Norwich City captain Grant Hanley believes the club’s supporters have helped maintain a feelgood factor that will be required should the 2019-20 season resume.
“In terms of being in a relegation battle, the atmosphere around the club doesn’t feel how you’d expect it to feel,” he told the media on Friday morning. “There’s still a feelgood factor and a feeling that we’ve got the fans behind us.
“The dressing room is still a good place to be. We’ve definitely created the right working environment to be able to achieve what we want and now it’s just up to the players to get it right on the pitch and get the points that we need.
“It’s not just my opinion, but generally people will probably say that Norwich have performed well in the league. As players, we believe performance-wise we’ve done well and there have only been three or four games I can remember when we haven’t competed.
“Most games, we’re competing and getting beat by the odd-goal. It’s just finding that extra little percentage that gets you a draw instead of getting beat or a win instead of a draw to get points and over the line.”
Off the pitch, Hanley has been pivotal in his role as captain over the last few weeks, frequently contacting his teammates and Sporting Director Stuart Webber to assist in strong communication between all parties.
“I’ve never been through something like this as a captain before, so I’ve sort of got to be the middle man. I speak to the club and I speak to Stuart very regularly. Feeding information back to the players has been my job and it’s important as a captain to try to do the best for the players, hear from them and know what their opinions are.
“It’s been very important to keep in constant contact with the lads and see what their feelings are. There have been constant questions over what’s happening and what it means. It’s been difficult because we’ve not always got the answers, but it’s important to do my best and help the lads as much as I can.
“I’ve always been a talker on the pitch. Organising is one of the biggest parts of my game, so that’s probably one of my strong points. I like to think of myself as level-headed and trying to always do the right thing to set an example.”
Those Hanley sets an example to includes the crop of talented youngsters in City’s first-team squad, but the skipper has been impressed by their own maturity levels in recent weeks and months.
“We’ve got a good group of lads who are all sensible young men and know what’s right and wrong,” he said. “I think they can look after themselves to a certain extent, but we have got a young dressing room so it’s important that we’re doing our best to help each other.
“We’ve got a good dressing room, there are no bad eggs. All the lads know that they need to stay ready mentally and physically and be professional.
“It’s been tough for everyone, the whole country and the whole world. Mentally, it’s something that we haven’t been through before. I don’t think any of us had been in the situation of being in the house and having one hour per day to go out to exercise.
“Physically, we’ve got to remember our jobs. We’re professional footballers so we need to be ready mentally and physically so when the time comes that we do go back.
“We have so many young lads with so much potential and talent in one squad. That’s very rare to find. There are so many of them, like Ben, Jamal, Max, Todd, Emi… I hope I’ve not missed anyone but there’s certainly a good group who’ve got the potential and talent to go all the way at the top.
“The biggest compliment I can give them is that their temperament is second to none. For me, seeing young lads getting thrown in at the deep end and handling themselves in such a calm and professional way, they deal with everything that’s put it front of them.
“The club’s put trust in them and they’ve got a lot to be thankful for. To see them take that opportunity in their stride and progress and perform so well, fair play to them. You don’t get that that often – young lads coming into a team and staying in it for a sustained period of time, performing at the top level.”
Asked how the club has changed in the three years since Hanley signed for Norwich, the captain says that the work carried out by Stuart Webber has helped create a beneficial atmosphere at Lotus Training Centre.
“I signed in 2017 and it was a new club to me so I was walking into something that was strange. As it was changing, I was just going through the motions. There are a lot of new faces and a much younger dressing room than it was when I first walked in.
“Overall, it’s a good place to be. As soon as I walked in the door, I got the feeling of the atmosphere and culture of the place that Stuart has driven forward since I’ve been here in terms of being in it together and family-orientated. That’s a massive part of the club and part of playing here.
“In terms of the football side, the manager is totally in charge, but in terms of a Sporting Director, it’s something I’ve never worked as closely with before. Stuart would probably tell you we’ve got a really good relationship, especially throughout what’s been going on recently.
“We’ve been in constant contact, even on a daily basis. Before, he was constantly at the training ground so we had that relationship already through seeing him every day.”
Of course, Head Coach Daniel Farke is another key piece of the Norwich City puzzle, and Hanley admires the way the boss has stuck to his principles in the Premier League.
“The important thing to remember is that the way we play has brought us the success that we’ve had over the last couple of years, so the type of squad that we’ve got allows us to play that way,” Hanley said. “It would be very difficult for us to change our style.
“Fair play to the manager because he’s got his beliefs and his philosophy and that’s what we stick by. Because we’ve had success doing it that way, the players buy into that. We appreciate that if we want to be successful this is the way we’ve got to do it.”