How do we break this cycle of argument, conflict and division?
It’s been said that the friction and conflict within the Canary faithful is reflecting division in the wider world of politics and society.
I’m not so sure. In fact, the closer I look, the more I reckon it’s the other way round. Political and societal conflict is more acute than usual, but our fractious state as supporters is more like the norm.
Somebody once pointed out to me that when Liverpool ruled the roost in the Eighties, you wouldn’t have known it from the pronouncements of their fans. The team was sweeping all before it, domestically and in Europe, but in the letters pages of the local paper you’d find almost nothing but criticism – team selection was wrong, tactics rubbish, recruitment a shambles.
That’s shocking but perhaps not surprising. I’ve been the reading the Pink Un since the Sixties, when I’d walk up to Gorleston station (after Doctor Who and beans on toast) to be there for the seller with his bike and bag.
I can’t remember a time when the bulk of correspondence – letters then, postings now – wasn’t negative. From Bill Punton to Jacob Murphy, Lol Morgan to Chris Hughton (sorry, Hooton): we’ve found reason to have a go at all of them.
On this site, thank goodness, we manage to debate civilly. Robust discussion and argument for sure, sometimes with frustration, but without personal abuse and rancour. Maybe that’s a slight throwback; if so, a very welcome one.
I had a minor but unexpected difference of opinion last week with my mate Robin Sainty. He’d written a typically thoughtful piece in the EDP, arguing that with all the change in process at Carrow Road it would be better for us to stay in the Championship this time, re-group in the summer and be ready for a concerted promotion challenge in 2017-18.
While that’s eminently sensible, at this stage I’d hate for us to accept staying down. The erratic form of teams above us has opened the door a crack. I’d like to see us throwing everything at that door, trying to knock it off its hinges and force our way into the play-offs.
Maybe we’d be better prepared next year, but there’s no telling what Fate has in store. With the best-laid plans, we could be blown off course by injuries or (very likely in my view) a more competitive Championship with stronger teams.
In any case, whenever we get back to the Premier League we’ll need to use a big chunk of the income to strengthen the squad (i.e. what we failed to do in summer 2015). However smart our recruitment this summer, we’re simply not in a financial position now to build a PL team.
So my view is: grab any chance at promotion.
Some of you may be thinking this is all academic: given City’s away showings so far this season, there’s no earthly reason to imagine a sudden burst of verve and belief.
Our general response to finding the promotion door open, you might say, has been to close it politely and tiptoe away.
You’d be in good company. When I told my wife I was planning on going to Villa, given the key importance of the game and the chance to put pressure on the teams above us, her response was one of irrefutable logic: “Isn’t that what you said when you went to Sheffield?”
It was accompanied by a familiar look. The one that says “Do this if you want, but don’t try to kid me there’s any sense in it”.
It can be terrible when your wife understands you.
Back to my original question. Yes, fans always love a moan about their club – but this season at Norwich has clearly been more fraught than most.
Underperformance on the field, exacerbated by the awful Jez Moxey interlude and apparent inaction (which we now know wasn’t) from the Board – a poisonous mix.
That’s now behind us.
As I write this, Stuart Webber isn’t yet confirmed as Sporting Director but it seems in the pipeline. That means we’ll have appropriately skilled people in the two key roles of MD and SD. People can see action, and it makes sense.
Hopefully that will buy the Board some breathing space, at least a wait-and-see attitude from fans. The Head Coach appointment may test that, if it’s an unfamiliar name as David Wagner was for Huddersfield fans last summer.
A final word. I appreciate this isn’t a financial advice column, but I have to share with you a sure-fire money-making scheme.
Every July Gary Gowers has his writers make their predictions for the forthcoming season. Using mine, you could make yourself a few bob. You just have to make a slight tweak to my forecasts.
Last season I forecast Leicester to go down from the Premier League; this year (not paying enough attention to Stuart Webber) I predicted Huddersfield to get relegated from the Championship.
Simply turn my predictions on their head, and you’re onto a winner.
You heard it here first.