A few days ago we had a personal piece here from one of MFW’s brilliant young writers, Connor Southwell.
It made me reflect on my view from the other end of the spectrum. So I’ll get to the Canaries today, if you’ll bear with a few initial observations on “what’s it like to be 60?”
The only clear answer is “nothing like what I expected”.
On the physical side, some things are a bit slower and rustier than they were, while others are happily still intact. Perhaps we should leave it there, before “too much information” springs to mind (yes, most definitely but congrats – Ed).
It’s the mental side that’s the real surprise. In a nutshell, I expected that my outlook and priorities would be noticeably different at 60 from 30 – but they aren’t.
There’s a good side and a not-so-good side to this. I’m no less curious and ready for debate than before (as my unfortunate Twitter followers will know); I hope I’m no less open to new ideas and ways of making sense of this strange and wonderful thing called life.
On the other hand, some sensible ways of acting my age seem to have eluded me. One or two I’ll make no apology for. As long as weather permits and it doesn’t make the arthritis worse, I’ll wear my replica shirt to games. People no longer look at me and suggest I could be out on the pitch, and my wife tolerates rather than encourages it – but I don’t care.
Nor have I lost a taste for terrible jokes (“I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down”).
Clearly less admirable is that I still make many of the same mistakes I did 30 years ago. One that’s relevant today is that I tend to get ahead of myself.
I knew that Burton would make themselves resolute and tough to beat, but I thought there was a good chance we’d prevail. Though I only became conscious of it afterwards, I was mentally formulating an article to reflect our win.
It may have surprised some readers who’d expect me to be triumphant if we won a couple of games. It was going to be a call for restraint and caution, as fans took to social media (in my imagination) to proclaim we’d turned the corner and were heading for promotion.
Having preached after Villa and Millwall that we shouldn’t get carried away by two losses, I was going to take my own medicine and preach that we shouldn’t get carried away by two wins either. Early days and all that.
Perhaps there’ll still be a time for that article, but clearly not this week. Though any of us could have played in goal for City against Burton, the balance and momentum further upfield was lacking.
After Villa and Millwall, most of us would have perhaps taken four points and two clean sheets from the two home games, but on Tuesday night no-one left Carrow Road satisfied except Burton and their fans (and, seemingly, the referee).
So the social media debate was far from what I’d imagined. Some understandable expressions of frustration, and reasonable questioning of, for instance, the timing of the substitutions.
I do, though, struggle with people prepared to write off our new regime after seven games, or bemoaning that they see “no improvement from last season”.
Well, last season we kept an experienced and expensive Premier League squad, in the gamble that we’d bounce back. We’ve now faced the consequence of that failure. Under a new Head Coach, we have a squad of young and almost completely new players. How realistic is it to expect to see “clear improvement” over last year after seven games?
Yes, it’s uneven. In a way I’d be more worried if it wasn’t – if the faults, particularly the defensive fragility at Villa and Millwall, continued unaddressed. The Birmingham and Burton games showed Daniel Farke can fix that problem, though for now at the expense of creating at the other end.
Webber has engineered a bigger squad for Farke than I expected. I’ve no idea where we’ll finish this season. But I’d be surprised if, as he becomes more viscerally familiar with the challenges of the Championship and his players’ ability to deal with them, Farke doesn’t find his blend and take us up the league.
I’d love to say you should trust my judgement on the basis of my long experience and accumulated wisdom. But I guess I’ve blown that claim…