ourselves. Yet talk to any Norwich fan and the moaning you’re subjected to won’t be rivalled by many. Luck always appears to be against us: the first top-flight team to lose at home to a non-league side in the FA Cup since 1986, two bitterly disappointing relegations when things finally appeared to be going our way. Well, we claim luck was against us but in all honesty, we created our own mess, that is only now being cleaned up.
That’s why when Stuart Webber arrived in 2017, I for one became truly hopeful again. Norwich City were modernising, and good times were just around the corner.
But as optimistic as I was back then, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the meteoric rise this team has achieved.
Gone are the drab 0-0 draws at home. Gone are the embarrassingly heavy defeats to mid table rivals. It’s difficult to pinpoint a highlight from this season, simply because there have been so many. Each passing week this team surpasses expectation, whether it be from unbelievable attacking play or hardened defensive resilience.
Initial good performances were greeted with suspicion. Slim victories against Middlesbrough, Reading and QPR in September generated hope. But we’d seen it all before. Inconsistency killed us off last season, we’ll become unstuck soon. Two more months passed. Norwich City just kept winning. Incredible displays away to Forest, Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday left us flirting with automatic promotion. The joy and air of expectation grew within me; I was still sceptical but this team had my attention. We looked almost unbeatable. Somehow biting back from the depths of despair against Millwall and Nottingham Forrest had almost clinched it. I wore my Norwich City colours with pride again, even convinced enough to purchase iFollow which, trust me, is a big statement for a newly graduated student.
Weeks began to feel longer and each Norwich City game became my priority as excitement grew over getting to see this mesmerising team grace the grass again. The nerves began to jangle as the significance of what Norwich City were achieving settled in. Injuries occurred but new heroes continued to rise. If one player was having an off day, another would step up. Nothing seemed to be able to stop us. Even when the performance levels dropped we still ground out victories.
Then we faced Bristol City at home. Despite going behind twice I never worried. Not for one moment did I feel concerned or nervous. I was calm and confident that this side would do the job required, and that they did. A 3-2 victory followed and as did a seven-game winning streak: slick football, vast quantities of goals, and a side exuding class that looks destined for the top flight.
I’d got my love for football back, and along with it, a Norwich City side I could trust and love once more.
I would say Norwich City are back, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this from the boys in yellow and green before.
Watching Swansea score their wonderful team goal against Manchester City in the FA Cup a few weeks ago didn’t just make me impressed, it made me believe. We all know what we are capable of and if Swansea can do it… As the Joker once said, “Wait till they get a load of me.”
So ignore the moaners and down-players. We have seven games to go before we could potentially once again be gracing this nation’s best league. Get behind this group of misfits and youngsters so many underestimated in August and push them over the line. OTBC