‘Whatever happens in the world is real, what one thinks should have happened is projection. We suffer more from our fictitious illusion and expectations of reality.’
– Jacque Fresco
Don’t let an obscure quote fool you into thinking that I’m passing myself off as some sort of well-read, intellectual colossus.
I grew up reading Shoot magazine and had to type ‘quotes on expectations’ into Google, to find those words from a bloke I’d never heard of.
But I’ve suffered this season; suffered because my expectations (or projections as Jacque might have called them) have repeatedly been on the wrong end of some pretty damning reality checks.
I expected that we’d finish runners-up to Newcastle and right up until the 93rd minute at St. James’ Park I was feeling pretty good about it.
But we won’t.
I expected that Alex Neil was going to be sacked after the humbling defeat at Brighton.
But he wasn’t.
I expected that we’d sign a striker and a centre-back in the January transfer window.
But we didn’t.
Football, much like life itself, is underpinned by expectations and our emotional state is often determined by whether events exceed or fall below them.
It’s why the unforeseen victory, the one against the odds, is so much sweeter than the routine win that we saw coming. Or why a defeat at The Emirates or The Etihad is easier to stomach than losing at places like Rotherham, Barnsley or Burton.
When our expectations aren’t met, it’s natural to go looking for answers or as Mick Dennis pointed out in his recent column:
‘We want someone to blame when Norwich aren’t able to win as many games as we think we “should” — because if there’s an easily identifiable scapegoat, we can convince ourselves that the problems can be easily solved.’
Personally, I think we should have won more games this season and when looking for a scapegoat, there’s a natural hierarchy of blame that all stems from what we see happening on the pitch.
First the finger points at those players whose performances and individual mistakes may have cost us results.
You then look towards the manager and the coaching staff to put it right on the training field or through changes to tactics or the starting XI.
If that doesn’t deliver results, attention turns to those who are responsible for recruitment and bringing new players into the squad.
Finally you look to the very top. To the Board; those who have placed themselves in the ultimate position of power and responsibility.
It doesn’t matter if they are nice people and genuine fans with years of experience who are doing their best. Board members are in the privileged position of being able to shape and determine what happens at our football club and that makes them ultimately accountable for what happens on the pitch.
Sure, we don’t expect Delia to track a runner and head the ball clear at the back-post. But we do expect the Board to deliver a team capable of doing that.
And personally, I don’t see that as being an unrealistic expectation – a ‘fictitious illusion’ – especially considering recent history.
But of course I wouldn’t would I – because expectations are personal.
They are individual projections of what we deem to be reasonable; formed from different perspectives and with varying degrees of insight and knowledge.
The arguments that raged around the stadium last Saturday and the debates that take place every day on MyFootballWriter appear to stem from a desire to explain why our expectations are entirely justified and why any counter-argument is fundamentally flawed.
Social media and online forums are perhaps not the best yardstick with which to measure public opinion but even allowing for the fact that the views expressed on Twitter (or on this site) are not necessarily reflective of the ‘silent majority’, it seems we are living in an increasingly polarised society.
A society that is slowly rejecting the centre-ground in favour of more entrenched positions, from which to fire pot-shots at those on the ‘other side’.
We’ve seen it with Brexit:
‘Oh Britain, what the hell have you done?’
‘You lost the vote, deal with it’
‘Oh America, what the hell have you done?’
‘You lost the vote, deal with it’
And of course, with all things Norwich City.
From substitutions to share-holders, the supporters are increasingly divided and divisive. The only thing we all seem to agree on was that Jez Moxey leaving our club was a good thing.
(Well done Jez for bringing some unity and at least achieving something during your brief tenure).
But all of this leaves a naturally lazy liberal like me slightly bemused and caught in the cross-fire. Earlier this season, I wrote of my increasing apathy towards the club and I copped it from both sides;
‘Call yourself a supporter? You should be protesting outside the Boardroom to force a change. Shame on you.’
‘Call yourself a supporter? You should get behind the team and sing your heart out. Shame on you.’
But I don’t want to pick a side.
I just want my football team to live up to my expectations and don’t want to be told that I’m an idiot for thinking that we should be doing better.
Or is that too much to expect?