I’m never sure whether travel actually broadens the mind, but I enjoy it.
It certainly refreshes the mind to experience new places and people, to take in different cultures. And, inevitably, to find creative ways of following the fortunes of Norwich City.
Advances in technology have reduced the need for extreme measures (my efforts during the Seventies and Eighties can best be described as “where there’s a will there’s a way”, casting aside all my natural reticence to beg for help in strange places). But it can still have an element of challenge, and certainly a capacity to perplex fellow travellers.
In most places you can now get Wi-Fi. Over the past fortnight I’ve discovered that an exception is if you’re on a steamboat in the lower reaches of the Mississippi. No Wi-Fi, rendering my carefully chosen and primed devices useless. Yet City were playing at Middlesbrough and Reading, and I had to know how they were doing.
The solution was one official machine that got at least intermittent connection to the internet. It was meant to be shared by 400 passengers, but once I got onto it – late in the first half of each game – my fellow passengers soon realized I wasn’t going to relinquish it. BBC text commentary would have to do, with scores updated every two minutes.
The final score in each case was ecstasy, of course, but the process was agony. Einstein somehow missed this easy proof of Relativity: time passes at an entirely different rate depending on whether you’re 1-0 up or 1-0 down.
By the third minute of added time at Boro I could no longer stand the delay in score updates, so went to Twitter and saw Robin Sainty’s succinct and sweet post …
WHAT A BLOODY WIN!!!!!!
— Robin Sainty (@RobinNCST) September 26, 2017
The only time I can remember enjoying a Tweet written in capitals.
I’ve therefore come back to a completely changed mood among the City faithful, even the usually skeptical social media community.
Clearly, there’s some reason for optimism. Up to the last international break, we didn’t know whether Daniel Farke could show the tactical flexibility, or inspire the bodies-on-the-line passion, that’s required to get points at places like Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Reading. We now know he can and does.
We can now say we have the capability to do well in this division. It’s reasonable to think we’ll improve as the season progresses, and could be a big factor come April and May.
But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. If I’m to claim (as I did after Millwall) to be a voice of balance and perspective, I must now shift ground and urge that we rein in the optimism a bit.
Actually, I don’t need to be that voice. We’ve heard it from another source in the past few days: “There will be other dips. The road will continue to be bumpy. We might have another Millwall at some point”
Was that Dave B, Jeff or another of our regular cynics? No – it was Stuart Webber. Worth listening to, as always.
Actually, I hope there won’t be another Millwall. For all our attacking verve and 5-0 wins, last season will be remembered for the gutless no-shows which punctuated it from St Andrews to Hillsborough. For now, Daniel Farke seems to have exorcised that mentality; let’s hope it doesn’t reappear.
An uneven road in terms of performance, though, is surely to be expected.
It’s still hard to grasp the extent of last summer’s change, across both the coaching and playing staff. If a normal summer’s turnover can be compared to a minor tremor, then summer 2017 was the asteroid strike of 65 million years ago that wiped out 75 per cent of the earth’s species.
Appropriately for the comparison, that asteroid strike wiped out the dinosaurs. At a stroke, we’ve reduced the average age of our squad by five years. Most of the new arrivals had never played in the Championship, or any league like it. Some who are now key players for us – Trybull, Stiepermann, Zimmermann – I’d never heard of before we signed them. Our new keeper had never made a league start.
Of the team that won at Middlesbrough, only Ivo Pinto and Timm Klose played in the final game of last season; the majority only joined us in the summer.
Given that inexperience, we can’t expect the next few months to be plain sailing. On the other hand, Stuart Webber has already engineered a better balanced squad with options for every position and a range of formations.
Webber’s candour about our challenges and weaknesses should give credibility to his positive claims. I believe, and take encouragement from, his summary:
“We still have a long way to go. We’re not settling for where we are now.
We’ve made small steps, but we’re going in the right direction”