Being a part of the travelling contingent who witnessed Sheffield United’s last minute winner, the proliferation of groans reinforced the growing sense of bewilderment around the direction in which Norwich City are heading.
Under Alex Neil it was apathy, under Chris Hughton it was tedium and under Daniel Farke it’s been underwhelm. Let’s deal in facts, City have ended a season in 14th and began the following campaign by registering a single point in three games.
As I write this, Norwich have recorded three wins from 19 games and whether you are part of the glass half full or empty camp that’s an uncomfortable stat.
But, there is an option that you can believe in the project but have doubts about Daniel Farke. Those two factors aren’t mutually exclusive.
However, any talk of removing the head coach after three games is nonsensical.
By design, this isn’t a piece in the mould of social media echo chambers that have already relegated Norwich and sacked Farke, but hopefully one that can provide a voice of calm and context amongst a sea of panic and concern.
Performance wise, there was plenty to be positive about at Bramall Lane. Norwich moved the ball with genuine intent and fluidity with a keenness to get forward, and additionally were successful in riding out out the initial pressure from Sheffield United. Had this have been last season, it is plausible City would have crumbled under the intense pressing and physicality of the Blades.
Performances are forgotten because ultimately points win prizes; supporters don’t care how those points are earned as long as they are.
Often, having a foundation of positive performances leads to results, but until they do Norwich’s performances can be as impressive and as encouraging as they like. Ultimately, they are yet to provide a period of consistent success during Farke’s jurisdiction.
For every statistic that provides a reason to be cheerful, there is another which creates a real cause for concern.
For example, Farke highlighted the fact Norwich were leading their fellow competitors on shots on target and possession. He opted to emphasise those numbers to suit his cause, but there are statistics which contrast those: the fact Norwich haven’t kept a clean sheet in 2018 or are 21st out of 24 for their aerial duels won.
The difference of opinions is usually reliant on taking selected facts and figures to support their viewpoint.
There is no right and wrong. While performances have been impressive and, arguably, improved, the longer supporters cast their eyes to that win column and see zero, the more those concerns increase.
To reject any cause for concern is naive, but predicting relegation and impending doom is equally as frivolous.
Everything that surrounds City’s attempted philosophy is all about pragmatism and logic. Farke’s football can be coined as theoretical football. It’s rehearsed and predicted in cases, but it’s pragmatic.
If you have more of the ball, the likelihood of the opposition scoring is reduced. The more shots you have on target, the more likely a goal is to go in.
What this ignores is the mental and emotional side of the game.
Fans will lament a lack of passion and desire, but in any footballer that simply isn’t the case. No player steps out onto the pitch with the sole intention of losing the game.
But that pragmatic, theoretical approach makes every scenario rehearsed; it doesn’t allow players to freely make decisions but more relies upon an impeccable game plan to be carried out meticulously.
Norwich still aren’t the final product, but Farke won’t be allowed the time to craft because he has constructed his own squad in a style that a vocal part of the fan base finds regressive and tedious. Self-infliction has hindered Norwich’s start, and Farke doesn’t reel off excuses but often finds reasoned conclusions for a loss.
Yet this idea that Norwich are a hostage to fortune and possess bad luck is a myth. He is persisting with an unnatural right back and a system of defending set pieces that has led to numerous concessions.
It’s undeniable to say that Norwich have progressed as a club and a squad from the one which offered naive and inexperienced displays at Millwall, Villa and QPR but the regressive trends of lacking quality in both boxes is still pertinent.
There is indifference about watching Norwich at present. The gap between the top performers and the least effective is too large and their weaknesses are being exploited as word spreads like wildfire in this division.
Stuart Webber spoke of marginal gains at the Fans Forum on Thursday, and the club are attempting everything to kick-start a project which offered so much promise and possesses so much potential but is cruising in second gear.
Football is a game of fine margins, and there’s a reason Norwich continually find themselves on the wrong side of those.
There is no crystal ball or ability to glance in the future. Those who are opting to right off the season and criticise whilst emotion is raw have a genuine reason to be concerned. The script needs changing and for Preston to feel like a must win is bizarre and in regards to the complexion of the season, it probably isn’t.
It does though feel defining for opinions of a head coach who is under mounting pressure.
Equally, those who remain positive are doing so because of the nature of performances and the fact that Norwich could quite plausibly be sitting with nine points from nine.
It’s an odd time, but improvement needs to be seen and that is something that cannot be denied, regardless of which side of the fence you sit.