The Championship is wildly unpredictable, but experts don’t shy away from making bold claims about this league every year, even if only to prove the inadequacies in their own analysis.
Just consider the number of self-assured people we all came across before the beginning of the 2018-19 season who were fiercely arguing in favor of the promotion prospects of Nottingham Forest and West Brom, the clubs who received some heavy fuelling in the summer.
How many experts there were in the media gloating over the great squad of Middlesbrough or the amazing manager of Leeds. Even a great number were playing up the chances of Derby County and Bristol City.
Yet amid this raucous debate about the lucky teams landing the prized Premier League berths, you might have noticed that Norwich City was rarely mentioned. The Canaries neither looked to have the splendid squad nor the financial muscle to attract the attention of any of the so-called experts.
This financially declining club even had to sell their two best players, James Maddison and Josh Murphy, to keep their finances in order, and they hadn’t brought in many high profile players with spendings exceeding no more than £3m on a player since 2016. Therefore, many saw them as likely promoted to the Premier League as relegated from the Championship.
And so, it was no less than astounding to witness their promotion miracle, which couldn’t have been foreseen by even their wildly optimistic fans, let alone the stats-obsessed experts. For how many ruthless forwards, creative midfielders or resilient defenders could they boast of before the beginning of the season? Even their manager, Daniel Farke, didn’t have a lot of credentials and barely managed to keep his job after delivering a 14th placed finish in his first season at the club.
Yet, the dream story came about, the miracle happened, and they came on top of all the boastful clubs to stamp their authority on the league. They became the terror for the other Championship teams thanks to some smart recruitment and a working system under Daniel Farke.
Their start was less than perfect, a single victory out of their first six league games, but then a single win sufficed to spark their rest of the campaign. The waves originated from Cardiff City Stadium gradually became a storm which swept away every bigger and smaller club in its way until it hammered home its authority over the entire Championship.
Hunger and desire, determination and perseverance, this team possessed all the right ingredients to prove themselves worthy of playing in the Premier League. They showed that financial muscle isn’t stronger than the collective spirit and will-power of a team and that these intangibles can sometimes count more than the qualities like experience, technique, and skills for a team’s success.
Even during the torrid opening period when they lost against West Brom, Sheffield United and Leeds United, there were promising signs but the performances didn’t translate into positive results. Yet once they got into their full gear, they snatched 12 victories out of their 15 league games and rose to the top of the Championship table.
The wobble during the beginning of the new year left them chasing Leeds United for some time, but their victory against the same opponents in February reclaimed their spot, and then eight wins on the trot secured their berth for the rest of the campaign.
Now they are in the Premier League and will likely stay there if they play with the same intensity and resilience. For now, the fans can celebrate for the astounding success of their team.