As the song goes, ‘it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’.
In supermarkets, it’s been looking a lot like Christmas since late July but with December almost upon us, I figured it wasn’t unreasonable to pen an article with a yuletide spin – especially given the nature of last Saturday’s match and the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ feel to it.
Now before I go on, I’ll offer up an apology. What follows is thoroughly depressing and ill-befitting of a ‘return to competitive action’ having not contributed to MyFootballWriter for several weeks. To be frank, I’ve found it really difficult to summon up the enthusiasm or effort needed to grace this great website with the material you’ve come to expect.
Let me explain…
Most will be aware of the Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol. If not, you’re bound to be able to watch it at some point over the festive period. The story centres on Ebeneezer Scrooge who is visited by three spectres; the ghosts of Christmas’ past, present and future, who try to demonstrate the importance of changing his miserly ways.
On Saturday, 8th November 2008, City conceded a lead and a share of the points to Preston North End in front of a subdued Carrow Road crowd. Glenn Roeder’s side were comprised of journeymen and loan signings who found themselves languishing in the bottom half of the second tier.
And at the same time, I found myself not giving a monkey’s.
In all my years of supporting Norwich City, I have never felt so detached and despondent with the club as I was at that time.
Fast forward nine years and last Saturday evening, I tuned into Channel 5’s Championship highlights show whilst reflecting on yet another ‘bore draw’ at Carrow Road, earlier that afternoon.
The show was the Ghost of Christmas Present; a timely reminder that for supporters of other clubs, football can be fun, with shots on target; goals and actual excitement.
Saturday’s match against Preston, like its predecessor in 2008, left me disenchanted and disillusioned and daydreaming of all the places I could have been instead. Places where I wasn’t freezing cold and bored rigid or fearing that rigor mortis had set in to my legs.
Martin Penney’s recent piece, lamented the lack of heroes within the current squad.
I’m not that precious – I just want to be entertained.
Or failing that – warm.
Currently we carry all the attacking threat of a snail armed with a pea-shooter, laborious; toothless and lacking in any menace or conviction.
And it’s been that way all season. Most of our positive results have come courtesy of a moment of quality from James Maddison; Saturday’s free-kick adding to his strikes at Middlesborough; Reading and Ipswich.
But in recent seasons, such moments would have been the icing on the cakes.
This year, there is no cake.
No chance of a striker bagging himself a 15-goal season. No thumping victories as the divisions’ lesser lights are ruthlessly dispatched.
We create a handful of chances every match and more often than not, we fail to take them. As the chance goes begging, the pulse fails to quicken as you realise it will be another twenty minutes or so before we ‘threaten’ again.
I actually like Daniel Farke and appreciate both his honesty and endeavour. However, his game plan and his team are delivering precious little by way of entertainment or attacking prowess. Oliveira is looking every bit as goal-shy as Cameron Jerome but without the latter’s effort and willingness. Josh looks desperately short of confidence and Wes’s cameos are lacking the sparkle that we’ve become accustomed to over the last decade.
And then there’s Vrancic.
Some would have you believe that he is an enigma and that his languid style fools the uneducated into not appreciating that he’s operating on a higher plane and let down only by his team mates’ lack of movement and vision.
Well if he the best of the bunch then god help us, because uneducated as I am, all I see is a player who is badly ill-equipped for the demands of the Championship.
So what of the Ghost of Christmas Future?
I can’t be alone in noticing the slow decline in attendance figures. It was particularly apparent on Saturday as I took my place in the Upper Barclay amidst a spattering of empty seats. I only turned up out of some ritualistic habit rather than through any sense of anticipation or genuine excitement.
And that really saddens me, for as daft as it sounds, my love affair with Norwich City which has lasted over 35 years is well and truly on the rocks.
We would definitely be in couples’ therapy right now, if that were possible.
I’m sure I could be accused of being a rubbish supporter and there will be those still banging the drum and calling for the twelfth man.
If you’re one of those, I genuinely salute you. You’re made of far sterner stuff than me.
But I fear that I’m not alone. I’m not detecting the anger and venom that’s greeted previous periods of poor results; just a sense of apathy and disillusionment.
Once the passion goes in any relationship, then that’s far more damaging.
Try as I might, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to draw the parallel between Scrooge and our owners. That’s not to say I believe that they share the same ill-intent and mean spirit. Merely that with this crucial season of parachute payments quickly slipping away from us, something has to change, or the outlook really does start to look bleak.
We might just find that for a glimpse of Christmas future, we have to look no further than down the A140 where our ‘nearest and dearest’ are plying their trade in front of a soulless and half empty stadium.