(Photo: Action Images via Reuters)
By Alex Beard
Frank de Boer’s sacking by Crystal Palace after just four games in charge earlier this season was merely the most damning in an increasingly depressing series of reminders that life as a football manager at the top level is a perilous business.
There must have been some small part of new Norwich City manager Daniel Farke, then, that worried about his own job security after his club lost three of their opening five Championship matches this season.
In that trio of losses, to Sunderland, Aston Villa and Millwall, the Canaries conceded a whopping 11 goals – netting just three times themselves.
Not the best of starts to life in Norfolk, then, for the man from Germany.
The turnaround at Carrow Road of late has been one completed under the radar, and one astonishing in its efficiency. Their defensive woes behind them, the Canaries have made steady progress up the Championship table since that dreadful start, culminating in their 1-0 win over fierce rivals Ipswich Town at the weekend.
That result lifted them into the play-off positions, and stretched their unbeaten run to eight games – the last time they came away with nothing being that 4-0 thumping by Millwall in August.
Much of the plaudits in the second tier this season have, quite rightly, been for the likes of Wolves, Cardiff and Leeds, or for surprise packages like Sheffield United, Bristol City and Preston North End. But it’s Farke’s side, much like Aston Villa, who have managed to drag themselves out from the sludge of a poor start to find themselves in their current enviable position.
What you’re seeing now is a Canaries team that plays pleasing football, easy on the eye, but one that can also grind out results – as demonstrated by James Maddison netting the only goal in a close affair with the Tractor Boys yesterday.
The scorn directed at the club’s appointment of Farke amid that tricky month of August now only serves to make the board’s decision to appoint him all the more inspired. The work put in behind the scenes by the German took a little longer to bear fruit than at Elland Road, say, where Thomas Christiansen got off to a hot start – but could possibly be more sustainable in the long run.
The chance taken on Farke by the Carrow Road hierarchy now appears to be a gamble well made, as he only now begins to show himself as the goateed messiah he really is.
Having had a playing career that was nothing really to write home about, the 40-year-old retired nine years ago to focus on his coaching career.
A six year spell with the club he had three stints with as a player, SV Lippstadt 08, earned him the manager’s position with Borussia Dotmund’s reserve team in 2015 – where he replaced a Huddersfield-bound David Wagner.
It appears the decision makers in Norfolk saw what Wagner was doing in West Yorkshire and fancied themselves a piece of the Dortmund-bred pie. And while their own David Wagner is somewhat less keen on eccentric glasses and rather more into minimalist facial hair, he may end up repeating the Terriers manager’s promotion feat.
Three wins and two draws in five games isn’t quite the form of a Wolves or a Sheffield United, but with those victories coming over Ipswich, Reading and Middlesbrough and the draws being against Hull and Bristol City, you’d say the Canaries have done well from a tricky set of fixtures.
Now they must bring their momentum into two intimidating league fixtures up next against Derby and Nuno Espirito Santo’s table-toppers. Negotiate them successfully, and the Championship could be looking at its second promotion in two years orchestrated by an unheralded German plucked from footballing obscurity.
The current Dortmund reserve manager, by the way, is Jan Siewert – just in case any Championship chairmen are reading this…