While walking back to the car after Wednesday night’s game, I bumped into a friend; a more passionate City supporter you’re never likely to meet.
The general mood of the departing hoards had gone beyond defiant and was bordering on celebratory. For most anyway – not him. He was angry. Actually he was borderline apoplectic. “I just don’t understand Norwich supporters sometimes”.
His gist was that just a few minutes earlier we’d witnessed City being consigned to the second tier, yet Carrow Road had been rocking in a way rarely seen this season and now folk were happily strolling home content that they’d seen a win and were already looking forward to next season.
He didn’t get it.
I typically (and boringly the other half informs me) slipped on the Kofi Annan cape and did my best to avoid a full-on row by offering my two-penneth on why we ended up going down – it was like a MFW political broadcast.
It worked to a point and we departed still friends – he even suggested for my next change of career I become a therapist – but on the drive home, with Canary Call offering up its usual array of crackpots in the background, I transported myself back to May 25, 2015 and something else that Glen (yep, that’s his name) had said.
“It just feels as though all of the effort to get to Wembley and then win at Wembley has been wasted”.
And I started to agree with him. And then myself questioned why 26,500 of us (minus one) were taking relegation so well, so maturely. After all, of all the positive traits of being a football fan, maturity is most certainly not one of them.
Alex Neil and Gary O’Neil both spoke of their surprise at the crowd reaction; each no doubt expecting rather more in the way of pointed-fingers and questions being asked. But no, the players and management were given a standing ovation at they walked on their lap of… something, their names being sung passionately and defiantly into the Norwich night sky.
It was actually quite emotional. But Glen was right; in virtually every other Premier League ground, especially those who perceive themselves as bona fide top tier clubs, the players would be thanking empty stands and would be subject to a few awkward moments as they face fans who could justifiably feel let down.
But no. We stand. We applaud. We sing.
(Do we think the Newcastle players and staff will get a standing ovation this afternoon?)
I do wonder if the mood would have been a little different if they hadn’t offered up such a thoroughly decent performance on the pitch – it would have been more than a little awkward ‘celebrating’ after a 4-2 defeat – but fickleness and football supporting are so closely entwined the short-term boost of a vibrant display and a few goals was enough to ensure the mood was as far removed from ugly as humanly possible.
But – and I’m sure Glen is fuming again – it didn’t end there. Since relegation has been confirmed it feels almost as though the recriminations have ceased and the questions have stopped being asked.
Social media was flooded on Wednesday night – and has been since – with defiant messages of loyalty to the cause and some fine articles have been written proclaiming pride in being a member of the Yellow Army.
Even the nationals got in on the act, the Telegraph issuing a battle-cry on our behalf: “Norwich’s fans reminded everyone that the best thing about supporting a football team is not winning, but belonging.”
There is certainly no denying each sentiment was heartfelt and genuine, and for that we should be proud, but it does offer up an air of acceptance; a feeling of ‘oh well, we’re Norwich, what do we expect’ (and I’m probably more guilty of that than most).
But are we not better than that? In fact, having spent four out of the last five seasons in the Premier League I’d suggest we’re definitely better than that. And questions can justifiably be asked.
Alex Neil is asking questions of himself; it’s therefore only right we, the club’s lifeblood, should do the same.
The platitudes about learning from our mistakes have typically done the rounds and would be more worthy if they hadn’t been trotted out so many times before. But we have heard them before, loads of times. And yet here we are.
And I think it’s only right to question the direction in which owners wish to take us. Clearly it’s a bigger discussion for another day but a club owned my ‘poor millionaires’ needs to do something extraordinary to avoid being the yo-yo club as described nicely yesterday by Paul Armstrong.
Yet, right now, nothing extraordinary is happening. Neither on or off the pitch.
If given the choice I’d rather like to get to the Premier League and stay there. Always of course with the proviso that we’d be unlikely to do ‘a Leicester’ but nevertheless with a robust plan to hang around. I don’t consider that unreasonable.
But, in truth, for the medium term, while we plod along in our current state, it’s highly unlikely.
While no detail is known, constant rumours of foreign investors having slapped offers on the table but having been shown the door suggests the club is a little more appealing to those with deep pockets than I had perhaps given it credit for.
Again, another argument for another day, but how badly do we, or did we, wish to be an established Premier League club? I’m positive the answer is a big, fat affirmative but it’s no good relying on crossed fingers, magic dust and a prevailing wind to make it happen.
Alex himself has alluded to the finances being a limiting factor – and in fairness accepts it – but if offered the choice, would he prefer to bring in an £8 million striker or one worth £15 m? Daft question.
He has to stay, despite the excrement-stirring of the national media, but what of Frankie McAvoy and Gary Holt? Did they offer him the depth of support needed in a Premier League technical area? More questions.
And while we will likely start next season among the favourites to bounce back, ours is a squad soon to be in a state of transition.
I’d be amazed if we see Nathan Redmond, Timm Klose, Robbie Brady and Dieumerci Mbokani in yellow and green ever again after today and so to assume we’ll be there or thereabouts in the bear-pit of the Championship, assumes those players will be adequately replaced and some.
Again more questions.
And if the answer is to offer the floor to James Maddison, the Murphys, Carlton Morris et al, then we end up putting our faith in a learning curve of Alex Neil/Premier League proportions. And we know how that ended.
But I digress.
The purpose of the piece was to laud the general reaction on Wednesday night (and no doubt this afternoon) but also to question if, in doing so, we adhere to the ‘little Norwich’ theory and, in turn, allow those accountable for the current malaise just a little bit off the hook.
We certainly acted like grown ups. I just can’t decide if it helped.
I’ll have to ask Glen.