LEWIS RUINS FARKE'S PLAN
Norwich boss sent back to the drawing board as loan star Grabban fills his boots
ThE vocabulary of Norwich City was the same as ever. Unflattering references to Ipswich. Fans imploring the players to ‘have a little scrimmage’ — one of the more curious lines from the legendary club anthem On the Ball, City, from which the club programme takes its name.
But those returning to this stadium otherwise found their side changed utterly by what can only be described as the German experiment: a high-risk gamble to deliver their club back into the Premier League’s promised land.
Norwich’s parachute money is running out — £29million this season and that’s their lot — so they’re staking it on Daniel Farke, a 40-year-old whose managerial c.v. lists little more than two years in charge of Borussia Dortmund’s reserves.
Farke keeps dropping the name ‘Jurgen Klopp’ — another Dortmund alumnus — into the conversation, though the achievements of another, David Wagner, are what Norwich covet. They’ve even poached huddersfield’s head of operations, Stuart Webber, as sporting director, and have raided Germany’s second and fourth tiers for four of their nine summer signings.
During 20 initial minutes of Norwich precision football, you wondered why no one else had thought of this earlier. Farke’s players looked at ease with the game of patient passing that he wants. harrison Reed, the 22-year- old former England Under 20 international on loan from Southampton, marshalled from the back of midfield. Marley Watkins looked a good piece of business from Barnsley.
But the picture was scrambled almost as soon as it had formed. There were signs in a narrow League Cup win over Swindon in midweek that Farke’s back four might be vulnerable and once Simon Grayson’s players had confirmed it, Norwich were feckless. They evaporated.
Farke arrived armed with statistical evidence of his own side’s dominance at the end — ‘75 per cent possession; 13 to one set-pieces’ — but Sunderland were the
only side with a finish in them. James Vaughan got a touch on a 27th-minute punt from goalkeeper Jason Steele, Lewis Grabban stole beyond the defence to score and they never looked back.
‘How s*** must you be? We’re winning away,’ Sunderland’s fans sang, which said everything for their ambition this season.
Grayson, who says there is little money, despite Sunderland’s £47m parachute payment, has not gone looking in obscure divisions for reinforcements. But here was the evidence that sometimes potential can be staring you in the face. Grabban, whose shot at the big time with Bournemouth had petered out, left on loan for Wearside last winter. Aiden McGeady looks like a steal for £250,000, having followed Grayson from Preston. It was McGeady who doubled the lead early in the second half with an arced left-foot shot.
‘I have to bring the right types to the club,’ Grayson said. ‘For too long, players have been coming for the wrong reasons. We have to put the heart and soul back in the club. Supporters appreciate that. Ours is a working-class city.’
Farke talked, unconvincingly, of only needing to fix ‘the small things’. But his players could not locate the remotest originality of thought in the second half. Grabban sealed Norwich’s fate on 71 minutes, converting a McGeady cross after more defensive mayhem. His own-goal was cold consolation for the hosts.
For Sunderland, there was a sense of vindication. ‘I think there are sometimes too many foreign managers over here,’ Grayson said last week. ‘Maybe one or two of these vacancies . . . should be filled by British coaches. It’s our country.’
For Norwich, there will be palpitations. They can ill afford this experiment to fail.
All over: Grabban scores the third for Sunderland