If last weekend was the perfect way to sign off at home – and to say farewell to a club legend – then yesterday’s final away-day of the season was the complete antithesis.
I’m not sure there is an antonym for ‘if Carlsberg did…’ but if there is one, then in terms of last days yesterday was it. A total 5hitfest with bells and whistles if ever there was one.
If stinking the place out wasn’t bad enough, to then learn that our one genuine saleable asset – the one who was to be used to plug they ugly, black financial hole that is about to engulf us – has picked up a potentially long-term knee injury, was a double whammy.
News that our friends down south usurped us for the first time since 2008/09 made it a triple and delivered a sprinkling of sea salt in an already gaping, festering wound.
What a day.
Timm Klose said the players were ‘embarrassed’. I’d go with that. So they should be.
While it was ugly enough for those who watched from afar, for those hardcore fans who made the trip it must have been undiluted agony. I understand a cocktail of smoke bombs and scuffles among our own fans topped off an already grim afternoon.
They’re the ones Timm should have been fronting up to. And, to be fair, he probably would have.
On the scenario scale, this one completely slid off it at the bad end. The old clichés about getting a rotten defeat out of the system as soon as by putting things right on the training pitch or, better still, by playing again within a few days are totally null and void.
You’ve the best part of two months to cogitate over this one, lads.
I concluded last Sunday’s post-Wes piece with the line ‘it was one of those afternoon’s when it felt we were all, for a few fleeting moments, united. And it was nice.’
That’s not a line I’ll be repeating this week. Last night social media revealed the #NCFC crowd to be as fragmented and divided as at any time over the season. 5-1 thumpings tend to have that effect.
Of course, in the greater scheme of things, yesterday didn’t matter. What’s the difference in finishing 12th to finishing 14th apart from the small matter of bragging rights? And, for once, we could understand the players having one eye on the beach, right?
Except Wednesday had equally little to play for, yet still somehow found the wherewithal to deliver their fans a performance. And try telling those who sported yellow and green at Hillsborough yesterday that it didn’t matter. It really did.
So, we now enter the summer break in the worst possible fettle. The fans’ ire will calm once the Hillsborough dust has settled but those who question the current path have been offered yet more ammunition.
Personally, I’m not sure that one really horrible afternoon in Sheffield is sufficient evidence to rip the project up and start again – and that’s certainly not going to happen anyway – but what it did was act as a salutary reminder of the fragility of this new model.
Make no mistake, the Maddison injury – if it renders him unsaleable over the summer – has thrown one massive spanner in the works. He was the means by which the financial cogs were going to continue to turn:
- To plug the aforementioned £23 million(ish) financial shortfall.
- To release a little bit of cash with which to wheel and deal in Lidl and Aldi.
Yet, one nasty injury to one player has possibly tilted the Canary world on its axis. I’d argue that’s the epitome of fragile.
I’ll not re-open the ownership debate because folk are tired of my bleating – and we’ve concluded that money doesn’t buy promotion – but all I will say is it’s a thin line we are treading right now and will continue to be while certain players with certain lucrative contracts are still on the books.
If I could fast-forward to June 2019, I would.
All of which leaves season 2018/19 as one, massive, mysterious unknown. But we do know frugality and shoestring will be the buzzwords.
That we have a plan is, to me at least, some consolation, and, as I’ve said before, in Steve Stone and Stuart Webber we have two exec directors who have clearly embraced the limitations they’re working within – but after the events of yesterday, it’d take the happiest of clappers to not feel just a little deflated.
The blows came thick and fast yesterday. The next few weeks will be spent bobbing and weaving, trying to ensure none of them land on the point of the chin.
Quite why the fixture computer insists on sending us to Hillsborough on the final day I have no idea, but I wish it wouldn’t. City’s record there is dire and there was a ghastly inevitability about yesterday’s outcome, if not the way other events unfolded.
And then to top it all we had ex-coaches and ex-players chirping up last night, glorifying in our 14th place finish. Marvellous.
So, City’s lowest finish in the footballing pyramid since the Roeder-induced relegation of 2008/09, all nicely rounded off with our biggest defeat of the season. Still, to consider it in context is, of course, important and however much we detest the word, this is a club in transition. The turnover of staff has been massive and coupled with a change in culture it was always destined to be a tough one.
The big question is what are we transitioning to? And what happens if this time next season if we haven’t progressed beyond 14th?
To paraphrase the great Sir Alex – Norwich City, bloody hell!