You would have got very long odds at the start of this season on Norwich City going up. You may even have got your money back once the bet was made on the grounds of insanity.
Last term, with a new manager at the helm and more on him very soon, the Canaries flew under the radar eventually finishing mid-table. They lost more times than they won and they conceded more goals than they scored but that was okay because this was a necessary period of transition for the Norfolk club and the first sprigs of improvement could be seen.
Having lured over Daniel Farke from coaching Borussia Dortmund’s reserves, it was always going to take time for the implementation of his ideas to become instinctual but there were enough flashes of his 4-3-3 possession-based fare synching throughout 2017/18 to offer hope for the future. Furthermore, Norwich were wasteful of chances suggesting that a reliable hit-man up front could greatly improve them.
Even so, the downsides still outweighed the positives. In recent seasons the club had sold off so many of their leading lights in order to vastly reduce a hefty wage bill. James Maddison was gone, as too the Murphy twins, Alex Pritchard and Jonny Howson and in their place was a squad stocked with free transfers and bargain buys; the unknowns and the untested.
More than this though was the over-riding truth that categorically stated that a team doesn’t transform itself from being ordinary to title contenders overnight. That’s simply doesn’t happen.
Only the thing is, it’s happened here. Should results go their way this weekend, Norwich will be promoted to the Premier League – they could even be crowned champions tomorrow evening.
It will represent an astonishing feat – possibly the most impressive across the four divisions – and it will have been achieved through shrewd enterprise behind the scenes courtesy of the club’s sporting director, Stuart Webber, working in alliance with Farke to revamp a middling team on the cheap.
Last summer Finnish striker Teemu Pukki was brought down from Brondby on a free. He has repaid his new employers with 27 priceless goals.
In midfield the young Argentine Emi Buendia has danced and delighted, generally lighting up the Championship with his skills. He cost £1.35m from Getafe. Elsewhere Tim Krul – another free – has been consistently excellent in nets while £1.53m purchase Marco Stiepermann has created chances galore. Holding everything together in the centre is Tom Trybull, a German who arrived at Carrow Road as a trialist.
Both in terms of results and their turn-around in fortunes it has been a remarkable year in East Anglia and that is only heightened further by the aesthetically pleasing nature of Norwich’s football. They will be a welcome addition to the Premier League next season. They will be a joy to watch.
Yet even in the midst of celebration a warning bell tolls because the fear is that this thoroughly likeable club could react to the riches of this summer and go the same way as Fulham. Does a transfer window of lavish spending lie ahead?
It’s a definite no from Webber who insisted last week: “If we do go up, we won’t be making knee-jerk decisions. We won’t be signing players for £15m. That has to be the aim, eventually, but we will be looking at Swansea, Burnley and Bournemouth when they first got promoted.”
Of course, how could we doubt them? The sensible revolution at Carrow Road is set to continue. Who knows where it will take them.