The new year – a time of reflection and resolutions.
2016 was wretched on so many levels and Norwich City certainly played their part in that. But before drawing a line under our ‘annus horribilis’ (yes, I had to spell-check), it’s only right to offer a couple of retractions and apologies.
Last season, with City struggling in the top flight, I suggested that relegation might not be so bad; that a season in the Championship – with its plethora of winnable fixtures and less-pressured environment – might just help to make football become fun again.
I was wrong.
Days like Monday’s ‘demolition Derby’ have been regrettably few and far between.
It also seems appropriate to offer an apology to long-standing MFW contributor ‘Jeff’. Long before the current groundswell of general dissatisfaction, he was often a lone voice in suggesting that something was fundamentally rotten within the club and I for one dismissed that view.
It turns out he was less of a doom-monger and more of a prophet.
So what of 2017?
Its sadly not as simple as wiping the slate clean and starting afresh – not unless fundamental changes are made – which let’s face it, is highly unlikely.
Russell Martin’s post-Brentford assessment referenced the fact that the club and its fans have drifted apart and acknowledged the need to rebuild a sense of togetherness through small steps. In real terms, that requires the team to deliver a series of performances and results that restore some pride and faith.
Two clean sheets, a firing ‘Portu-geezer’ and the return of the Irish magician is a start. But it will only serve to paper over some significant cracks unless the form is sustained.
In my last column, I wrote of the indifference I currently feel towards the club, which is symptomatic of the drift that the club captain referred to.
Amongst the responses to that column was the following observation on Twitter;
“It’s easy to be a fan when things are going well. When times are harder we must be ‘supporters’ too, no?”
Without committing the cardinal sin of reaching for dictionary definitions, what exactly does being a ‘supporter’ mean? More importantly, how should that support manifest itself – particularly when ‘times are harder’ as they certainly are now?
Of course the most tangible form of support we all provide the club is financial; with the money we spend on tickets and merchandise all adding to the bottom line on the Club’s accounts.
However, alongside December’s direct debit that went to the club, I also spent a small fortune taking my family to watch Star Wars before Christmas and I wouldn’t class myself as a supporter of the cinema.
So what is it that transforms us from being customers to supporters?
The level of commitment perhaps?
But does it make me a better supporter because I renew my family’s season tickets without question and buy each and every replica shirt; therefore guaranteeing the club a level of income?
No – it simply makes me a more reliable customer.
Does it make me a better supporter because despite my current indifference, I still plonk my backside on the same yellow plastic seat match after match?
No – that just makes me a spectator (and some would say a glutton for punishment).
So I guess being a supporter is about demonstrating a genuine ‘commitment to the cause’; it’s about the non-financial contributions we make to the match-day experience and our ability to become the classically clichéd twelfth man.
Assuming that our collective cause is to have a successful football club then I’m sure we’re all committed to that.
And as pointed out on Twitter, “it’s easy to be a fan when things are going well”. We sing, we chant, we cheer, we smile, we applaud the payers off the pitch and they respond in kind. We pat each other on the backs for being (in Delia’s words) “the best fans in the world”.
Just as we did against Derby.
Not so easy when results don’t go your way and harder still when you begin to question the commitment to the cause from those within the club – or worse, start to doubt the underlying cause itself.
If that happens, are the supporters expected to sing their hearts out regardless of events both on and off the pitch? That would surely only serve as an endorsement or compliant acceptance of whatever is conjured up at Board level and from the dressing room.
Better then to voice our frustration? To demonstrate our support and commitment by registering our concerns and discontent in the hope that it brings about what we perceive to be necessary changes?
The problem with that is, under the current regime, that’s about as likely as a Cameron Jerome hat-trick or an appearance from the lesser-spotted Canos.
In their now infamous interview with the Times, and despite serving up platitudes such as “the club belongs to the supporters”, the actual owners made their intentions expressly clear; both in terms of the final destination of their share-holding and the immediate future of the first-team manager.
So we can boo, or jeer, or protest, or write countless articles for MyFootballWriter, highlighting everything that we think is going wrong – but in real terms it achieves nothing. The owners have bought the right to do as they please and make the decisions that even they acknowledge, we “will be very disappointed to hear”.
Despite my doubts and concerns, they may have called it right and we might find ourselves once more gracing the ‘Premier Promised Land’. If that happens, I’ll happily extend a similar apology to the one served up at the start of this piece.
But whilst dissenting voices and opinions are effectively dismissed or discounted – whilst the club refuses to genuinely engage with its fans but instead offers up hollow soundbites – then our role as ‘supporters’ is limited to little more than that of customers and spectators.
Happy New Year!
Steve can be equally depressing on Twitter @stevocook