It’s guest blog time again, and today it’s City fan Dave Cole, whose journey began in the late 1960s when he was warned by his grandfather that following Norwich would be ‘difficult’!
Grandads always know!
If you look out your window, you’ll notice thunder clouds hanging over Carrow Road. They’ve been steadily gathering since early autumn when the wind switched – bringing in turbulent air, chasing away the sunshine.
It got me thinking about weather patterns and how football clubs get blown off course and yet how the weather can suddenly improve before the next hailstorm arrives.
I was 11 years old when the 1974/75 Norwich City Supporters Club Handbook landed in our house; probably with a thud similar to that made by the club which had just been unceremoniously tipped out of Division 1 for the first time.
Stan Springall, General Secretary wrote: “The past two seasons have produced differing reactions among Norwich City’s supporters.The 1972-73 season saw rising excitement at the prospect of seeing clubs at Carrow Road previously viewed only on television, and when the Canaries reached the League Cup final that really made the season. Yet at the end it was all rather traumatic, with a last-minute goal from Dave Stringer saving the day and earning the club another year in the First Division. In 1973-74 events were even more wounding, with results failing to materialise, the departure of Ron Saunders, and then the arrival of John Bond, who certainly altered the image of the club and produced some attractive football. But it was not enough to save us from the drop into the Second Division”
Sir Arthur South followed up with a piece entitled “Let’s Have A Concerted Effort” which ended with the line “Our job now – directors, manager, players, administrative staff, and most important, the shareholders and the public – must be to remain united in our desire not only to again achieve First Division status, but to establish a club that can sustain itself permanently in that division.”
Keith Skipper (then EDP) offered his tuppence worth on the topic of relegated City being a boring team to watch and the arrival of Bond with a line “Success is fun – striving for success need not be boring. Are you prepared to accept that? If so Carrow Road could be in the vanguard of an overdue soccer revolution.”
If only Stan, Arthur and Keith knew what 2020 looked like! And yes, the weather has changed quite a few times since. We’ve been in our latest revolution for three seasons, but now the weather’s turned rough and we’ve not brought a raincoat.
I don’t want to dissect what’s gone wrong this season particularly, be it poor recruitment, an over-reliance on youth that overachieved last year, an injury crisis, tactical naivety, bad luck or whatever. We all knew this squad needed a tail wind and sunshine, and we all accepted the dream that survival would bring.
I’m tired of TV pundits who, 36 games in, still haven’t learned anything about us as our inexplicable collapse plays out. We came with a plan, a style, a flair, but it’s been smashed on the rocks. Sad but true, possibly foreseeable, but Jesus Christ it was brilliant when it worked.
Here we are, 45 years later from our first harsh lesson, surveying the wreckage of another valiant disaster. But has anything changed?
Arthur South talked about a concerted effort. Well here we are with an actual platform to build again from, because the club is now more solid than at any point since he penned those words.
Maybe last season came too soon and maybe we should have tried to insure the gains, but can we find the pieces to complete the jigsaw?
I’m writing this with a Covid-blighted horizon coming into view which might mean football without fans for the foreseeable future, with an economic outlook that will affect everything, including the finances of us as fans and those we implore to write the cheques to rebuild our dreams on the turf.
I’ve never been happier that, structurally, the club is in good shape, and yet never more fearful that the whole pack of cards is waiting for a cold gust of wind to surge through the gap between Block E and F.
I don’t know what the future holds for football, or our club. As I write this, there’s one manager literally goading the other billionaire clubs and football authorities that his club is so wealthy it can do what it wants without fear of repercussions.
My Southampton supporting mate is contemplating whether his club can find another billionaire majority shareholder to keep the party going, after the current one decided he probably can’t afford it anymore and wants it to be ‘self-sustaining.’ Football has never been more insane than now, and that’s saying something.
There’s a lot of anger in our fanbase about what’s gone wrong and what should be done; others are more pragmatic – as always.
We’re a passionate bunch, and the decades since an 11-year-old me began to grasp what it takes to keep a club alive have explored the heights and depths of everything the sport has to offer.
I’ve learned there’s more to it than simply writing cheques, or finding new owners who can afford to buy a club but not run it, and that blind faith as a fan isn’t enough either. What we’re facing goes beyond the magic hat of Webber and Farke.
A summer transfer window touted by some as the biggest in the club’s history is upon us, yet the global situation and its yet unseen effect on football may make everything we understand turn on its head.
We might be really well placed to survive, but in a game without fans who knows. I’m hoping this is just a sudden squall, but as we know, and as the handbook from 1974 suggests, we hope the forecast is accurate.
Having survived a number of storms since our first demise from the top division, we might be about to face a perfect storm that reaches beyond the anger of the chatrooms and message boards.
Never has the reality been starker for fans. All we really have is hope, and all we can do is stick together as we ride out the rough patch.
See you on the other side.
martin penney says
Pure quality. I loved reading that.
Dave Cole says
Herr Cutz says
I fear the virus hasn’t done with us yet, football without spectators will be the norm for many months to come, perhaps until a vaccine is available. If true it’ll leave the F L in tatters, clubs that do well on the pitch may not survive financially. City will probably avoid financial ruin for which the Directors must be given credit. What happens on the pitch may be of secondary importance. But then maybe I’m just full of the relegation blues.
The reality will strike when Kings Lynn start outbidding us for players!
Chris S says
I like the fact Delia and Michael have a local connection and a genuine love for the club. It’s a good thing they could name the city’s river and four suburbs before they bought it.
Alas, the football business has moved on from being owned by local heroes who’ve made a few bob who want to put something back by supporting and promoting their community asset in return for a bit of fame and/or notoriety.
The only model that works success-wise nowadays it seems is:
a) Find a multi-billionaire. (A billionaire may suffice if your ambition isn’t to win anything.)
b) Hand your club’s integrity, history, and soul over to them in a nicely wrapped parcel
c) Desperately hope they stay longer than 10 minutes and treat your prized asset with the care and respect it deserves
Even if you achieve a) and execute b), there is absolutely no guarantee c) will work out well and may distance the club from the fans..
I like our owners. I just wish the game would change to suit them (and us) rather than the other way around.
How about Delia wearing an Ipswich shirt prior to buying city has she got split loyalty living in Suffolk
martin penney says
Don’t forget the infamous photo of her wearing an 1p5wich scarf.
It’s out there somewhere.
At least you and I are honest and honourable enough to say we follow Spurs as albeit a second team.
I even for my sins watch Blackpool, Fleetwood and little known AFC Fylde, the pictures I have googled and not showing up lol may have used her millions to buy them
Gary Gowers says
Alex – would I be right in thinking that AFC Fylde were once known as Kirkham & Wesham? If so, watched them beat Lowestoft at Wembley in the Vase Final.
martin penney says
Here it is mate complete with a stonking great rosette. Ugh!
martin penney says
Should have said – poxy link – but it’s top row, third image along.
Hi Gary yeah that’s right they now have a purpose built stadium just of the M6 and city used their facilities last season when they had 2 games up here with in a few days.
What a great piece!
I’m a natural optimist and I do believe that there will be supporters back in the grounds in September, albeit in limited numbers to begin with.
I’m also optimistic that our Club is well placed to weather any storms that should come our way. Wigan will not be the only casualty of this pandemic but we won’t be one of them.
Colin M says
Loved your piece Dave, thank you.
Funny, I’d almost forgotten we still have a couple of games to play and I simply can’t watch ‘training pitch’ games on TV any longer, who ever is playing.
Professional sport will kid itself it can survive without live audiences but it will only do so for the elite.
The reality is next season, if we can find the winning habit we should be fine, teams will want to beat us but without their fans to spur them on our superior quality should win the day.
Next season could see the demise of the league as we know it. What will happen to lower and non-league teams?
Funny how Leeds Utd have made it back after so long away and can look forward to playing in front of no fans, I wonder if they will accrue more than 21 points next season……….hope not!
An enjoyable read and a great subject.
Let’s just hope that this squall doesn’t turn into a north sea storm if it does many clubs could be forced to take to the shallows of the Yarmouth Roads for shelter.
Can city survive a prolonged storm unsure as there are clubs looking to steal talented players for monkey nuts and add to clubs financial misery as in any business the successful ones rob the less successful ones.
Jim Davies says
Great article, Dave.
When the storm hits, there’s no way of knowing who will be able to ride it out, I hope that our “self sustaining” model has sufficient buoyancy, and I am fairly optimistic that it does. There may even be one or two in the Premier League who will find it difficult. With no fans in the ground, and TV advertising likely to fall off somewhat, their wage bills will be weighing them down. Sponorship, too, may take a hit.
It’s going to be a rough ride, and quite a while before the blue skies return. We are probably just in the quiet spell as the eye of the storm passes over, pending a second spike in the virus this autumn.