Canaries have set the standard for Championship admirers
Norwich are only five games into their latest Premier League adventure but they are already being viewed as the example to follow from one Championship club.
The Canaries were facing a bleak future in the second tier following relegation in 2016 as their parachute payments were coming to an end and the crown jewels – Alex Pritchard, Josh Murphy and James Maddison – had to be sold to boost the coffers.
However, the arrival of sporting director Stuart Webber from Huddersfield in April 2017 appeared to be the spark for an amazing transformation in the club’s fortunes.
Unknown German Daniel Farke became the permanent managerial replacement for Alex Neil on May 25.
His first season at the helm ended in with a 14th place finish as the players tried to get to grips with losing key team-mates and the new manager’s preferred style of play.
The 2018-19 season started slowly as Norwich picked up just five points from their opening six matches and there were question marks being raised about Farke’s credentials.
However, a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough after the international break 12 months ago started a run which saw Norwich soar up the table. They lost just three more matches in the remainder of the campaign.
Farke brought in academy players Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell, while his scouts unearthed a real gem with Teemu Pukki arriving on a free transfer.
The Finland international couldn’t stop scoring and ultimately claimed the Championship golden boot, scoring 28 of the Canaries 93 league goals.
Norwich played with a free-flowing, attacking style of play which yielded a hatful of goals but also saw them concede plenty, but they were always entertaining to watch.
Looking at the Championship now; Middlesbrough are a similar club to the Canaries and find themselves in a situation the East Anglian outfit were in two-and-half years ago.
Jonathan Woodgate has been given his first managerial role and is looking to move away from the safety-first approach adopted by his predecessor Tony Pulis.
Boro’s parachute payments have dried up while 10 first team players were trimmed from the squad in the summer and only four brought in on a strict budget.
Academy players, such as left-back Hayden Coulson, are also being given a chance to stake their claim.
Like Norwich 12 months ago, Boro had just six points from their opening six games but grabbed a 1-0 win against Reading after the international fortnight.
It’s unlikely they will now embark on a run like Norwich as the Teessiders are probably where the Canaries were in Farke’s first season in charge. But their success has spurred Woodgate into bravely sticking by his own desire to turn Boro into a more attack-minded outfit.
He said: “You watch the way a team like Norwich have developed, and that’s really encouraging. It shows what’s possible. You look at the way they’ve stuck to their principles, and it’s something to aspire to.”
Woodgate added: “You have to go right back and look at the recruitment they did. Okay, they got a lot of players, and some of them were on frees, but they’re good players and fit perfectly into what they want to do.”
Craig Smithson is a journalist with over two decades of experience at the keyboard. A life-long Middlesbrough fan, Craig has an in-depth knowledge of all football and is also a keen fan of boxing amongst other sports.