To renew or not to renew, that is the current question. Reflecting on the slings and arrows of City fortunesWed 25 Jan 17 by Stewart Lewis
The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits
are so much easier to give up than bad ones
I’ve renewed my season ticket. The reason is pretty basic: going to Carrow Road to support my team is part of my life. Maybe a bad habit; quite possibly, an addiction.
It’s not that I don’t understand others’ reservations, or doubt the genuine nature of their support. I won’t criticize anyone who decides not to renew.
Having said that, some of the arguments we’ve heard against renewing seem to me stronger than others.
Some won’t renew (or at least are considering it) because the current regime at Norwich doesn’t inspire confidence that they’ll bring success to us. I understand that feeling and sympathise with much of it. As we’ve discussed, failing to sack Alex Neil back in November or December seems to me a decision clearly at odds with the Board’s stated commitment to promotion.
To be fed up and disillusioned with much of what we’ve seen this season is not unreasonable.
I’m less persuaded by other arguments, including the view that in renewing our season tickets we’re lining Delia and Michael’s pockets. The Stowmarket Two have put far more into the club than I could ever conceive of doing.
Yes, their formal long-term loan to the club was finally repaid last summer. As I understand it, they’ve never taken interest or dividends from anything they’ve put in, so the money has lost considerable value over time – especially compared to other ways they could have used it.
Nor is that loan, or their shareholding, the only financial contribution they’ve made to Norwich City. Not to mention the time they’ve given to it – far more than other football club owners, many of whom would also (unlike them) want payment for it.
I certainly don’t exempt them from criticism, either for past decisions or current ones. Their appointment of David McNally was in recognition of, and to counteract, their inclination to sentimental decisions. Let’s hope this season isn’t seeing a return to bad old ways.
Fans’ frustration was exacerbated, of course, by Delia’s clumsy interview with The Times.
In that case I deliberately use the word ‘clumsy’. It’s my understanding that Delia and Michael have not ruled out any new external investment. What she was expressing is their frustration that the efforts of the past few years to find satisfactory investors have come to nothing. In the absence of that, they’ve developed an alternative plan.
Similarly, I don’t believe she takes some perverse pleasure from going against the wishes of fans. One comment seemed to imply it, but it would go against all other evidence – both direct and indirect – that I’ve ever seen.
Some seem to think that the Board doesn’t grasp fans’ feelings at all. By not renewing, the message would be sent loud-and-clear that fans don’t agree with the regime’s decisions.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Board is well aware of fans’ feelings, and would rather go with them than against them. The situation is that the Board – rightly or wrongly – genuinely believe in their path.
On that basis they’re prepared to defy the fans’ wishes – as they did (wrongly) in keeping Nigel Worthington and Chris Hughton, and (rightly) in appointing Paul Lambert and Alex Neil.
When there’s a divide between the fans and the Board, the Board certainly isn’t always right; neither is it always wrong.
In passing, I’ve known many boards, both in football and other sectors. Some outstanding, others ropey. One thing they have in common: they all make mistakes. The difference is in how they respond.
The right way is what Norwich did over the Cup pricing: admit the mistake and try to make amends. The wrong way – and for me, it applies to their stance on Alex Neil – is to dig in their heels.
Could I ever imagine not renewing my season ticket? Actually, yes – but not now. Some are comparing the present situation to the time of Chase, Roeder or the descent to League 1. I just don’t think they really remember those times. The current Board’s decisions could be better; ditto their communications. But the rot of those times was deeper and worse.
Coming back to the present, I’m seeing a lot of comment on social media – and indeed, some on this site – to the effect that this season is over for us.
Mathematically, that’s far from true. We stand five points off the playoff places, with 57 points left to play for. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Do we think Villa (four points below us) have given up on the season? Or even Wolves (eight points below us)?
The only reason to write off the season is that, under Alex Neil, we’ve seen no indication in recent months that the team can put together a solid run. Since the disastrous losing streak of October-November we’ve seen some good performances – but never two in a row.
That’s the only reason. Sadly of course, and frustratingly, it’s a big one. The situation’s not irretrievable, but – as fellow columnists have pointed out – it’s going to take more than one win to re-ignite our passion and belief.
Whether it happens or not, I’ll be there.