Leeds United boss Daniel Farke explains Premier League case as he goes on front foot over Norwich issue

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If new Leeds United manager Daniel Farke has a Premier League case to make then it makes sense that he would join a club that has one too.

Although the short-term has been very much at the forefront of minds at Leeds United this summer as they prepare for what 49ers Enterprises insist will be an aggressive bid for promotion, the future played a significant part in discussions with Farke ahead of his appointment.

Farke is as close as you can find to a second tier escapology specialist, having twice led Norwich City into the Premier League with points tallies - 94 and 97 in the 2018/19 and 2021/21seasons respectively - that the Elland Road decision makers found difficult to ignore.

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No one can make any assumptions when it comes to promotion - both Farke and Marcelo Bielsa needed two goes at it before they could celebrate a Championship title - but the German's confidence when it came to explaining how Leeds could go about it this time round sat well with Paraag Marathe and Angus Kinnear.

Something else they liked was how bullish Farke became when talking about what would and could happen next, should they achieve their 2023/24 goal. A little of that seeped into his first conversations with the media on Tuesday afternoon, when his desire to establish himself as a Premier League coach was probed.

Farke did not bristle at the question but he was on the front foot, immediately, fully armed with his take on why his first crack at the top flight was not a successful one.

"With Norwich, let's be honest, I had one go a few years ago, with all respect I loved my players and I loved the club and Norwich will always be a big, big part of my CV and my history and we had amazing players who gave everything for the club, but if we're really honest, it was not a Premier League side. It was a season that was interrupted by Corona. We had after 29 game-days 21 points. It was never enough to be there in order to retain Premier League status. But it was more a miracle that we had already 21 points with this group of players. So I still want to be respectful, it was great. We had some great games but we were never prepared for Premier League level. I think our sporting director Stuart Webber used during this year some more drastic words, nowadays you have to be a bit careful but he said more or less that we went out without any tools, so it was no chance. And after the corona break we had to play all our last nine games without supporters and we didn't have any chance at all. So without supporters, we didn't get one point and you know, it was too difficult."

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His response to the question neatly and all at once addressed and avoided what happened in his second tilt with the Premier League as Norwich boss. Having led the club back into the top flight at the first time of asking, Farke was sacked in November 2021, just hours after a first win of the season. "We feel that now is the right time for a change to give ourselves the best opportunity of retaining our Premier League status," said Webber.

FRONT FOOT - Daniel Farke came armed with a full and frank explanation as to why his time in the Premier League with Norwich City was such a struggle.FRONT FOOT - Daniel Farke came armed with a full and frank explanation as to why his time in the Premier League with Norwich City was such a struggle.
FRONT FOOT - Daniel Farke came armed with a full and frank explanation as to why his time in the Premier League with Norwich City was such a struggle.

At the time of Farke's departure the Canaries sat 20th with five points from their 11 outings and though Dean Smith came in to replace Farke, they finished the season in 20th with 22 points and did not retain Premier League status. It's clear Farke does not consider those 11 games a proper 'go' at the top flight and it's safe to assume his belief that they were no more prepared to establish themselves than the first time they entered the Premier League.

But still, twice he has managed in the top division and neither occasion ended well for him or for Norwich. He concedes there is something to prove, if he reaches the promised land with Leeds United and as much as that ambition made him attractive to the club, it was part of the attraction of the job too.

"Yes, you have to say I have not worked in a Premier League club who has established themselves on this level, but it's also one of the reasons why I came here," he said.

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"I'll be also totally honest to you, so the last two times I've managed at Championship level I've won this league, it was a great feeling but it's not what attracts me to say 'okay, I want to lift the trophy again.' Obviously I want to do this, no doubt about this, but what attracts me most is to become with the club established on a Premier League level and this is what I'm looking forward to."

The club Farke is joining, no matter the size of the fanbase, the richness of its history or its global appeal and reputation, is a Championship one. There's no arguing that Leeds should be in the Premier League because those aforementioned factors can help sustain top flight existence, they lend themselves to the idea of a massive organisation. A chip on the fanbase’s shoulder is only natural – it’s not their fault, after all, that they’ve spent so little time enjoying elite football in recent years.

The reality is that the operation the 49ers Enterprises are still in the process of buying from Andrea Radrizzani – EFL ratification is the last hurdle – is not one of Premier League size. Compare the various departments at Elland Road with their top flight counterparts and it soon becomes apparent why head count is part of the 49ers agenda. They want to grow the organisation, as they did their NFL franchise.

The new manager looks at it in football terms.

"The shorter and the mid and long term target is that this club becomes Premier League," he said.

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"This is really my deep belief, this is why I took over this role and made this decision because I'm 100 per cent convinced in the mid and the long term. We have to make sure this club becomes a really established Premier League club and the club has done this in the past, we have a great, great history, we have created player legends, we've created manager legends with so much success. But if we're really honest, if we judge the last 20 years, last two decades, with a 16-year long wait for being back in the top flight, then we had a really, really good first year after we were back under Marcelo, and then two difficult and challenging years. This year, we suffered relegation and next season, we play in Championship level so means in the last 20 years, we've played just three years in the top flight of British football.

"In this reality we don't have the right in this moment to call ourselves a really unbelievably established Premier League side, but we want to be this, we want to be this and I'm 100 per cent that this club has the potential with our supporters, with this city, with this area to be there and to play a significant role on a Premier League level, this is why I'm here."

His caveat is that he cannot promise an instant return to where all Leeds fans want to go, to where they believe their club belongs. His hope is that the realism that underpins life in the city will keep the supporters onside in what is always a difficult division.

"If we judge the successful times of Leeds United in the past, it was always like when this club creates a big, big togetherness and big unity with our supporters," he said.

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"This is the first step and if we do this, I think we can also achieve great things in the future but I'm not here to speak about what we achieve in one month or one year, two or three years. It's more like yes, we want to make our supporters proud and then let the table care for itself."