At time of writing, City sit top of the Championship – they have won their last five games.
Later today, they could potentially be sitting seven points clear of third placed Sheffield United. depending on how their game against second-placed Leeds United goes. This season has been one full of joyous moments, togetherness and a real feeling of positivity.
This makes it all the more surprising that, this week, Carrow Road became a place where a minority displayed their discontent towards someone donning a jersey with the yellow Canary emblazoned upon their chest.
Football is a game of opinions, some possess more substance than others, but that doesn’t discredit any. That’s the right of any football supporter and, by design, this isn’t an article which will bemoan supporters or question why Tim Krul received the response he did after his mistake but will instead reflect upon the role supporters have to play.
Stuart Webber has mentioned on numerous occasions the importance of marginal gains. Football is not alone in this – even in sports who meticulously study every inch of performance, like Formula One, marginal gains are a vital component to success. Sadly, in the aforementioned example, they don’t possess the fan dynamic available in football.
Plenty is made in the current climate questioning around how much impact creating an atmosphere and a vibrant environment inside a ground translates to performances. Does singing louder result in the players running more? Does it make them feel taller?
Carrow Road is resplendent right now. Gone are the days of it an atmospheric void where hearing any degree of sound from the terrace was a shock to the system. Draped in flags, colourful and loud, the ground has been transformed. The work of Along Come Norwich and the Barclay End Norwich is there for all to see.
Creating a footballing theatre is important, and if you happen to have seen German games or witnessed the colour, emotion and passion of clubs overseas, you begin to recognise that for many years the English game has been operating in an alternative universe.
Instead, English football is generally an environment full of expectation and media scrutiny, one that has been created for the supporters but not by the supporters. And let’s be frank, it’s simpler to opt against making noise, being passive and submissive to the surroundings. Again, how individuals wish to watch football is a matter for them.
For clarity, whether you wish to sing yourself hoarse or wish to watch the match in calmer surroundings – like myself – is a purely individual choice. There is no correct way to watch football or to be a fan, but each of the 27,000 packed inside Carrow Road have a collective responsibility.
And there is no denying that those difference in viewing preferences mean that creating a vibrant atmosphere will always pose challenges.
But that vibrant atmosphere is so vital especially when it’s one that even permits players to make mistakes, some of which may result in conceding goals, and is sometimes even more pivotal than having the crowd sing itself hoarse.
However, if you can bring together both of those elements – a positive atmosphere and an understanding environment – then you have a place where footballers can operate consistently.
Simply because a player is older, has played more games than most or has made mistakes previously, doesn’t mean he is fair game for heckling or slander. Reference the case study of the Murphy twins – they received, fairly and unfairly, rightly and wrongly, differing scales of put downs and critiques.
But if they had operated in an environment where their flaws were accepted, where their personalities were recognised and respected, then that could have constructed an environment in which they improved beyond their current ceiling.
Experienced players don’t warrant that reaction where every mistake results in an intense vilification. Debate, analysis and critique of players is acceptable – that’s football and is why we love it – but the manner in which its conducted needs to improve.
If criticism is noticeable to those in the boardroom who have been asking for patience and understanding and by those donning the yellow and green, then quite simply it’s unhelpful. It needs evolving. This group is a broad church, dynamic and relatable, but they require an understanding environment when they operate, or you risk affecting their ability to express themselves.
Subconsciously that will alter whether a player opts to pick the risky or simple pass. Or whether the goalkeeper opts to go long or show courage to play out and allow Norwich to play Farke-ball, as opposed to resorting to the simple option. This is a side constructed on risk-taking, it’s a pivotal part of their off and on field approach.
It takes a while to create an environment but only a second to deconstruct it.
The marginal gains around singing with gusto are obvious but that positive environment, opting to clap over jeer, support over criticise and believe over belittling are a big part of what has taken us this far.
And name me a team that warrants that sort of environment more than this current one.
The vibrancy, talent and fearlessness with which they operate is integral to why they sit top of the tree. That’s something supporters should cherish and seek to ignite, not to demolish.
Should this side reach the Premier League, this environment could be the difference between one point and three. The same goes for the current situation.
Five games at Carrow Road could see City cross the finish line – the difference in one of those fixtures could be a player opting for the difficult route compared to the easy one. Carrow Road should resemble this team: unstoppable, unflappable while rolling with the punches.
Let’s create an atmosphere for our players to display their talent and put their finest foot forward not one which creates unnecessary self-doubt.
This team deserves it.