All hail the power of the Internet. Because it’s never wrong.
Think about it. Never before has there been a means of communication that enables absolutely everyone who uses it the power to be right. First time, every time and all the time.
And more fool those who dare to disagree.
Remember the old saying about how, if you were to lock 100 monkeys in a room, along with 100 typewriters for long enough, the laws of probability would ensure that, eventually, one of them would end up writing the complete works of Shakespeare?
That ancient, albeit popular and enduring representation of the mathematics of probability should now be in danger of being replaced by another, suitably contemporary, example which goes something like this:
If you were to lock 100 Norwich City football fans in a room, together with 100 laptops for long enough, the laws of probability would ensure that, eventually, they would all unanimously agree on at least one issue relating to their club.
I’d have to say however, at the present time, I give the monkeys more chance of cracking Hamlet than 100 of us all agreeing on at least one point of opinion concerning our club – because I’ve never known Norwich City fans to quite so divided, and on quite so many different issues as are we right now.
Chris Hughton. Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Robert Snodgrass. Standing or sitting. The clappers. Goal music. The kick off sing-along of ‘On the Ball City’. David McNally.
Yes, David McNally. Whatever has become of football when the chief executive of a football club is as much a discussed figure as any of the players that play for his club or the games they play?
It seems, increasingly, a peculiar quirk that is unique to football. Do we, after all, question and debate the personality of Stephen Clark (and yes, I had to look it up), the CEO of WH Smith when we pop into the shop to buy a magazine, only to find they don’t have it in stock? Or maybe, after we’ve just done the weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, the fact that the price of a pint of milk has gone up from 82p to 85p, does that necessitate an immediate and very angry Tweet about how Justin King, the supermarket’s chief executive is now rather more Justin Thing than Justin Bling?
Probably not. And let’s face it, most people don’t know who these people are, or even care. They get what they want and move on. There is little or no protest when things go belly up, flop down or underperform. We may allow ourselves the briefest ‘tsk tsk’ in response to an extra few pence on the price of a pint or litre of petrol, but we mostly move on and get on with life.
Yet when David McNally suggests that Norwich City fans are the “envy of world football” as he did this week – well, you’d think he’d just climbed the walls of the Cathedral and strangled the Peregrine chicks that reside there before flambéing them in a wok together with a sauce that, very clearly, wasn’t one that Delia Smith had ever recommended.
Now come on.
He’s tub thumping.
He knows that our support, bless us all, isn’t the envy of world football. And he knows that we know we’re not the envy of world football. Much as fans of Southend United and Bury, for example, know that, when they sing “…we’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen” they know, deep down, they’re probably not. But sing it anyway.
I mean, what’s the alternative?
“Oh we’re Southend United. Southend United FC. And we’re by far the greatest team that the Northern side of the Thames Estuary in Essex has ever seen.”
So let’s maybe cut David a little slack and get onto the point that I want to make and the question I’d like some answers to, as typified by ourselves at the moment and all of those Canary related debating points and issues I listed earlier, not least our very own Mr McNally.
Why are we all so angry at the moment? Because we are. We’re angry about this, angry about that and, well, positively inflamed at the other.
It’s not just Norwich City supporters who are angry mind you. It seems to be more and more of a common trend in the game and all at of its levels. And starting, I’m afraid to say, right at the very top. Which means FIFA. The worldwide governing body of the game is, we are led to believe, split into ever more complicated competing and warring factors within its most powerful and influential members. Take the ongoing fiasco regarding the 2022 World Cup.
The FIFA Secretary General, one Jerome Valcke, recently announced in an interview on French radio that the tournament was now “not likely” to take place during the Qatarian Summer. To which FIFA’s vice-president, Jim Boyce responded on Sky Sports News by saying he was “shocked” and “surprised” at Valcke’s comments, adding that the time and dates that the tournament would be played had “…absolutely not been decided as far as the executive committee are concerned.”
Hackles on both sides of the fence were duly raised and each side of the argument took turns to sling insults and accusations at the other. This went on for a few days before it eventually died down, doubtless because all of those involved had another free junket to think about and were too busy focused on packing their Louis Vuitton suitcases rather than their verbal punches.
Shouldn’t we all, as football supporters, find this rather spectacular difference of opinions rather alarming? It’s hardly, after all, a good example to set. We’ve all had that dressing down at school at one time or another haven’t we, the old “…you haven’t just let the school down, you’ve let yourself down.”
Well FIFA, you do a great job of not just letting yourselves down but you let the game down as well. Everyone at the top of the footballing tree seems to be angry with someone else. Valcke and Boyce would probably have had a right old catfight had anyone given them the chance whilst, in his own ivory encrusted tower, Sepp Blatter – the man God prays to – has publicly mocked Ronaldo, suggested that women players wear smaller shirts and tighter shorts and has, as far as his one-time friend and ally Jack Warner is concerned, seen that the former FIFA Vice President hasn’t so much as been taken to the cleaners as very publicly hung, drawn and quartered.
Sepp is a very angry man indeed.
His FIFA cohorts are just as bad. Not only can they not agree on when and where a World Cup should be played – and it’s not as if the tournament jumps out from a hedge shouting “boo!” to them. They do sort of know when it’s due – they seem to do their very best to make their disagreement and clear rancour with one another very public. It’s like a playground squabble amongst malcontent infants. Except rather than happening at the back of the bike sheds, it takes place in and around the world’s finest resorts and their five star hotels.
Such spats and disagreements are not, however, unique to those Lords of Misrule who sit at the very top of football’s food chain – as well as, it has to be said, the top of the Ritz Carlton in Doha and anyone of the world’s top hotels and international locations – the one thing these boys do seem to be in agreement on is that they like to party.
But no, football’s modern trend for in-fighting, disagreements and cyber punch ups seem to filter right down to the very lowest levels of the game. They start in those gold plated corridors of FIFA and work their way down; down down, deeper and down, to the bottom feeders, the lowest of the low; the proverbial plankton in football’s feeding frenzy.
That is you and me. The fans.
And whilst we may be simple single celled organisms in the eyes of those that prowl the executive suites at the top, they couldn’t do without us. And we know it. The problem is: do they?
I think not.
And that’s a great pity because I do happen to think that, if the world’s football supporters were able to truly unite and be as much a force and voice in the game as the likes of Adidas, Coca Cola and McDonalds then we might, faint hope, might even have the chance to voice it and gain some representation on the world stage.
But, like I said, faint hope. Especially when you find that this squabbling and general rancour doesn’t just regularly erupt between fans of opposing clubs but between those that are supposed to be singing from the same hymn sheet as well.
Name any one of the 92 senior football clubs that play in the English league and you will see disagreements that go beyond the age old friendly debate over a pint. In many cases they verge on the bitter and twisted and even, in some cases, lead to violence.
Yes, violence on the terraces has been replaced by virtual violence fought out over cyberspace. And, just as Arsenal fans bicker over the merits of Wenger and Manchester United followers argue the toss over whether or not Wayne Rooney is (a) a legend or, (b) a mercenary, we’re all now at it ourselves. In-fights, quarrels, name-calling and feuds aplenty which have led to people falling out amidst a barrage of threats and insults that have, at best, led to outright bans from some internet forums and, at worse, suggestions that the combatants meet up somewhere to “sort it out, man to man”.
It all sounds a bit like Millwall and West Ham fans getting it on, so to speak, in the days leading up to a clash at the old Cold Blow Lane. All very Fred Perry and Stone Island; “our firm cordially requests the presence of your firm at…..” That sort of thing.
But no, these wars are fought out in the relative safety of offices and bedrooms across the land, the weapons of choice not so much ‘my mate Stan’ as a QWERTY keyboard and some Dutch courage – with the combatants having one thing in common: they all support the same team.
Thus Arsenal bicker with Arsenal, Chelsea fall out with Chelsea and Cardiff City fight with Cardiff City. Leeds United fans, of course, used to fight anything and anyone. However, now that no-one else is particularly interested in them, they all fight amongst one another as well. A case of ‘we don’t like us, no-one cares.’
And then you have football fans falling out with their own club.
A Bristol City fan started a thread on one of their most popular club sites last year entitled ‘Falling Out Of Love With This Club.’
“I used to love that Friday feeling building up to the game and waking up Saturday morning buzzing to get to the game at Ashton Gate but that is slowly being taken away. The standard response is go and sit in the East End or the H block if you want to get behind the team if not sit there in silence and if you show any passion you will ganged up on by the stewards the way the whole match day experience has been watered down has done it for me Ashton Gate has become sterile and boring not only on the pitch over the last few years but in the stands as well.”
A few years ago, in the build up to England’s ultimately failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup, Karren Brady spoke of her fellow bid members, followers of the England national team and game as a whole, united as one, saying,
“There’s been bickering, infighting and disruption”.
No wonder we only got one vote. What on earth were they all arguing about for goodness sake? The brief was clear – bring the World Cup to England. How on earth did they all get so angry with one another?
Surely there is solace and enjoyment still to be had in the earthier and far more communal world of non-league football? Apparently not. The When Saturday Comes website has a prominent thread concerning the varying displeasures and discontent of the supporters of clubs that play at this level, heartfelt posts with quotes like…
“I think it’s been a steady thing for me, probably starting when we lost the play-off final to Boreham Wood when our captain got punched in the face, but I really feel at the point where I can’t stand it anymore and basically just go to see my mates.”
“The worst part is that all the players then come in after the game for a chicken hotpot and an energy drink (they all seem to drink Red Bull like they’re sponsored by them) and they’re all about 19. And act like they’re 12.”
“I was invited to some sort of jumped-up marketing meeting purely because I was a big mouth on the club forum. It’s the sort of thing that I imagined may happen at Cardiff but now it actually happens, it makes me worry for the club’s future.”
“You have two types of fan at non-league. Some are those who go along when their big club is away or they can’t get tickets or whatever, and they see it as their second club and may not care as much.”
Now admittedly, the relatively light background reading and research I have done prior to writing this piece is hardly conclusive. But it does, for me, point to one very real possibility: that we are all falling out of love with the game. This is reflected by what I referred to earlier: that football fans now seem more likely to fall out with their peers rather than fans of other clubs, whilst also reserving their most strident criticisms towards their own clubs, players, and, most tellingly of all, their fellow supporters. In other words – we’re angry as well. And we’re no happy exception at Carrow Road.
Just two words sum this up for me, two words I have come to despise hearing all the more as the season drags on.
Inner and Outer.
Words that are now as much a part of the day to day Canary lexicon as any other. Two factions who, with the backing of the irrefutable internet that I referred to at the top of this piece, are convinced in the same way that Galileo insisted that the earth was not at the centre of the Universe, and each demanding that the ‘non-believers’ opposite them should be burnt at the stake for their heresy.
At the very least.
The fact we all now seem so ready and able to have a verbal pop at one another seems systematic of a game that now seems to be more of a source of tension, pain and conflict to many of those that follow it – some, I would guess, more out of force of habit than anything else. No-one seems to enjoy football anymore, not in its most simple, joyful, cathartic self. It seems to be less and less about games, goals and glory and more and more about disagreements, disputes and the drama of the boardroom rather than that which takes place on the pitch; that sense and aura of discontent and conflict seeming to permeate through all levels of the game.
Does it get to you? Is football as much fun as it used to be? I’d welcome people’s views and opinions on whether they do find following football and Norwich City as much fun as it was, say, ten, twenty, thirty plus years ago? And if it isn’t so much fun, why is that?
Is it simply down to the money? Or is there more to it than that?
The game has enough detractors and enemies without us turning on ourselves. But some Norwich City supporters have. And the levels of rage and ridicule that each faction regularly hurls at the other is harming no-one more than the club itself and those who we claim to support. So much, it would seem, for the rarely sung but nevertheless very prominent and important few lines that make up On The Ball City. The ones that go as follows;
Let all tonight then drink with me
To the football game we love
And wish it may successful be.
And in one grand united toast
Join player game and song
And fondly pledge your pride and toast
Success to the City club.
I wish that we were all as united as the song proclaims we are. But we’re not. And I, for one, find that rather sad.