That common sense of jubilance, of collective elation we love to experience when we see our team achieve success.
The adoration and enjoyment of those winning moments is a fundamental component of human life, one that all of us – not least football fans – profoundly cherish.
Winning is fun: of course it is. And, over the past nine months, Norwich City fans have experienced it in considerably short supply. Which explains where we find ourselves after last Wednesday night.
Despite our spirited, free flowing and aesthetic display in front of a proud Carrow Road, Sunderland’s superior quality condemned us to another relegation. It was almost inevitable following City’s catastrophic weekend of results, but it still hurt.
We’ve had some good times this season. Cast your mind back to December 19th in Manchester, when the profligate Cameron Jerome found his goal scoring touch and Alex Tettey – how we’ve missed him – sent us into dreamland at the Theatre of Dreams.
I was at the Hawthorns, where a scrappy performance aided by Timm Klose’s –we’ve missed him as well – defensive solidity secured a seemingly crucial 1-0 win. Newcastle at home too offered a moment of ecstasy but, by and large, it’s been nothing more than a season of misery for City fans.
The sufficient quality to remain in the Premier League has been palpably lacking. The players have tried, continually performing with heart, desire and tenacity in an attempt to keep us up.
Our deserved player of the season, Jonny Howson, has been superb, whilst Robbie Brady, Gary O’Neill and Martin Olsson have had good seasons. But critically, as we’ve all known for some time now, the degree of quality at both ends of the pitch has cost us in our long-winded, turbulent and ultimately unsuccessful fight for survival.
Away defeats at Aston Villa – how did that happen? – Newcastle, Swansea and Bournemouth have had the most damaging ramifications, whilst the hammering at the hands of Sunderland last month was the most visible manifestation of City’s absence of quality. We couldn’t score and conceded three in the biggest game of our season against our principal rivals.
That’s what has sent us down.
It’s been a tough nine months since last August, and the imminent first anniversary of our Wembley glory last year is a sobering reminder that all we celebrated that day has been lost.
We can only hope that loss will be temporary. Alex Neil is the right man to lead Norwich City into our pursuit of Championship triumph, seeking to emulate the admirable work of Sean Dyche at Burnley whose team’s character in coming straight back up has been remarkable.
Burnley fans will have had a great year. They’ve witnessed the prolific goal scoring of Andre Gray, whose twenty-five league goals have propelled his side to a swift top flight return. They’ve witnessed the terrific Tom Heaton in goal, whose persistence thwarting of opposition attacks has led to the Clarets conceded only 35 goals. But, most of all, they’ve had fun.
The Championship is a fun league. Whilst the Premier League can provide the indelible memories of Old Trafford victory, defeating Arsenal and Manchester United at a raucous Carrow Road and snatching a point at Anfield, winning in the Championship is without doubt a more enjoyable experience over the course of a season.
We play more matches. Evening games always possess a special, atmospheric feel to them, providing us with a sense of escapism from the cyclicality of a week at work, university or school.
Travelling to new grounds and filling a compact away end is always a great and often more intimate experience than away games in the top flight, with wins at places like Watford, Blackburn and Leeds last season filling us all with a united sense of satisfaction and joy.
Championship victories seem to foster that degree of unity, belonging and togetherness amongst fans to a greater extent than Premier League games are capable of doing.
Winning every week is far from inevitable. The Championship is a tough league. But, if we keep the brilliant Alex Neil, invest well in the summer and hold on to some of our key players, an immediate bounce-back to the Premier League is certainly a viable possibility.
The loss of David McNally last week was undoubtedly considerable: his transformation of Norwich City into both a financially astute and a top flight club over a two-year period was astonishing. Nevertheless, we will remain strong and will – I’m sure – launch a positive and quite possibly successful assault on the second tier next season.
The ultimate goal will be to achieve Premier League status next season. However, if we do come straight back, we will learn from our mistakes this year. We will invest in higher quality players – a goal scorer, another centre-back – in order to give us a substantially greater chance of survival and subsequent consolidation.
The Premier League doesn’t need to be a miserable journey of 1-0 defeats and disappointment. If we do manage to achieve promotion again, our top flight experience will be more enjoyable.
Next season will be a challenge. The players know it will be a rigorous, intense and physically demanding test over a 46 game period. But, if we conduct our business well in this key summer ahead, it will hopefully be a fun, jubilant and ultimately joyous one.