Daniel Farke returned to his native Germany to take over the reins at Borussia Mönchengladbach in June, after his spell in England, not including of course his aborted spell at Kradnodar, Russia. That appointment raised a few eyebrows inside and outside the Bundesliga outfit, mainly due to his time at Norwich, and how that ended. His career at Norwich is not perhaps all it would appear on paper, or one that can be accurately judged merely by looking at the statistics.
Life Before Norwich City
Farke’s managerial career began with the club he spent the majority of his time as a player, namely SV Lippstadt 08. His six years in charge at the North Rhine-Westphalian club are seen as very much their most successful, moving up the footballing pyramid from the sixth tier to the fourth. From there the former striker took over at Borussia Dortmund II, where he stayed for two years before his move to Norwich City, in the Championship, the second tier of English football.
Farke’s Career at Norwich
The German’s time at Norwich, a club located in Norfolk in East Anglia, can be best summarised using either of two cliches that are all too often wheeled out when describing football games, seasons or indeed careers, namely a period of two halves (or four quarters to be more accurate) and a rollercoaster. Farke’s tenure at the Canaries is also a good insight into the English game at the highest level, and the difficulty to get into the Premier League, and more importantly to stay there.
It was Farke’s ability to do one of those, but his inability to do the other that made his stay so decisive with the fans and ultimately cost him his job. Being promoted and surviving is hard but certainly not impossible in the EPL. Don’t forget, it isn’t that long ago when Leicester, favourites for relegation produced one of the greatest underdog stories in football, by storming the league and lifting the title.
To give his time in English football a little context, it is worth understanding a little about the club he went to. Norwich City are among a small group of yo-yo clubs, that sit in a position where they are too good for the Championship, but not good enough for the Premier League. That in itself is no bad thing, there are many clubs who would sell their soul (and of course many do) to be in their position. The thing is, it is a situation that can only go on for a limited number of years. Eventually, the yo-yo string will snap and the club will either become an established top-tier club, or they will become just another midtable Championship club, looking enviously upwards, or even worse, slowly but surely drop down the tiers of English football.
A Different Perspective
It is largely because of Daniel Farke that Norwich made it to that status. It is also the reason he was sacked, and why many fans would want him at the helm again. The issue that sets Norwich apart from the other yo-yo clubs (Fulham, West Brom being two other prime examples) is that they are a “self-funded” club. That in itself is a bit misleading as it is the riches from the EPL that funds them in reality, but it does mean the owners are not willing to put the future of the club in danger by over-borrowing, or overspending. That gives the German’s time at the club a different perspective.
Farke took a club not quite on its knees, but one certainly looking down rather than up, and turned them into a side that went on to win promotion to the EPL. That turnaround in itself was enough to cement his status as a legend in many Norwich fans’ eyes. The fact he was, in the director of football’s own words, sent to war without a gun, alluding to the lack of money and additions during the summer meant it was little surprise the team struggled the way they did.
Farke and his side, regrouped, won the Championship and hence promotion back into the EPL, and this time it looked like it would be different. Yes, money was spent, but it was spent poorly, in the wrong areas, and on the wrong types of players. The season was even worse than their previous top-flight campaign and Farke was relieved of his duties.
One of the reasons Farke was employed at Norwich, was his ability to bring on young players – and also the reason Borussia Mönchengladbach employed his services – but that is something incredibly hard to do in the maelstrom that is the Premier League. The moral of this story? Do not judge Daniel Farke by what happened and didn’t happen at Norwich.