sport news Norwich's Premier League charge: How the Canaries started flying high again ...

When Norwich began this campaign the mood around Carrow Road was one of quiet confidence. A good pre-season's training under Daniel Farke had spread optimism. 

Though what that meant back then shows just how far expectations have been exceeded.

After finishing 14th last season, club figures hoped the team might push for the top ten and just maybe challenge for the play-offs. 'Automatic [promotion] wasn't on the table,' says a source.

Daniel Farke has guided Norwich to the brink of a return to the Premier League

Daniel Farke has guided Norwich to the brink of a return to the Premier League

So the way Farke's side have strode clear as Championship leaders while producing a distinctive, attractive style has been hugely impressive. 

Complete the job and it represents an achievement to rank alongside any at the level in recent history. And that is before you even scroll the balance sheet.

During the summer market, Norwich sold their two best players in James Maddison and Josh Murphy for a combined £33million, spending just £3.8m on a collection of relative unknowns. A scattering of young prospects supplemented the squad.

The charismatic Farke famously rode a horse at his former club Lippstadt in Germany

The charismatic Farke famously rode a horse at his former club Lippstadt in Germany

The results have enlivened supporters dramatically. 'We've looked fantastic, possibly the best football I've seen and I've been following the club for 50 years,' says Nick Buck, a member of the Canaries Trust board. 

If that sounds like hyperbole, Buck's reasoning takes into consideration the advancements that have been made in the game through the generations.

Buck adds: 'We've had those glory years, under Paul Lambert and when we beat Bayern Munich. But here the skill of the players, the ability to control the ball in tight areas, the passing, the movement, the consistency — it has been on a different level.'

The strategy implemented by sporting director Stuart Webber, who joined the club in April 2017 and appointed Farke a month later, has paid off spectacularly. In two years a squad with an average age of 29 and the second-highest wage bill in Championship history (£55m) has been revamped to one where academy graduates account for 25 per cent of minutes played and annual salaries total just north of £20m.

Farke's coaching and the sense of togetherness fostered from the top down has extracted the best from a group whose quality was either just emerging or had been untapped.

Teemu Pukki falls into the latter category. The Championship's player of the season has scored 27 goals and registered nine assists in a campaign that not even the scouts who suggested his signing could envisage. 

The highly impressive Teemu Pukki has scored 27 goals and registered nine assists

The highly impressive Teemu Pukki has scored 27 goals and registered nine assists

The 29-year-old Finnish international, who endured an underwhelming 2013-14 season at Celtic, came to Norwich on a free transfer after leaving Brondby. His transfer value now could reach eight figures.

Not that the club would countenance a sale, or Pukki seek a move. He is grateful for the opportunity in England, with only Panathinaikos rivalling Norwich when his contract expired last summer.

Getting goals into Farke's team was the objective behind recruiting Pukki, even if initial plans were for Jordan Rhodes to provide the bulk. Rhodes, on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, has instead made a significant contribution off the bench.

Norwich had scored just 49 times in 46 Championship games in Farke's first campaign, the consequence of a new possession-based approach that was at times too slow to move up the pitch. This season the tempo has quickened and

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