City fans must see tangible signs of improvement or Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber must be held accountable
The time is 4:50 on Saturday 4th August, and the final whistle has just sounded at St. Andrew’s. Norwich City have suffered an opening day defeat, a performance characterised by defensive fragility and an all too familiar sense of slowness and laterality in possession. In the away end, toxicity is rampant. The loyal 2000 who have made the journey to the West Midlands are justifiably frustrated.
On the pitch, the players – both old and new – cut dejected figures.
As they gingerly approach the Gil Merrick Stand to applaud their following, palpable divisions become manifest, with some fans showing their support while others ensure their fury at the result is more visible. Tension amongst the fans aside, City have experienced the worst possible start.
The question concerning at what stage Webber and Farke’s project can be genuinely held accountable is a valid one.
Eight games in? Christmas? Another season owing to the transitional period we have all become so acutely aware of? City fans have been long suffering, enduring 92 games of Championship football over the last two seasons in which signs of any form of legitimate development have been limited. Come August, things have to change.
Reading social media, optimism appears to be in relatively short supply. It’s the end of June, and City have relinquished their two most potent creative outlets last season and have recruited the largely unproven Eni Buendia and Kenny McLean to compensate. Buendia ostensibly possesses considerable ability, while McLean has had success north of the border, but the point remains that the losses of James Maddison and Josh Murphy will hurt Farke’s side.
Defensively, we are still unaware of who will be City’s chosen man come August.
Angus Gunn’s consistency was largely taken for granted by many corners of City’s support last season, invariably placing enhanced pressure on his imminent successor, who may be Remi Matthews. Although we appear to have retained the services of the terrific trio of Grant Hanley, Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmerman, we are still a right-back short of what would function as a complete defence.
With the fixtures now released, anticipation is inevitably building for what may be one of City’s most significant seasons in recent history. A four-year stay in the Championship and no tangible improvement in the football we see would be likely to further inhibit season ticket sales, simultaneously intensifying frustration amongst our partisan fan-base. Even if no promotion this year, a top ten finish appears a necessity in order to satisfy our desires.
Nevertheless, we are all so aware of the financial limitations the club’s top brass have had to operate within. Those who believe that the combined £33 million generated from the Maddison and Murphy sales can be merely reinvested in the transfer market must think again, acknowledging how the mistakes of the 2015-16 season have led to the development of a financial black hole.
Considerable work remains to be done.
However, City must continue to recruit. The attainment of two strikers remains an unequivocally vital to our prospects next season, particularly given the sustained ineptitude – and attitude – of Nelson Oliveira in front of goal and the still unproven nature of Denis Srbeny. City’s defence – bar the occasional capitulation away from home – was largely sound last season. It was ultimately our severe lack of goals that cost us in maintaining any form of play-off pursuit.
The summer transfer window is a period characterised by gossip, rumour and seemingly relentless speculation.
Personally, I resent it. Some fans seem intent upon judging the players we sign from the moment their signature is secured, unable to show any degree of patience and wait until we have finally seen them adorning our beloved yellow and green. I shall certainly not be judging Messrs McLean, Buendia and co – or the football more generally – until August arrives.
They say patience is a virtue. So, in overtly practical terms, how long has Daniel Farke actually got? The truth is, continuity in the laboured and lateral style of football we witnessed so pervasively last season combined with further mid-table mediocrity would see hostility intensify to potentially unsustainable levels by Christmas.
Having been to 22 away games last season, anger and disillusionment became so conspicuous, reaching its unsavoury apogee at Hillsborough on the final day. Things need to improve.
As my days as a student in Durham reach their sentimental conclusion, I shall continue to travel home and away next season. I shall continue to support Farke and his team, providing him and Webber with the chance to achieve something special at this wonderful football club. However, the harsh reality remains that we – the fans – must see genuine, practical and tangible signs of development in both the results we achieve and the football we play to get them. We all wait for August 4th with baited breath. It’s going to be a fascinating season.