As ill-timed as the international break seems, it does provide an insight into how the wider football community perceives Norwich City FC.
Most of us believe that on a national level we’re sold a little short.
Mick Dennis does his best to champion the Canary cause – and a good job he does too – although I get the feeling his is pretty much a lone voice. Others, we know, are fellow ‘Yellows’ but are less overt when declaring their allegiances – which is fair enough.
As far as the written media goes I think we do OK. Respected national writers – I’m thinking of Henry Winter in particular – have waxed lyrical over some of the good performances and you get the feeling we’re reasonably well respected.
The biggest problem I have – and yes, it is a personal thing – is the way we are viewed and reported on national TV and radio. I’m sure I’m not the only Yellow Army disciple to feel this way and I’ve also no doubt this is a feeling shared with many supporters of teams outside of the top six.
Criticism of poor performances I can handle. After all – taking the Fulham game as an example – there are times when you just have to hold your hands up and say ‘We were rubbish!’. If Alan Hansen chooses to scrutinise the poor starting positions of our back-four after we’ve just taken a hammering, then fair enough.
Where it starts to irk is when good performances go unrecognised or are dismissed as the net result of the opposition playing badly. And this does happen… fairly often.
I find Talksport to be particularly guilty of this, and can’t pretend to enjoy the anti-Norwich vibe I get from several of their presenters. Quite whether one Alan Brazil has enough gravitas to influence some of his colleagues I somehow doubt but, unless your team is one of the top six, any form of praise is often accompanied by a condescending tone.
There are of course exceptions, and a couple of the Talksport professionals – Mark Saggers and Ian Danter – both give a fair hearing to those clubs not considered to be among the elite.
And then we come to our old friends on Match of the Day, or #MOTD as it’s more commonly known these days.
I’m not about to join the Twitter ‘Why are we nearly always on last?’ bandwagon, because I’m not sure there is a case. Yes, we do have our fair share of being one of the ‘before we go’ games, but I’m fairly sure most non-elite clubs feel similar.
There are occasions, when things have gone less than well, and I’ve been quite glad to be an afterthought.
Where the MOTD boys let themselves down, in my eyes, is their failure to justify some of their dismissive put-downs. A prime example is the classic ‘Norwich will find it difficult this season’, shortly followed by ‘QPR’ will be fine – both off the back of the same 0-5 score-line on opening day.
No justification by that well-respected former England centre-forward, but presumably based on the fact that Tony Fernandez had permitted Mark Hughes a summer transfer ‘trolley-dash’.
Far be it for me to question their footballing knowledge, but my definition of punditry is to give an opinion and then support it with some rhyme and reason. Not to dismiss the chances of a small club just based, presumably, on one’s ability to spend.
Sky Sports do their best to appear inclusive, but given their commercial interests they struggle to disguise their lack of interest in the ‘bottom 14’… Survival Sunday apart.
Whether the media perception of City is simply ‘small club syndrome’ is a moot point.
There have undoubtedly been occasions in the not too distant past when we’ve revelled in this label… made capital out of it even. Delia, bless her, made numerous mentions of our lack of stature in the 2004/05 Premiership foray.
Perhaps it’s just me – but I don’t consider us to be ‘little Norwich’ any more. I don’t consider our stay in the top flight to be short-term, and I certainly don’t think we should just make the most of it and just enjoy every moment.
I’m sure that Messrs McNally and Hughton would agree.
I hope I’m not made to eat my words – football is after all a cyclical by nature – but I consider us to be a club now more than equipped to cling on to the shirt tails of the big boys. Maybe not sufficient in wealth to break into the top six cartel, but big enough to get under their skin and upset a few.
What does intrigue me is how we are perceived within the game. With media training now a pre-requisite of top level football it is now virtually impossible to know exactly what a manager or player is really thinking. One interview sounds very much the same as the next (clichés et al) there is no way of finding out their innermost thoughts – let alone their actual view of ‘little Norwich’.
I suspect a clue may have been inadvertently provided by Roy Hodgson when faced with some call-offs in his latest England squad. Intriguingly, instead of looking at Bradley Johnson or the equally magnificent Jonny Howson, he turned to Tottenham’s Jake Livermore to provide cover for the central midfield area.
One can only assume dear old Roy wasn’t as White Hart Lane on 1st September, when both bossed a central midfield area in which Livermore was notable by his absence.
But, where are where we are and – before my dad reminds me – it’s not always a bad thing to be under the radar.
Let’s just hope the promise of the last two games is built upon, and we can make those #MOTD boys choke on some #NCFC praise at around 10 o’clock on Sunday 13th May 2013.