The vocabulary of Norwich City was just the same. Unflattering references to Ipswich.
Fans imploring the side to ‘have a little scrimmage’ – one of the more curious lines from the legendary club anthem, ‘On the Ball, City,’ from which the club programme takes its name.
But those returning to this place otherwise found their side changed utterly by what can only be described as the German experiment: a high risk gamble to deliver Norwich back into the Premier League’s promised land.
Sunderland striker Lewis Grabban celebrates after opening the scoring against his former side
The club’s parachute money is running out – £29m this season and that’s their lot – so they are staking it on Daniel Farke, a 40-year-old whose CV lists little more than two year in charge of Borussia Dormund’s coach.
Farke keeps dropping the name Jurgen Klopp – another Dortmund alumnus – into the conversation, though the achievements of a third, David Wagner, are what Norwich covet.
They’ve even poached Huddersfield Town’s head of operations, Stuart Webber, as sporting director. Germany’s second and fourth tiers are where they’ve busiest this summer – buying four of their nine summer signings from there.
For 20 minutes or so you wondered why no one else had thought of all this. Though Sunderland were the ones with the bigger parachute payment – £47m at their disposal – Farke’s players displayed signs that they were early adopters of the patient game he is trying to introduce.
They knocked the ball out with an excellent precision. It compounded the sense of gloom with which followers of Simon Grayson’s new side had arrived.
Farke’s English arrivals actually looked the brightest of all in that spell. Harrison Reed, on loan from Southampton, marshalled the back of midfield, waiting for the gaps to appear which Markey Watkins (from Barnsley: another good piece of business) exploited. It wasn’t all intricacy.
Cameron Jerome, one of the Norwich Premier League brigade who stayed, provided the physical presence up front, and operated effectively with Watkins. A sublime eight-pass move saw Jerome net on 18 minutes but the striker had advanced too early and was offside.
There were signs from the start that the occasional lack of concentration pass from the back might spoil the picture, though.
One of the German new arrivals – Marcus Freke, £2.7m from second tier Greuther Furth – spilled possession on the half way line to let Sunderland’s Lewis Grabban – sold by Norwich last 18 months ago – to seize the ball and race through toward goal. He could only find the side netting.
But the punishment was more severe on 27 minutes when James Vaughan’s deft touch on a long punt from Steele caused chaos at the back for Norwich, allowing Grabban to get beyond the defence and finish again.
‘How shit must you be? We’re winning away’ the Sunderland contingent sang, which said everything for their ambition this season. But though the goal had been so utterly against the run of play, it extinguished the menace from Norwich.
The first half petered out and the second was 15 minutes old when Grayson’s side exploited the aerial weakness again. A George Honeyman corner was only half-cleared and laid into the path of Aiden McGeady, who arced in a left-footed shot from 20 yards.
The same frailty concluded matters ten minutes later, when Grabban, unmarked at the back post, was left time to pick his spot as he converted McGeady’s cross.
Grabban completed an unwelcome hat-trick on 78 minutes, stabbing the ball into his own net after Marcel Franke had headed James Maddison’s free kick into the six yard box. But it was cold consolation for the home side whose early calm had drifted into a grim predictability with minimal forward menace.
For Sunderland, there was a sense of vindication. ‘I think there are sometimes too many foreign managers over here,’ Grayson said last week. ‘Maybe one or two of these vacancies… should be filled by British coaches. It’s our country.’ For Norwich, there will be palpitations. They can ill afford this experiment to fail.