Fulham and Cardiff illustrated the psychological difficulty of bouncing back after relegation. It explains why three out of four clubs don’t, and it’s graphically described by Adam Drury in his excellent chapter of Tales from the City Volume 2.
Archives for October 2016
We’ve suffered some heartaches over the years and, as is the wont of the average football fan, have become accustomed to the disappointments outnumbering the highs but seldom have we witnessed and then had confirmed that “too many lads gave up”.
City collapsing is not a new phenomenon. They’ve continually found exciting and inventive ways of screwing things up when in commanding positions, or missing golden opportunities to treat supporters to a modicum of success.
Geoffrey Watling had been appointed as the new club chairman in 1957 and had declared that his objective was top flight football. When Norwich appointed Ron Saunders as their new manager in the summer of 1969 it did so with the caveat that he got the club promoted to the First Division within three years.
If you don’t ring changes with new players – particularly when results and performances are going awry – then why did you bring them in at all? If not to freshen up the place and offer genuine competition for places?
The first-half of normal time was, at times, a passing masterclass and Alex Pritchard’s stooping header should have been the signal for City to take a vice-like grip on the game. But a few warning signs late in the half were not heeded.
Stringer was a right back converted to central defender. He played alongside Duncan Forbes, whose aggression and strength made him the eye-catching one.
When the updated league table hovered into view it became evident that the Canaries record against those in the top half of the table is currently not one to be proud of. Of the Championship’s top fourteen only Bristol City have succumbed to City’s Premier League charms, in one of the aforementioned bum-squeakers.
I’d watched two desperate, horrible Premier League matches in two days – my lot Boro in the flesh against Watford on Sunday, then that “Red Monday” abomination on Sky on Monday, and I desperately needed to flush my brain by watching some real football.
The players must receive some form of criticism, too: the same eleven who looked so comfortable throughout the first half on Tuesday night subsequently crumbled after half-time, letting what could be two critical points slip.
City are still second, have won six of the last eight, have a points per game ratio that will do very nicely thank-you in the final reckoning, but still there is clearly an Achilles heel that needs to be addressed.
At Norwich these days, of course, we do have something special to feel good about: goals and wins. After 12 games the table doesn’t lie – and we sit at the top of it.
The Millers are bottom of the table for a reason yet they came and had a go, especially in the second half, and set up to make it difficult for City to break them down. And as the game opened up they had enough about them to carry a threat going forward; Alan Stubbs no doubt regaling his players with tales of our occasional soft centre.
The people in power are too afraid that, for example, thousands of Norwich fans who would normally get themselves along to Carrow Road to see their team play Brentford will all think, as one, “…no, sod that, I’m going to watch Real Madrid against Barcelona on the telly instead”.
Alan Bowkett quit, soon followed by David McNally. The questions are floating around still, but quite naturally confidentiality means there will be no answers. Two extremely astute characters who are unfortunately no longer with us – in the NCFC sense.
The fact is – and a fair few Canaries fans would do well to remember this, especially those calling on ‘the board’ to ‘show more ambition’ by ‘loosening the purse strings’ – that money has always been the overriding concern in professional football. Usually other people’s money and how to get hold of more of it for yourself.
We all know of ‘mind games’, especially between managers: their aim is to disturb the focus and equilibrium of the opponent, just as a good striker drags opposition defenders into areas they don’t want to be in.
When the talk turned to City it was obvious that those on the outside – even those south of the border – see us as shoo-ins for the top two, with there even being a hint of recognition that we’re doing it the right way with, for the most part, an emphasis on passing the ball.
What we learnt from our previous visit to the Championship is that there is no such thing as an easy game, but whereas in 2014/15 City were dropping points when they weren’t at their best, this time around they are finding ways to win that are, while not always convincing or particularly comfortable, pretty effective.
Pitch invasions these days are often instigated and precipitated by violence and provocation. No-one found the actions of the Hibernian fans who invaded the pitch at Hampden Park during last season’s Scottish FA Cup Final delightful. Yes, the Hibs fans were joyful at their win. But they were more content in goading their opposite numbers with it.