There is an unwritten law when writing for public consumption: while it’s fine to have an opinion, and back said opinion up with relevant evidence or complementary opinion, you don’t alienate your core audience. It’s something I stuck by at Y’Army fanzine and something I’ve always followed while writing for MFW.
It’s something that many comedians have commented on in recent months. Whilst the vast majority of comedy performers are left-leaning, pro-Remain, their audience are just as likely to have voted Brexit, so routines lampooning the gullibility of those believing the lies on the side of a bus are going to offend half their audience, and they hold off accordingly. Back to the safer “Mother-In-Law” routines.
But listening to the transcript of the recent Canaries Trust AGM Q&A, painfully and patiently explained by Robin Sainty, and seeing some of the knee-jerk responses, lacking in any willingness to accept what Stuart Webber was saying, and instead searching desperately for a sign of negativity pushed me to the brink of losing my rag with a section of our, and in turn, MFW’s support. But I kept my own counsel.
I then listened to Stuart Webber’s interview with Radio Norfolk where he discussed the recent public reaction to performances. Webber was up front and pragmatic as always. He admitted that results were not always what they hoped for and that not all parts of the team had settled and gelled yet. The part that jumped out was when he said that those people who had been bored during the first halves against Bolton or Burton (two games that City dominated and created chances without capitalising), should go and support a different team.
That’s someone who understands PR saying “Stop ****ing moaning”, in the politest way possible.
And far from taking offence at a shot across the bows of our fan base, I applauded. Because it’s gone too far.
As much as I try to stand back and let a lot of these current storm-in-a-teacup-de-jours blow-out, because I don’t want to get involved in the mostly pointless back-and-forth, I can’t bring myself to pretend not to have a side anymore. While impartiality has its place, I’m done with politeness and patronising.
By all means, discuss the Webberlution and its effectiveness. Look at the brand of football Daniel Farke has instilled and debate its relative merits. But if you’re one of those Canary Callers that wants to criticise “the cook”, pull the plug on the last 12 months work and get in an Alan Pardew or Tony Pulis, or “get it forward” instead of “all that passing”, I’m not writing the article you want to be reading.
And it’s not because I simply disagree with your point of view. God knows I could list the reasons why I do. But it’s more than that. It’s because you’re sabotaging, as you want to be right more than you want this club to succeed.
And yes, the answer to this will be “ludicrous, we don’t decide the tactics. We don’t buy the players. We don’t pick the team”. All of which is correct.
What’s also correct is that you have the patience of a sugared-up child who has missed their Ritalin. If you don’t see a victory at Carrow Road on a Saturday afternoon you sulk like a goth teenager and demand the world burns.
Following Norwich City in recent years has been a bi-polar experience. We’ve been either chasing promotion or fighting relegation. The law of averages says we were due a mid-table season or two. But what is important is what you try to do with that time.
Now we could have sat back, done nothing new, and appointed a bog standard, got a promotion-from-a-decade-ago newly-sacked manager. Say-a-Mick-McCarthy-type figure. And in six years’ time be sat here no better off.
Instead, we took the road less travelled. One that involved genuine core change to correct the mistakes of the past. One that would be unlikely to produce a few immediate good results and a false dawn. And requiring that key ingredient: the patience to allow the system to bed in, through good and bad. To trust the process.
It’s a gutsy call. And one that I for one, think we needed to make. Far riskier than sticking with the same old formula.
To support, to really support, is to back the club. On and off the field.
And I’m not talking blind faith. Cheering when we’re getting hammered. I’m talking looking at the overall situation pragmatically and not reacting like a faux-appalled politician in the Houses of Parliament as a member of the opposition makes a point, every time we concede.
I’m talking about accepting that the club have made a massive sea change and giving it the time it deserves to play out. Stuart Webber said when he took over that it would take four or five transfer windows for Daniel Farke to have the squad he wanted. He’s had two. We’ve not got it right with every transfer, but we have picked up some really good players. And we’ve lowered the age of the squad. And we’ve lowered the wage bill.
Going back to comedians, Jim Jefferies does a wonderful routine when considering religion. He describes humanity as a train. The people in the driver’s carriage are the scientists. They’re pulling humanity along, creating new ideas and making the train go as fast as possible. Then come the atheists who happily follow the ideas because they trust the empirical evidence supplied by the scientists. What slows the train down are those who follow organised religion in the back carriage. There are millions of them. And they’re constantly questioning the scientists’ findings with ”but what would God think of that?” and slowing the train (and thus the species) down with the debate. Jefferies goes on to suggest that if we all just uncoupled the carriage with the religious on it, humanity could move forward at a much faster pace by leaving them behind.
That’s how I feel about the sceptics and the Canary Callers. The board made its decision last summer. Webber has planned the route forward. Farke is driving the train in that direction. And most people are accepting that and sitting back in the second carriage to try and enjoy what may be, at times, a bumpy ride. But the last carriage is holding us back. They’re suggesting we get a new train driver every time we take a slight detour. They’re looking for a stray word in every tannoy announcement in order to have something to moan about. And we all then have to be polite and take their bull**** seriously and answer their whines like we’re explaining complex grown-up issues to a toddler. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just uncouple the carriage and leave them while the rest of us move on?
We are not going to see the fruits of Webber’s new regime, or Farke’s system until we have undone the recruitment mistakes of the past and replaced them with a squad of players with the right contracts who have been hand-picked for the system. And you know what, it may never work out. But it’s better to try something new and scary than to settle for old and predictably bland.
If you can’t wait that long, if you don’t have the patience, then do as Stuart Webber suggests and go and support another club. A Premier League giant who can throw money at a problem and expect an easily funded solution. But don’t pretend to have given this a chance. And don’t be offended if I call you something uncomplimentary.