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.