The phrase “little old Norwich” had become so widespread amongst Norwich fans, that there had been talk that it may take its place in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Little Old Norwich (adj): Unworthy, not deserving of a lofty status. In a fortunate/false position.
It’s very welcoming, therefore, to see that both club and fan are doing their best to reject that once widely held (conscious or otherwise) belief. Long gone are the attitudes that followed our Championship success in 2004-which saw Nigel Worthington criticised by some supporters for his perceived belief that we were going up just to “enjoy ourselves” and have some “great days out” at some of the grander stadia of English football.
Apocryphal or not, that accusation, about both Manager and club remains. The popular belief is that the club was more interested in enjoying its unexpected foray into the Premier League rather than buckling down and doing whatever was needed to ensure foundations were laid for a longer stay.
The delayed signing of Dean Ashton is often cited as systematic of this attitude. It has long been argued that had Ashton, signed with City in the bottom three that January, been available from August, his presence and goals may well have kept us up. Hindsight of course-we’ll never know for sure if this would have been the case. But, minus both Ashton and the recently departed Iwan Roberts, we headed into games against opposition like Newcastle, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool with Gary Doherty playing as centre forward and the 5’ 8” Simon Charlton in the centre of our defence.
It seemed careless, a folly. I’ve said it before-fail to prepare, prepare to fail. On a footballing scale, we did that to perfection during those opening months of the 2004/05 season. What does it say to you?
Yep. Little old Norwich.
Consider then, the difference in attitude towards our Premier League status this time around. It has been stellar and is evident at all levels.
And it has come right from the top downwards with no less a figure than the club Chairman publicly stating, “…I’m not going to fall into the trap that previous chairmen did of underestimating the power of the Premier League and being there. So we will be there next year”. Delia Smith, meanwhile, in response to an AGM question asking about the possibility of cheaper season tickets responds by saying, “What would you rather have – Premier League football or cheaper tickets?”
That’s fighting talk.
RIP Little old Norwich has flown the nest. Mean, ambitious and focused Norwich City is here. The people at the top say it and mean it, the players believe it and respond accordingly and the fans love it. Ambition, belief, focus. At last.
Something which seems to have occurred unnoticed by both the national media and fans of other clubs. Because in their eyes, we’re still ‘little old Norwich’.
Respected ex-professionals and media commentators alike made their pronouncements during the Summer and, almost as one, tipped the Canaries for relegation.
Likewise, all of the major bookies. In listing the three clubs most likely, in their eyes, to go down come May, they squabbled over a few names and choices but were pretty much certain on one thing. Norwich City would be one of them.
Some of the games noisier pundits even claimed a moral victory as the season opened and the first few rounds of matches were played, with someone called Adrian Durham stating on TalkSport that Norwich City were the “worse side in Premier League history.”
Despite all of this, Norwich City refused to slip into the role of the perpetual gallant loser. As the results and performances began to accumulate in our favour, it became swiftly apparent that the only reason that the Canaries had got a good result was the paucity of our opponents performance. Grim and aghast fans of Tottenham, Stoke City, Reading, Arsenal and Manchester United searched long and hard for an explanation, a reason why their club had not, unfeasibly, come away from their clash with Norwich City with the three points that was not just their expectation, but their entitlement.
The excuses, oh the excuses…
The most popular one is that their team played badly on the day. But not just badly. Oh no, because even if you play badly, you still expect to beat Norwich City with something to spare. No, their performance was abject, pitiful, the worse they had ever seen their team perform. One supporter of an opposing team claimed, amidst the gloom of defeat to Norwich that it was the worse his team had “ever” played-in over one hundred years of history! Or, in this case, since we had also beaten them last season when, yes, you’ve guessed it had also been the worse they’d ever played. Funny that.
There have been other excuses. Assorted refereeing decisions. The weather. The pitch. The fact Michael Carrick was playing. The Norwich goal should not have been allowed. Grant Holt-no reason why, just Grant Holt. How opposing fans hate him-and how much they’d love him in their first XI. This, that, the other. Even the long distance involved in travelling to Norwich and the resultant “tired” players. So many tales of woe, so many increasingly desperate attempts to reason defeat to ‘little old Norwich’. Opposing fans, it would seem, simply cannot bear the thought of losing to Norwich City. It’s footballing schadenfreude. And I’m loving it.
Just as I’m loving the all new, progressive Norwich City. Steely eyed, focused, and determined to do well. ‘Little old Norwich’ no more-just don’t tell the fans of the other nineteen Premier League clubs.
Not yet anyway.