Is it perhaps that we are so scarred by the disasters that we now tend to overlook some of the positives?Fri 24 Feb 17 by Steve Cook
A brief trawl through my previous scribblings for MyFootballWriter would demonstrate that on occasions, I like to draw upon the lowlights from my chequered love life for tenuous footballing analogies.
It’s a habit that my wife would probably deem to be both inappropriate and insensitive but as she can’t be bothered to actually read my articles, it seems reasonable enough to crack on.
In my early-twenties, I had a girlfriend called Stacey.
It’s fair to say that I was fairly smitten and early on in our relationship I even began to wonder whether she could be ‘the one’.
As will become apparent, she most certainly was not – but she was the ‘plus one’ on the invite for the wedding of my boss’s daughter.
“Bring Stacey” he said “we’ve heard so much about her – it would be lovely to finally meet”.
Or so he thought.
Fuelled by a mixture of rum punch and the freely flowing wine, Stacey embarked upon a trail of destruction that culminated in her being violently sick over an ice statue before punching a bridesmaid in the face.
Not exactly how I’d envisaged it, but I’m a forgiving man by nature – especially when it comes to attractive women.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to prove an isolated incident. A fiery temperament and a love of Pinot Grigio created several more ‘memorable’ moments that will forever be filed away in the memory banks under ‘OMG’.
Despite her genuine remorse and the assurances that came with it, over time I came to realise that I simply couldn’t trust her when she said “next time, it will be different”.
And so it is with Norwich City.
As an avid reader of MyFootballWriter, I have taken great interest in the articles and comments relating to whether we can mount a serious push for the play-offs. I’ve seen a variety of statistics used to support the case both for and against, alongside the usual well-reasoned arguments.
I’ve read the press-conference quotes from Alex Neil and the players – full of good intent and apparent conviction and I desperately want to believe that performances and results will reflect that sense of purpose.
However deep down, I simply don’t trust the football club to deliver.
There have been far too many occasions where despite the sentiments and assurances, the club has managed to deliver nothing more than a proverbial punch in the face – every bit as painful as the one received by that unfortunate bridesmaid.
Perhaps I’m one of those natural pessimists that my colleague Stewart Lewis referred to in his recent article. Or maybe there’s a tendency to become scarred by disappointments to the extent that you overlook the positive achievements.
Either way, our history is littered with examples of what might have been.
Take the 1984/85 season for example, where a run of one point from the final eight fixtures saw us fall from 10th place to 20th and relegation on the final day of season.
Exactly ten years later, the same single point tally from the final eight fixtures resulted in John Deehan’s City side dropping out of the top flight.
Both of those relegations obviously came as a result of prolonged spells of underachievement, similar to the run of form we suffered earlier this season.
But we’ve also witnessed many instances where with the scene set, we’ve completely fluffed our lines and failed to seize the moment.
The first time I experienced that was in the final fixture of the 1980/81 season when City were beaten 2-3 at Carrow Road by (already relegated) Leicester to join them in the second tier, when a win would have seen us safe.
Craven Cottage witnessed one of the most spectacular collapses on the last day of the 2004/05 season. Having hauled ourselves out of the bottom three and with our destiny in our own hands we contrived to implode in front of the Sky cameras and lose 6-0.
Fulham was also the setting for Neil Adams’s first game in charge in 2013/14. The new dawn and renewed sense of optimism which marked the end of the ‘Hughton era’ was undone quicker than you could say “Ricky Van Wolfswinkel’s ghost pass” as we lost 1-0 with barely a whimper on our way to yet another relegation.
It’s probably unfair to cherry pick such moments of failure and highlight our top flight struggles stretching back over thirty years. Especially considering that our last two campaigns in the Championship have resulted in promotion on the back of huge performances such as those at Fratton Park and Wembley.
Besides, all of the examples above are just distant memories – different players, different teams, and different dynamics.
Losing to Leicester in 1981 (before any of them were even born) has absolutely no relevance as to whether Alex Neil and the current playing squad have the ability, character and mental strength to haul us into the top six starting with tomorrow’s game against ‘them down the road’.
No relevance, other than to fans like me who bear the mental scars from a lifetime of supporting the club.
However what is relevant is that these are largely the same players who went to Selhurst Park last year and lost 1-0 when the game was there for the taking.
The same players who stood like rabbits in the headlights when Sunderland came to visit in a the ultimate six-pointer.
The same players who get wheeled out at Colney and talk about their resolve and determination to make it right but who go AWOL at places like Birmingham, Barnsley, Rotherham and Burton.
Something in the Class of 2016/17 is missing – character, leadership, conviction.
And that is why my hopes of the play-offs disappeared a while ago.
Putting aside statistics, natural pessimism, distant memories and mental scars, all too often in recent times when opportunity has presented itself, the current crop of players have fallen flat on their faces.
Much like Stacey did on what proved to be our last ill-fated outing together at a friend’s garden party.