For years now – and on an alarmingly regular basis – I have uttered the following to describe my feelings toward my beloved Norwich City:
‘Pushovers’; ‘Lack of character’; ‘Rabbit in headlights’; ‘Bottle jobs’; ‘Soft underbelly’; ‘No backbone’; ‘Along come Norwich’.
In nigh-on 30 seasons visiting Carrow Road, rarely has a month – let alone a whole season – passed by without one-or-all of the above being churned out. Capitulating has become a habit of the football club. Every fan knows what is going to happen and I often worry if most of the players do too.
Of course, many, perhaps most football fans, if asked, will say they fear the worst – even in the most positive of situations – because we have recurring nightmares about scenarios that went against us in the past and we think everything will go wrong again.
City collapsing is not a new phenomenon. They’ve continually found exciting and inventive ways of screwing things up when in commanding positions, or missing golden opportunities to treat supporters to a modicum of success.
Here’s three hateful days that immediately spring to my mind during my time as a supporter…
1992: FA Cup semi-final against lower-league Sunderland. Lost, with barely a whimper.
2005: Fulham away, survival in the Premier League is in our own hands. Get walloped 0-6.
2009: Charlton away, survival in the Championship up for grabs. Find ourselves 0-3 after half an hour.
There are countless other examples – the list would be mammoth – you’d need a whole week to read it!
If we isolate 2016, we’re able to produce ‘flakiness’ on a truly stellar level. We’ve already witnessed the infamous Liverpool epic. 3-1 up before slipping to 3-4 down, only to heroically equalise in stoppage time. And yet we still we managed to conjure up a defeat.
West Ham home: 2-0 up and dominating with 15 minutes left. Concede twice from nowhere and lose two precious points.
Sunderland home: a must-not-lose-under-any-circumstances game. Completely dismantled and humiliated 0-3.
Newcastle away: 3-2 up in stoppage time. Hoist the white flag and surrender 3-4.
Fulham away: 2-0 up and cruising. End up hanging on for a point.
And our latest crushing moment came at Elland Road against a Leeds side down to ten men (albeit in unfortunate circumstances). Could we finish them off, or if not, simply hang on to our lead? Could we heck.
Even when we had some fantastic players back in the late 80s and early 90s, I can still recall that on a regular basis we’d either get walloped when least expected, or implode when seemingly in a great position to win.
Of course there’s been exceptions – but not many. Our initial run to play-off glory under Alex Neil was a time when it felt like the stars aligned just for us and anything was possible.
The only other time I can remember City having similar strength of character was under Paul Lambert during his Championship season. We were the ones hauling ourselves out of trouble rather than finding a new and spectacular way of getting into it.
We’ve missed chances off the field too. In the early 90s we had a chance to really capitalise on a great group of players and our European adventure. Could we carry that momentum on to bigger and better things?
Instead, we sold all our best players and got relegated! And that was done in the most ‘Norwich’ way imaginable.
Sitting 7th at Christmas and challenging for a top 3 finish, we dropped like a stone, winning just once in our final 20 games (albeit, the win was a thrashing of ‘them down the road’).
Back to this season and the same remarks get thrown at the existing squad – “there aren’t enough leaders”. An accusation, that has more than a ring of truth to it.
There is however, a ton of experience in there and despite leadership and character seemingly in short supply, many of the mistakes being made by individuals are down to a lack of concentration.
Perhaps we have too many players who have tasted failure once too often.
Perhaps Alex Neil has ‘lost his mojo’. It is beginning to grate a little to hear the same comments, week after week – but he must be as peeved as we are with his players’ incapability to stay ‘switched on’. But fans can’t change their mentality – he can.
Obviously this week has been disappointing. The Preston game could go down as ‘one of those days’ – and we won’t win every week – but I’m concerned that the atmosphere around the club at the moment appears one of despondency.
Let’s not get too down. Despite inevitable frustrations with the way we’ve ‘defended’ (I use the word loosely) and allowed teams back into games that should have been put out of sight, we are still in a good position in the league and, in my opinion, one of the two strongest squads in the league.
Ultimately our only goal this season should be promotion, by whatever means necessary. Cup runs won’t help us achieve that.
One thing is for sure – we’re not boring! Up, down, up, down – goals flying in all around. It is an entertainment industry after all. Would you swap places with Ipzilch Town? Me neither. You definitely get a bit of everything when City are in town – even if it does come with a ‘x-rated’ certificate.
So let’s all grow some cojones – the fans, the players and the management – and stop ‘doing a Norwich’.
In fact, no. Let’s start ‘doing a Norwich’.
But this time, ‘doing a Norwich’ means concentrating for the full 90 minutes plus, having the stomach for a fight, never knowing when we’re beaten, smelling blood and going for the jugular when leading instead of ‘doing a Devon Loch’.
Nice dream eh? Well, we’ve had enough nightmares. Now bring on the Seagulls.