3:14 pm, Saturday November 8th, 2008
Norwich were hosting Preston North End in a Championship match.
Glenn Roeder fielded a side that included current Premier League players David Marshall and Ryan Bertrand and also featured the loanee strike pairing of Leroy Lita and Antoine Sibierski. Darren Huckerby’s replacement, Wes Hoolahan, was an unused substitute.
Former City striker Chris Brown had already opened the scoring for Preston after just two minutes, capitalising on a defensive mix-up between Marshall and Jon Otsemobor and tapping into an empty net. In doing so, he achieved something that he never managed in a City shirt – scoring at Carrow Road.
However in the 14th minute, down at the River End, David Bell’s inswinging corner was met by the head of Lita and City had equalised.
But I felt nothing.
I didn’t even get up from my seat.
I genuinely didn’t care.
Unlike the majority of matches I’ve been to over the years I remember that game and, more specifically, that moment with absolute clarity, because for the first and only time in my life I couldn’t muster the effort or enthusiasm to celebrate a Norwich goal.
At the time, Norwich City was a club in stagnating decline; a team of loanees and journeymen without a leader or talisman; a team who failed to get the pulse racing or give the impression that they cared.
And as little as they cared, I cared even less.
The previous season, City had escaped relegation to League One by only three points, finishing in a lowly 17th place. Prior to the Preston match, they had won just four of the opening fifteen fixtures and once again languished at the wrong end of the Championship.
Manager Glenn Roeder had arrived just over a year previously but had never endeared himself to the Norwich fans, and nor did he appear intent on doing so. His persona – or at least that which he portrayed through the media – was one of arrogance and disdain.
In contrast Neil Doncaster had been at the club since 1997, first as company secretary and solicitor, before he was promoted internally to Head of Operations and finally being awarded the role of Chief Executive in 2001.
He was the voice of the Board and whilst his legal background meant that his delivery was polished, the messaging itself was uninspiring, littered with rhetoric and lacking in substance.
Over-seeing it all, as they do now, were the majority shareholders and owners.
It’s not hard to draw parallels between the ‘Class of 2008’ and the present incarnation.
A poor series of results on the back of a season of perceived failure will always create a certain prevailing mood around a club.
But now, as in 2008, we have a team lacking both character and characters. The repeated failings of the recruitment process have created a disjointed squad of players. A squad with ‘big-money’ signings who are unable to force their way into the team and others who are surplus to requirements but who are tied to the club due to their inflated salaries.
The quotes emanating from the dressing room about a collective desire to work harder and turn it round seem entirely at odds with the displays on the pitch; displays that are littered with individual mistakes and which suggest a general lack of conviction and endeavour.
The manager refuses to deviate from his chosen formation and has become increasingly belligerent. His team selections and tactical substitutions are unable to effect a reversal in results or fortune.
Even more worrying is his apparent willingness to pass accountability on to his players as highlighted in my previous column. The post-match comments following the Reading defeat merely confirming the point when he referred to ‘they (his team) went down to ten men’ rather than ‘we’.
At board level, for Neil Doncaster’s infamous “prudent ambition” soundbite, we now have Jez Moxey’s equally hollow “promotion, promotion, promotion”.
Moxey’s carefully staged ‘interview’ offered little beyond clichéd responses and served as cold comfort for those wanting an insight into the masterplan.
If indeed such a thing exists.
It’s little wonder therefore that eight years on, I find myself sliding towards the same genuine sense of apathy.
In early December, I decided against going to the home game against Aston Villa. I often work away during the week and going to the match would have meant a long trip to Norwich on the Tuesday evening before heading back again early the next morning.
Journeys that in days gone by I would have undertaken without question and journeys which many of the Yellow Army experience for each and every ‘home’ game.
But I simply couldn’t be bothered.
And that for me is the most worrying aspect of the current situation.
We’ve all experienced the intensity of emotion that comes from supporting a football team – from delirium to abject despair.
And there are those amongst us who are currently very angry with events, both on and off the pitch, and who talk of voicing that anger through orchestrated protests or through boycotting matches.
As a season ticket holder who lives in the city centre, I will continue to go to those matches that don’t cost me anything extra or where it doesn’t inconvenience me to do so.
But when I go, I won’t join in any booing or protests because I feel no anger – just a genuine sense of detachment and indifference.
And that’s the most truly damning indictment of how far the club has fallen in my emotions and estimations.
Steve posts on Twitter @stevocook – when he can be bothered.