24-hour coverage and social media has spawned a generation of armchair punditsSat 16 Aug 14 by Thomas Markham-Uden
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” is how the saying goes. However, judging by the reaction of many Norwich fans following our opening day defeat at Wolves, if we were a runner competing in either type of race, we’d have been disqualified for too many false starts and sent home in disgrace.
Clearly, many of the reactions to our performance have been extreme and, often, just plain ridiculous, but can one entirely blame those who are so quick to proclaim such knee-jerk reactions?
We, as a society, exist in a world where sporting expectation has been taken to such heights that anything short of total perfection is met with criticism that oscillates between mildly scathing and eye-bulging, bile soaked ranting.
There are many reasons for this level of expectation and they all impact upon supporters’ judgements of how their team performs.
Firstly, the sheer quantity of mediums covering football has increased to such an extent that everyone has the ability to not only take in other fan opinion, but also voice their own. Social media, coupled with rolling twenty-four hour coverage, has created a landscape where everyone has the opportunity to play the role of pundit.
What was once the preserve of merely the radio phone-in show – and more often that not, just conversations between supporters at the ground, pub, etc. – has manifested into a global network of fans all analysing what is happening in a particular match. The sheer wealth of input, coupled with the relative brevity of a Twitter post, has created a landscape where reasoned, proportionate critique has been superseded by snap opinions on the action unfolding.
It is little wonder that in such a landscape, rational thought is relegated in favour of a need to vent one’s frustration at another defensive error or misplaced pass.
Feeding this maelstrom of internet activity is a media and publicity machine that seeks to emphasise how exciting their particular football “brand” is.
Of course, a large part of football’s enjoyability is its excitement and entertainment value, but it increasingly appears that anything less than a thrilling 4-3 result is viewed almost as anachronism; a relic from a bygone age when Sundays weren’t all “Super” and every aspect of a game wasn’t accompanied by a reference to a “narrative.”
Remember, the beauty is often in the detail.
The elephant in the room here (and it is an enormous elephant) is also, quite simply, money.
Many people, with more informed and academically presented opinions than I, have discussed the change in the sport that the influx of new money has brought about, but it is still worth referencing when discussing issues such as fan expectation.
Money drives so much in football now, that a time when this wasn’t the case is almost becoming inconceivable. Television revenue, reaching new staggering levels with each passing season, coupled with increased sponsorship opportunities for the top clubs, has created an environment where monetary success is deemed as important as any form of personal satisfaction or discernible accolade than can be gained through winning.
“The Premier League is the place to be and if you’re not there, then, well, tough luck frankly. Better luck next year. Here are some scraps of revenue for you to fight over and to appease you in the mean time.”
This is, essentially, a layman’s translation of the Premier League attitude to smaller clubs.
In this climate of monetary success being paramount, is it any wonder that supporters are quick to fall in to line and view their team’s performance in such a way? Money in football is a tool of subjugation. It leaves clubs at the mercy of the governing body, and this feeds in to supporter expectation and rationale.
I love my club and I want to see them do well, but the Premier League is not the Promised Land. Yes, it can be a welcome by-product of success and I enjoyed large parts of our recent stay there. It aided in our move toward greater financial stability and we saw some good football at times. Being in that league is not my sole reason for watching Norwich, however.
Understandably, many supporters were extremely disappointed that we were relegated last season. I was one of them. It is important to remember, though, that no club has a given right to be playing at the highest level.
The Championship this season is packed with sides possessing more experience than us at this level and before the game on Sunday I said that a top ten finish would be a decent return for our first campaign back in the second tier. That hasn’t changed.
Yes, we were poor for large parts of the game against Wolves, but there were positives as well. There is a long way to go and one game does not a season make.
We have forty five more games to go and there will be ups and downs along the way. It’s a long season. If you spend the entire season with too lofty a set of expectations and yearning for where we’re not anymore, it’s going to be even longer for you.
Just try and enjoy the ride for a bit.