Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke has spoken about the 2020-21 title-winning season and also has given his thoughts on the upcoming Premier League campaign.
You can watch the interview in full right here, or alternatively read the transcript below.
canaries.co.uk: Boss, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about this season and some of next season as well. The Championship title has been won. How have things been lately for yourself, the staff and the players here at Norwich?
DF: Yes, we would lie if we were to say that we were not in a good mood. Of course, everyone is happy and proud and buzzing and a bit emotional. During the last week of the season, we know that we have achieved all our goals; with promotion, which was difficult enough, with winning the title, being the best Norwich City side in terms of points on this level and also the best Norwich City side in terms of points on all levels during the whole history of Norwich. So, we know that we have written a chapter of history. It was a fantastic season for us. For that we are all pretty proud and as you can imagine everyone has been in a really good mood.
canaries.co.uk: you mentioned in our chat last season that teams that are solid defensively can find it easier at a higher level. In the 2018/19 season we conceded 58 goals on the way to the title, this season we have conceded 36. Do you think that bodes well for us?
DF: Well, it is always important in football to have balance. You need to have a good balance between attacking and to also be reliable and solid in terms of defending. Even two years ago we were there with 14 clean sheets and also many good defending games, but we also got the feeling that we want to improve to this area. As a group of players, we have shown this this season being unbelievably solid in many, many games with many clean sheets. I also spoke quite honest and transparent about this. It is also when you think a bit ahead it is the teams who are promoted because of a solid defence, they have a better chance to stay up instead of teams who are promoted just because of their attacking, because their attacking is not that big of an advantage on the top level against the top teams. Once you are used and capable to defend you bring this also with lots of rhythm onto the top level. So, for that it was also quite necessary also regarding a bit next season. So, it was one of our plans to be rock solid in terms of the defending. It also helped a little bit that we had a bit more lack of injuries in comparison to last season, for example, and for that I am quite pleased with the defensive this year.
canaries.co.uk: Moving onto the recruitment. There were some brave last summer and you must have been pleased with the contributions of Skipp, Sorensen, Gibson, Dowell, to name a few of them, is it proof that with good scouting that clubs don’t necessarily have to break the bank to get the quality that you require, and will you be looking to demonstrate that again this summer?
DF: We have to be good and smart in our recruitment. This will always be a topic for us. We are the only self-funding club on this level, and we can’t spend millions of pounds. It means we have to be a bit smarter, a bit quicker, a bit more creative and perhaps, also, a bit riskier than other clubs. It is of course, always easier to spend money and then you have a higher guarantee to bring some individual quality instead of, for example, going for a young lad like Oliver Skipp. We were totally convinced he would make us better but there is never a guarantee because he has never played on this level with consistency and then it is still doubtful that he can bring this, every three days on the pitch, but he did fantastic. Also with Ben Gibson, there was no doubt about his quality, but the last two years had been difficult for him.
He had hardly played a game and then some clubs are then a bit reluctant and careful to sign such a player but we were fully convinced of his qualities on the pitch, and off the pitch. He is a great player but also a great character and we were convinced. Of course, it was a bit tricky and also a bit risky because of his last two years before. We have to take some risks as a club and not each and every decision can be perfect, but we have to make sure that we prepare our decisions in a really good way and, for that, many compliments to our recruitment. I think in many, many topics we were, especially during this season, spot on for this club it will always be quite crucial that we are good in our recruitment and developing our own talents, because we don’t have the money like some other clubs. We have to do it in our way and for that I am quite pleased with how it has worked out this season.
canaries.co.uk: Now we have a number of players who have had the taste of relegation last time and others who are desperate to play in the Premier League for the first time. Is there an extra incentive that we have a point to prove?
DF: Yes, overall, we have to say that we are much better prepared this season in comparison to two years ago because two years ago we had just won the Championship with a bunch of young lads. Nobody expected us to be near the top six during the season and we dominated and rocked the league with nearly 100 points and nearly 100 goals in a fantastic way and everyone was buzzing, but let’s be honest we went into the following season with one player with Premier League experience and that was Alex Tettey. Meanwhile, we are much better prepared.
The experience of several games on this level for many lads, right now, helps. Grant Hanley has right now, 30 Premier League games. Christoph Zimmermann has right now, 20 Premier League games. Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia, Max Aarons all have Premier League games, so I think as a group we are much better prepared, but also as a club. The situation two years ago, what was possible in terms of spending money and, in terms, of signings was not on a level of what we have now. Of course, it will always be for a club like us hard work to establish ourselves on this level. Let’s be honest, we are the only self-funding club on this level, and it is unbelievably tricky, but my gut feeling is we have a much better chance in comparison to two years ago. Two years ago, we would need a miracle in order to survive on this level and, let’s be honest, there were too many odds against us. The inexperience, but also then the biggest injury crisis of all teams on Premier League level. We had the lockdown, especially after a great win against Leicester when we had some momentum. We had to go into lockdown and then to play the last games without supporters, especially as a newly promoted side it was tough. We had too many odds against us, but for that I feel we are much better prepared as a club and as a group of players and we will try our best to finish in a better position during next season and I am quite confident and carefully optimistic that we can do this.
canaries.co.uk: You mentioned Alex Tettey in there and we mentioned that he and Mario Vrancic will be leaving at the end of this season. They are two players who have given a lot to this football club over a number of years.
DF: Where do I start. Words are not enough to praise Mario and, especially, Alex because he is a true club legend, through and thick and thin with the club. Not only his quality as a player but also his quality as a human being as a person is outstanding. He was so crucial for us during our promotion two years ago, he was probably our most reliable and best performing player on Premier League level last season and also unbelievably important, although he was not involved in each and every game, during this season for the group because he was so great for the spirit, so great also as a role model. I think the young lads like Olly Skipp, for example, have learned a lot from his behaviour and also his professionalism. Also, it is quite important to keep the pressure high on the likes of Oliver Skipp, for example. He needed to perform because he knew there’s Alex Tettey and he needed to be top class, otherwise he has a chance to come back in. Also, the spirit that he gave, even once he was not playing and you know he’s supportive and so selfless, just thinking about the club and just thinking about the team. He is a real servant of the club, and you can’t praise Alex enough.
It was a joy for me to work with him each and every day and I feel really proud and blessed and honoured to be allowed to work with him for such a long time. I will miss him a lot. He is unbelievable and I will have more than one tear in my eyes, if I am honest, that I’m not able to work further on but this is the reality, and you also have to accept that times goes by, and you have to bring some fresh energy. It is also the same with Mario Vrancic because we also had a great time, and he has created memories for this club that will live forever. He is a fantastic player. I can remember in his first season many supporters doubted him. I was criticized a lot anyhow. I spoke about these comments that everyone was more or less thinking that, perhaps, I’m his father-in-law and that is the reason why I kept playing him, but then in the second, third and fourth year everyone realized also how good Mario is and how magic he can be, with his passing skills, with his set-pieces, with his ability to deliver with end product, to score goals and then it was more or less the other way round when he was not always playing then I got lots of stick around ‘how can I leave Mario Vrancic on the bench’. Nevertheless, he’s also a legend for our club and, for example, his goal at Villa Park will live forever. His free kick against Sheffield Wednesday, his important goals during this season. He has won is many, many late points as well during this season and I think we should all value to have been allowed to have these two fantastic players, but also these two fantastic characters for such a long time, wearing and representing the yellow shirt. Alex and Mario will always be welcome and also be in my heart forever.
canaries.co.uk: Moving onto the progress of the Norwich City Academy this season, we have seen Andrew (Omabomidele), Josh (Martin), Bali (Mumba) in the first team squad on occasions. What have you made of the progress of those academy lads? And how much difference can it make that Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell have got a few more years of experience and this time around going into the Premier League?
DF: They academy will always be a key part of our Norwich City way. We are a self-funding club. We rely on developing our own talents. We can’t just spend money in order to buy some talent. We need to develop our own players. It is not easy and just with your own players you can’t be capable to be competitive on the top level, but it is a major part and they have done a fantastic job and it is one of our main topics to always to further on. Max and Todd are of course role models and great examples, which values we can create, but also how strong the bond is between the player and the club. How much it means to the players, but also in terms of identification with our supporters with the players and with the team. I think they are quite crucial and they will be crucial players for our approach next season.
canaries.co.uk: One of the things we have missed this season is the atmosphere from the fans. How much are looking forward to the start of next season, walking out of the tunnel, hearing the Premier League music and On the Ball City and, hopefully, seeing a sea of yellow and green shirts and, hopefully, in the sunshine as well?
DF: Yes, you summed it up quite well. It sounds like a good day, definitely. We miss them, unbelievably, anyhow and I hope, and I think, that it is the same way back. Football is for the supporters; it is the supporters’ game. You should play football with supporters. We are living during strange times and we are experiencing the worst pandemics in the last century and for that, we had to stay a bit disciplined but, if I am honest, our supporters were always in our hearts in each and every game and we knew exactly that we had a responsibility to be as successful and as good as possible for them, to represent them and to make them happy. This is our responsibility, and this will always be a supporters’ club. We have a special bond between our community and our supporters and us as a club and as a team and this will live forever. No-one is bigger than this club or this bond. It is quite special and if I am honest, I am also looking forward to a lot to the first day when Carrow Road is packed and you can feel this bond. I think it will be a special day for everyone who is involved and is allowed to have this experience and then to work together and fight for the next points will be amazing. Of course I am looking forward a lot to having this experience, hopefully pretty soon.