At Norwich these days, of course, we do have something special to feel good about: goals and wins. After 12 games the table doesn’t lie – and we sit at the top of it.
We all know of ‘mind games’, especially between managers: their aim is to disturb the focus and equilibrium of the opponent, just as a good striker drags opposition defenders into areas they don’t want to be in.
On opening day he said we’d cause opponents a lot of problems. The constant question from fans during the transfer window – “where will the goals come from?” – has been emphatically answered with 21 in the first 11 games.
The now famous (infamous?) dressing-room picture after the game suggested that the players knew they’d done something special, and perhaps taken an important step on the path to success. Early days still, of course, but they proved to us – and to themselves – that they could rise to a real challenge.
I just hope the person leaving in front of me on Saturday and muttering about Jacob Murphy is in a small minority. We’ll need different ways to break down opponents this season, and the Murphys have a special ability to take on defenders.
No-one could say that Alex has had an easy time of it. After sweeping all before him in the Championship, he had a real baptism of fire in the Premier League – a 34 year old, with the most modest squad in the division, taking on the world’s elite.
Our Board, recruitment team and manager have been written-off as not fit for purpose. Some would like to see all three, not just our chairman, waltz off into the sunset.
While it may not take 200 years to judge the current season, it’s certainly still early days. That hasn’t stopped City fans taking to social media to give a range of verdicts. It seems their glasses vary from brimming over to the thinnest of dregs. A bit of perspective may be called for…
Wes is much the same. From the Sheffield Wednesday game, you could produce a two-minute video making Wes look a complete liability. You could also produce one making him look a world-beating playmaker…
Football is littered with examples, from Leeds to Portsmouth to QPR, of clubs over-stretching and setting themselves back years. Because many of our fans seem oblivious to those dangers, some of us are tempted to keep reminding them at the risk of sounding like spoilsports who’ll settle for less than best for City.
Quality matters, but – as Paul Lambert showed in his one Championship season with us – not as much as mentality. A relegated team has got used to losing, whatever its quality, unless it can shake off that mindset, is going to be vulnerable to hungrier and mentally more positive teams.
I’ve seen suggestions from fans about our summer business, including some who want to keep all our top earners and most valuable assets, then add some. Unless Bournemouth’s billionaire suddenly feels an irresistible urge to relocate to Norfolk, that’s not happening.
Faced with the inevitability of City’s relegation, he will have turned in on his own role. The clear shortcomings of player recruitment, especially in the summer, are at his door. He’ll have felt, I suspect, that he let us down.
At least 85 per cent of football fans will finish this season frustrated. Television will show celebrations from across the leagues, but the norm is actually despair and recrimination.
The coming weekend may be difficult for us. The season climax always brings unexpected results, but in theory our rivals’ games are easier than ours this time, and we may find ourselves deep in the bottom three by Saturday night.
Our performance was variously described by fans on Saturday night as a “no-show”, “capitulation” and “disgrace”. I’ve checked back over the action and match figures, and they back up my recall. It was none of those things.
I thought that seven points from three games might create sufficient composure that we wouldn’t panic at a setback. Apparently not. Saturday night saw gloom-and-doom set in with a vengeance; on social media fans queued up to express their despair.
While Jeff Stelling announced our winner as “the goal that could keep one club up and send another down”, the Sunday Telegraph billed it as a goal that “set Norwich on course for Premier League safety”.
The meaning of Easter has always been clear to me: a biting east wind and two league games. We’ve had the wind, but it’s Leagues 1 and 2 who have the games. Even with an unexpectedly heartening England performance, it just doesn’t feel right.
Our belief, and its translation into vocal backing, can genuinely help the club we love. Though I hated not being able to go to The Hawthorns, it was wonderful compensation to hear On the Ball City loud and clear over the radio.