Right, normally I try to write with kindness but today I’m gonna holster the compassion and just put the boot straight in… (reminds you of football in the 80s doesn’t it?)
Recent years have just not been good enough.
That’s Norwich’s recent FA Cup history I’m talking about. Just look at this chart I’ve made (with crayons and everything):
In the last 25 years – that’s a whole generation – City have only made it over the first hurdle in this venerable, creaking old competition only six times. That’s not even 25%. Not even one game in four! Hardly impressive.
And the list of footballing giants who’ve prevented our progress reads as follow:
Brentford, Grimsby Town, Sheffield Wednesday (twice), Coventry City, Everton, West Ham (twice), Bury Town, Charlton Athletic, Carlisle United, Leyton Orient, Luton Town, Fulham, Preston North End, Manchester City, Southampton, Chelsea, and Portsmouth.
Apart from the two Champions League regulars in there, it’s, again, hardly impressive.
The supporters I feel for are those under the age of 35 who have no idea of the joy an FA Cup run engenders. It galvanises the city, people go around with a smile on their face, a wonderful feeling of hope pervades everything. It’s a palpable and marvellous thing. Alas, it hasn’t happened for a long time (with one exception – don’t worry we’ll get to that).
But before the tears start dripping onto your scarf, let’s revisit a happier time a time when the FA Cup meant something, and we as a city were happy to participate and succeed regularly to the later rounds and feel that feeling. I’m talking of the NCFC golden age from the early 1970s until the early 1990s where we progressed 65% of the time, that’s two out every three games.
Again, I refer you to the chart. Ron Saunders dragged us pecking and scratching into the top division and made us believe we deserved to be there through grit.
John Bond came along with pizzazz and flair, gave us a national profile, and got us tickling along in the competition before Ken Brown took on the baton and established us a dangerous foe not to be underestimated in the top league and in the cups.
Dave Stringer then gave us a genuine sustained run as a top team in the top division. His scintillating side (featuring players such as Gunn, Culverhouse, Bowen, Phelan, Fox, Gordon, Townsend, and Fleck) achieved high league finishes and – in the FA Cup – two Semi-Finals and a Quarter Final in only four years. Astonishing.
Mike Walker and John Deehan kept the momentum going with decent runs, and then… well, there’s been virtually nothing since the missed opportunity that was Martin O’Neill.
But there is hope. There is always hope.
And in this case, it’s one Daniel Farke. The German maestro has started to build a bit of a cup reputation, running the big boys all the way to the wire on several occasions, and this season of course reaching the quarter-finals with a tie against Manchester United. A team we last beat in the competition under the divine Dave St Ringer.
Could it happen again?
It just could.
It’s time to get the city smiling again.
(NB. Stats compiled from various sites including Wikipedia and playmakerstats.com