From the seats at Carrow Road, on this website and others, and in social media forums, many different words have been thrown at Norwich City and its players this season.
Some highly-paid pundits of varying expertise and success in the game have taken a pop – most notably Danny Mills, born and bred, who seems to have a permanent chip on his shoulder in the direction of his hometown club.
I don’t recall the circumstances that led to his transfer from us to Charlton, but it’s unquestionably left a mean streak in him when talking about the Canaries.
But I’m talking of a section of the club’s own supporters who seem more than willing to take the earliest opportunity to berate, belittle and abuse players, manager, CEO and owners when the chips are down and a relegation battle is in full swing.
Actually, for some it began before the season had started with a perceived lack of effort by those in charge in strengthening the squad.
It was evident when Bradley Johnson was suddenly allowed to leave for Derby County. It has to be said, whatever hole it might have left in our own midfield, Bradderz has not set the Championship alight like he did last season.
The knives soon came out for a number of players.
No-one should be immune to criticism however long they may have served the club with distinction in previous years but no-one deserves the dog’s abuse that has been handed out to keeper, centre-back or forward or even manager of late.
Last week the BBC Sports website asked footy fans to sum up their feelings towards their clubs in just the one word.
Not surprisingly, most responses came from Leicester, Villa and pre-Benitez Newcastle fans with unbridled joy and derision in equal measure as you’d expect.
I thought for a while, tried to be smart, decided against and settled for a middle ground with the word ‘vexatious’, which does a damn fine job of summarising all of my emotions, especially since the turn of the year.
The only other response I saw from a fellow Canary was one who used ’embarrassing’ to describe the club. I was taken aback by this choice.
There have been many occasions when I’ve felt disappointed, gutted or irritated towards players and club but only once would I ever have thought embarrassing was justified: the 7-1 shellacking dished out by Colchester on that bottom of the barrel opening day of the League 1 season.
That was humiliating and embarrassing.
But back to this season – embarrassing? It may have been the opinion of just one person – maybe others feel the same?
The point gained from the Abu Dhabi All Stars was a magnificent team effort displaying all the qualities desired for, with the exception of more attacking threat maybe.
Whether the team can marry defensive steel with a cutting edge and clinical finish remains to be seen as West Brom await.
There have been many disappointing away performances this season but I have never come remotely close to feeling embarrassed that my club is down ‘the wrong end’ of the table.
Fellow promotees, Watford and Bournemouth, have undeniably made a better fist of things than City – the reasons are numerous and debatable.
Their fans have every right to goad in the direction of Norfolk – their sides have earned them that right. They are enjoying their time in the sun as would we if City were safely mid-table already. We did it back in 2011-12.
The favours and fortunes of 90+ per cent of league clubs are cyclical – good times, bad times.
I accept that fate with the eternal wish that the club finds greater success but not by adopting the ownership models of those 10 per cent or so-called ‘super-elite’ global brands in the Premier League.
You only have to consider the fate of Bolton Wanderers to appreciate what we’ve got at NR1. Top ten finishes in the top tier, big name signings and European football and all less than a decade ago (Note: they paid 8 million for Johann Elmander in 2008!).
Now, a half-empty stadium, a completely empty bank account and the third tier beckoning.
We’ve brushed with the last two of those in the past decade. Our home crowd has always remained strong.
Whatever the next eight games may bring, whatever our fate and level is to be next season, any Norwich fan who thinks and says that the club’s actions and efforts this season have been ‘embarrassing’ should genuinely be embarrassed by their own words.
The word for me is frustrating. I fear we are going to be relegated but my frustration is that I genuinely think this group of players are touching distance of being a decent team. We have been let down so many times by individual errors despite so often having played really well, still not all done yet and signs of cohesion against man city but I worry this year will end in disappointment.
Jon Dunn says
Good piece, Russell.
If you look at the finances available to the 20 premier league clubs, I think you’ll find NCFC is bottom of the pile. (No, I don’t particularly want a helicopter flying oligarch, either!)
That being the case, a league finish of say 17th would actually be “punching well above our weight”.
A little perspective, one and all.
I think the word for the season should be “dumb”! From CJ’s disallowed over head kick to Chelski’s offside goal and a whole host of things inbetween we seem to be getting dumbluck from some very dumb officials this season, If it can only even out for the season in these last 8 games then we should certainly be safe.
Dumb also for all this tinkering going on is it any wonder the players have struggled when chopped and changed so frequently. I think Neil will be a top manager but some of his decisions have left me dumbfounded.
Not reinforcing the defence in the Summer, just plain dumb!
O’neil who was fantastic against Citeh, dumba#se against Bournemouth.
And of course some seriously dumb decisions and execusion at the back, we have through the main part of this season been far to easy to beat and ready to shoot ourselves in the foot.
Fans who are all to ready to boo and abuse the players, only a dumby thinks that is going to help.
I agree that ’embarrassing’ is way over the top but ‘frustrating’ is more logical. Like Paul (2) mentions, we are not that far away from having a half-decent PL team. Individual mistakes, the odd tactical error and good old-fashioned luck have cost us. That said the league table is an accurate reflection of the season and City have lacked that consistency and quality at the back and up front. Klose has been a great addition to the defence and is getting better with each game and has really helped forge a stronger defensive unit. For me the question is whether we can score the goals to win games.
Overall, City are actually where I expected them to be at this stage. In a relegation scrap but with destiny – to a large extent, in their own hands. This season was always going to be a huge challenge. The step-up from the Championship is big and until you are in the PL you never quite know which players will sink or swim.
Dave B says
I’d go with ‘avoidable’.
Give the man the right tools from the outset and the confidence to stick with a settled team and I see no reason our boys couldn’t finish higher.
Jon Dunn – Perhaps you are satisfied with finishing 20th, but there are just enough badly run and wasteful clubs in this division to have given Norwich a decent chance to survive this season.
May prove to be very ‘frustrating’ indeed.
Stewart Lewis says
It’s a tricky one.
There surely has to be an element of realism – as the 20th best resourced club, anything other than relegation would be an achievement.
On the other hand, frustration isn’t unreasonable – we’ve made mistakes and missed opportunities, as well as being on the rough end of some officiating. And we’ve reserved some of our best performances for games where winning points would be (and proved) a long shot.
So most of the suggested words (with the exception of ’embarrassing’) have some validity but aren’t quite sufficient. For the moment I’ll propose ‘agonising’, though I’m sure there’s a better word out there…
e j mason says
after we failed to strengthen in the summer then we are exactly where i expected us to be. the financial situation being what it is then it is always going to be a monumental task trying to stay in the top flight. mind you in my view some of decisions made by the match officicals this season have been appalling and cost us valuable points.
Russell S. says
Cheers for all the comments..and suggested words. None of us seem embarrassed which has got to be a good thing.
Right now, ‘anxious’ and ‘uncertain’ probably come top of the list. Newcastle look like they might get a Benitez-bounce and Sunderland have the Big Sam-effect. Those two home games are looking tricky and decisive.
The odds are stacked against us but stranger things have happened (Donald Trump’s popularity for one).
Gary Gowers says
I’ll go ‘torturous’.
Keith B says
Frustrating for sure, but actually I’d say “predictable”.
All this beating up McNally and co over the summer transfer window is hogwash. Just because people can sit at home typing “I’d sign X or Y” doesn’t mean it’s an option in the real world.
It’s well documented that when it comes to recruitment the play-off winners are at a big disadvantage time-wise, as well being the least attractive club to join.
So I always expected us to struggle simply because of that and the salary budget.
The only aspect of the club I’d call embarrassing is the abysmal website – but then that’s a model used in a lot of clubs so we’re not alone.
Stewart Lewis says
I second Gary’s suggestion (I guess he’s not our Editor for nothing).
An excellent description of the season so far – and, I suspect, of the two months to come.
T Barcham says
Whither Mike Phelan?
We set out with such high hopes and our wins just before Xmas gave everybody such a badly needed boost. I agree that we have fallen ‘foul’ of some refereeing decisions and individual errors by certain players have not helped our cause.
I see Ranieri had the same starting 11 last night as he did in their previous game and I’m sure we’d benefit from a more settled side, so that players get to know each others’ strengths.
Bob in Diss says
DANNY MILLS = DAMN SILLY ‘N.
There are many pointed words that could be directed at him.
Keith Burt's Chin says
Had the misfortune to listen to Mills co-commentate on us v man city here in the states. oh for a good shrink!
Harefield Hornet says
This time last year many on this forum heavily berated the Hornets for their recruitment policy, stating Norwich were some kind of purists due to their mainly British squad, and slated our mixed results against the “better sides!” in the championship. A year on and it would seem neither results against the Top 6 in the championship or the nationality of recruits really matters that much (or changing the manager following promotion).Despite the critisism that was previously directed in our direction I wish you all the best of luck in your bid for survival.
Cosmo P. says
HH(17) – wondered when one of you would return looking for humble pie to be dished out! Hats off to your club for a fine season. I still don’t like the ‘model’ that Watford have adopted to get to the PL but I’m sure most don’t give a fig as long as success is achieved.
I would disagree strongly that you changing the manager has had little effect – it’s been enormous! I had my doubts about him but results talk. Your previous man is struggling with Fulham and Flores bought in key players (all from abroad) that Joka never would have.
We have scored more goals than you (at time of writing) – it’s a small comfort but allow us that much at least as we stare into the abyss.
el dingo says
The only relevant word is FRUSTRATION imo.
Harefield Hornet says
Cosmo P (18)- My point was that changing the Manager following promotion doesn’t have to be a disaster – if you find the right replacement!(benefit of hindsight) but I have to admit I expected Flores (and the team) to fail following all the changes in the summer. Our sucess has been built on a solid defence. You’re correct we have a poor goalscoring record but we also have about the third best defensive record in the Prem. The dividing lines are so thin between success and failure at this level – a lot of it just boils down to luck. Good luck again – there’s plenty of clubs I’d rather see go down than Norwich, we need more clubs similar to yourselves (Leicester are a good example) getting success ahead of the mega-rich!