This is horrible. I can’t recall feeling this way before.
The lust went a while ago. The love is dissipating quicker than ever before. I’m not angry, just sad inside.
In my 28 years of supporting Norwich City I find myself at my lowest ebb. It’s not always the easiest club to support. But you don’t give up on it. It’s like a drug.
Yet very soon, I will have to make a major decision: to renew or not to renew – that is the question. Am I seriously considering going cold turkey?
I am a true ‘supporter’, in every sense of the word.
I’m vocal at games and sing loud and proud every week. Each year I renew my season ticket without consideration – in hope more than expectation. I buy the new shirt – each summer, for a more extortionate price than which proceeds it. I buy scarves, key rings, mugs… if it’s yellow and green there’s a good chance I’ll snap it up!
But am I the real ‘mug’ here?
Blind loyalty towards the Canary crest, that’s what my problem is. Yet now I’ve reached a point where I feel like I’ve been mugged off once too often.
I’ve seen highs and lows.
I was there when we were fighting for major trophies; our European adventure; when the Chase-out campaign was at its most volatile.
I was there when we lost 6-1 at Port Vale; City Hall when we lifted the Championship trophy; when Burnley finished Worthington off.
I stayed to the bitter end when Colchester trounced us 7-1; when the place went “bananas”; Wembley joy.
So for a fan like myself – someone so overly obsessed with football that it verges on irritating to others – to consider giving up my season ticket after so long should greatly concern the Norwich City board of directors. Because I am not the only disenchanted voice.
Sad as it is, I feel as though I am partly responsible for the malaise surrounding the club. If you, like me, provide undivided loyalty regardless of performance, why should those at the top be concerned?
For years they’ve known we’ll all fork out for a new shirt every season, that we’ll buy the rip-off pies, renew our season tickets… no matter what. And if there’s one thing this club is deeply proud of, it’s the vast swathes of bums on seats every week.
Let’s get one thing straight. This is not about losing a few games on the spin. We’ve had worse sides than this. Far, far worse.
Fielding a team packed with third-rate loans under the stewardship of Glenn Roeder was as soul-destroying as it gets. I’ve often gone to games thinking ‘this is a chore’ but we still go again the following week, and the one after that, in the hope of something better.
So why am I, and many others I speak to, so disillusioned with The Fine City’s football club, that they are reaching the end of their tether?
Reasons vary. For some it is purely financial; for some it is a constant lack of ambition; others will think the football on offer is rubbish.
For most, it is a combination of all these, coupled with the numerous failings by the current owners – most of which have been entirely avoidable. Many say they only go now for the social side, to chat with friends or family.
Personally, I feel total apathy – my enthusiasm has dwindled to such an extent that even if I wanted to get angry about our current situation, I wouldn’t bother going to the shed and fetch my pitchfork – I’d just grab a spoon from the top drawer.
When I hear members of our board feed supporters another line of drivel, I feel nothing – I just shrug. When I look around at our players at the end of a game, I feel nothing – win, lose or draw – for all bar a couple. I don’t even jump around, hugging complete strangers like a lunatic when we score anymore.
That ill-timed, ill-advised Times article was the catalyst for much of the current swell of angst aimed toward the board and was definitely a tipping point for me.
Condescending, obstinate and out-of-touch. It became clear that they don’t really care what the fans think. Since then results, which had already begun to tail-off, have nosedived, and the club has plummeted down the table.
Yet their incessant backing of a blatantly flawed Alex Neil is now bordering on bonkers. Football fans survive on hope. We NEED hope. Hope of better that may come. Without hope, there is no point going.
To be told by our owners that the manager is unequivocally safe in his seat despite numerous reasons why he shouldn’t be, or that the club’s path is already decided and that there is no alternative to ‘nephew Tom’, offers little in the way of hope.
Combine awful decision-making, indecisiveness and poor financial awareness with a dancing Chairman and a silent CEO, then throw in some bad transfer windows, ageing players, an inept manager and a barrel-load of horrid defeats, and I’m afraid you have a potent cocktail.
The whole club needs a completely fresh start. Fans need to feel rejuvenated. The whole club feels amateurish again and is stale from top to bottom. Mistakes will always be made – its human nature – but to keep making the same mistakes over and over again? That’s just plain irresponsible.
I want to see some courage – from the top, right down to the bottom. Some desire. Some authority. Some ambition. Some conviction. I want to see a coherent plan for the future.
I want to know why the ‘chosen’ route forward is deemed the best one. I want to know why, and I quote, “No way will we sell. We don’t even listen to enquiries.” I want to hear from nephew Tom. What does he envisage? How will he make us prosper? Will he do things differently?
“Promotion, promotion, promotion” is NOT a plan. It’s just hot air. “Young and hungry” – that was a plan. And ‘promotion’ clearly isn’t going to be possible this season if the current incumbent of the Carrow Road hot seat remains any longer. We are in desperate need of a major shake up on the pitch too.
I have no qualms with Alex Neil being stubborn and refusing to walk because I’d do precisely the same in his situation, if I knew there was that many readies at the end of it. The board should have the cajones to fire him.
Unfortunately, our manager is tactically inept, never learns from his mistakes and is now displaying the kind of arrogance that Roeder did in our darkest days. For the last 18 months we have played like a bunch of individuals, thrown together with little thought as to how they could gel in his (one and only) system.
But Neil is merely a broken cog in a malfunctioning machine.
There is no camaraderie, no leadership, no fight from the players. There is talent – but it has rarely been harnessed – and when it is, I suspect it is more down to luck than judgement . Or woefully poor opponents.
The record of the ‘recruitment team’ makes me shudder. The personnel involved on that panel, even more so. There is no evidence of a strategy, and if there is, it’s not working very well, and hasn’t since its inception.
The wages the club pays to bit-part (at best) players is scary. No wonder we are unable to offload the likes of Lafferty, Bassong and co – nobody else can afford to pay them. These ridiculous wages paid to average footballers is a noose around the club’s neck.
Hence we now find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of selling off the family silver to make ends meet.
If Neil is, as it seems, staying put, are supporters supposed to forget about this season now? And if so, is youth going to get a chance in the first team? I could live with that.
But it seems unlikely, since Harry Toffolo (potentially our only natural left back) has been sent back to Scunthorpe and James Maddison, an undoubtedly gifted young footballer, looks likely to disappear north of the border again. Ben Godfrey has impressed repeatedly for the U23s – why not give him a chance.
Throw two or three in – they can hardly do any worse than the current motley crew, can they? And it might just get a few fans back onside.
And I’ve not even touched on the astronomical prices fans are expected to pay. We pay Premier League prices for sub-standard Championship fare.
We rip off away fans with our ticketing policy to such an extent I often find myself apologising for my clubs behaviour to opposition fans on Twitter. The board recently got the FA Cup tie marketing completely wrong.
It’s error after error after error and a staggering own-goal given Delia’s words about ‘worshipping’ fans. Fair play for apologising but by then, it was too late.
Delia and Michael have run the club for 20 years now. I think its fair to say that every Norwich City fan is grateful for what they did in order to help the club survive after Robert Chase.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Two decades later and the most successful of those years were spent with Alan Bowkett and David McNally to the fore.
Without those two and their undoubted acumen, its possible we might not even have a football club to support, let alone spend four of the last six seasons competing in the Premier League. And now they are both gone. They were not perfect, but boy did they get more right than they got wrong.
The same cannot be said of others.
And, without Bowkett and McNally, Smith ‘n Jones’s reign would have been one of consistent failure – bar the odd, intermittent highlight.
Of course, it is important to point out that Delia and Michael appointed both men in the first place. It’s equally important to mention Neil Doncaster and Jez Moxey, who seems to have become the Stowmarket duo’s ‘whipping boy’ – rightly or wrongly.
I’m fed up. Fed up with everything to do with the club. Fed up knowing that it’s highly likely, given their track record, that they will make the wrong managerial appointment anyway.
New personnel and fresh gumption is urgently required in the boardroom and then again on the pitch in order to inject some life into proceedings because I fear that, without it, we will not be reaching the top tier of English football again for a long while – and, more importantly, many other fans, just like me, will feel alienated from the club we love.
Without major changes in the coming weeks, my 28-year love story will probably draw to sorry and tortuous halt. I won’t stop caring – but my bum won’t be sat in the lower Barclay stand until the current owners depart.
And boy oh boy, is that a gut-wrenching thing to type.