When I was a sixth former I had to read many “classic” books of English literature, several of which I could barely finish and very few that I actually enjoyed reading.
As I trooped long-faced out of Carrow Road on Friday night a section of one of these returned from the past to hit me hard: The Slough of Despond from John Bunyan’s 1678 allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress.
I won’t bore readers with the storyline [such as it is] but the Slough itself has nothing to with what, at least according to Sir John Betjeman, is the most boring town in Southern England. Sir John cheerfully wrote Come Friendly Bombs and Rain on Slough. I guess Sir John had never been to Crawley. Or Dartford.
This Slough was a quicksand-like bog that once encountered was almost impossible to escape from, although Bunyan’s protagonist Christian did eventually manage to extricate himself.
I had to fight my way through cancelled buses, one that eventually turned up that would only stop at St Stephens and a massive crowd gathered for the evening’s vibrant firework display, which saw three of us adopting great politeness and the occasional pertinent stare to get through. I got to the ground at two minutes to eight. Phew!
After appreciating a truly emotional Last Post and minute’s silence I could relax. For all of 90 seconds.
Emi Buendia tried a drag-back in his own half and Gerard Deulofeu mugged him, progressed at speed, sold Tom Trybull a dummy and despatched with ease past a helpless Tim Krul. There’s no hiding it, that was really one of those “Oh $hit” moments that has so far summed up our season.
It could have become quickly worse as a wasteful Daryl Janmaat lofted a free header over the bar. We were out-muscled, outthought and ineffective throughout the remainder of the half.
Words were exchanged in the Upper Barclay bar at half-time. None of them polite or positive about the team I’m afraid and it would appear from my brief straw poll that the concept of self-sustainability is rapidly losing its charm. The one positive we took was that the second half simply had to be better than the first.
However, the Slough of Despond is notoriously hard to escape from and on 52 minutes we were shoved further into its boggy depths.
Andre Gray seemed to outwit Jamal Lewis from a Deulofeu cross and a cheeky flick made it 2-0. This quite understandably brought the Watford fans to life as from that point on they knew this was an Along Come Norwich moment and they were set for their first win of the season.
Watford generously tried to help us out when Christian [not the one in Bunyan’s book] Kabasele collected a second yellow for a naughty one on Josip Drmic but in truth, we were no better against ten men than we were against eleven.
Lewis had a fizzer well-saved by the evergreen Ben Foster and Todd Cantwell introduced a bit of urgency when he appeared in place of Buendia. He also sent a free-kick into the stands and in my opinion isn’t exactly cut out to take corners.
Positives? From this one? I’m sorry folks I’m scraping the barrel so all I can proffer is the improved performance of the Stieperdude and the fact that Onel Hernandez is obviously fully fit, although when it comes to putting in the crosses the term f*nnying around comes to mind.
So many MFW readers and writers alike have mentioned that we are simply not athletic enough at this level and never has that been more obvious than against the Hornets on Friday.
Our immediate prospects look grim and there’s no hiding that. One Zimmermann is unlikely to make a winter.
Waking up yesterday morning I read the quotes from Daniel Farke, Onel and many of the fans.
I’m always prepared to acknowledge it when we have been beaten by a better side. The trouble is I get fed up with making these acknowledgements after virtually every game.
It’s not looking good folks – it really isn’t.
It’s not quite bad enough yet to daub Abandon hope all ye who enter here on the entrances to the Barclay and River End – that phrase belongs with Dante’s Divine Comedy and London’s Clink Prison for now.
But we’re in the Slough of Despond all right and if we don’t somehow pick up a dozen points by Christmas we’ll be there for the long haul.