Another day, another guest blog, with the stripes today being handed to Debbie Hewitt, who gives her take on the season that wasn’t…
I am an avid listener of Radio Norfolk’s excellent Canaries coverage, especially the quintessential Chris Goreham commentary.
I also love (most of) the partisan guest commentators. If our game is live on TV, then the sound is very definitely down. I would rather listen to Chris any day.
Therefore, I think that probably makes me the definition of an armchair fan. I seldom go to Carrow Road, but I genuinely don’t think that makes me an inferior supporter, although I understand that some would disagree.
I am also a woman of a more mature age, and the first to admit that I am no footballing expert; I am happy to leave that to others, hence my ‘alternative view of the season’.
Like everyone else I am gutted by the way this season has panned out, after having such high hopes. Who could forget that stunning mid-September win over Manchester City, when, despite being decimated by injuries, we showed what we can do at Carrow Road, with that magnificent home support, and Teemu Pukki firing on all cylinders, with both a goal and an assist.
Indeed, such was the faith I had in the man that his Championship form would continue, I had put a bet on that he would score more than 20 goals and assists this season. His early season form led me to believe that my stake had not been high enough.
This result put us at a lofty 13th in the table, above both Sheffield United and Aston Villa, and for a time, we dared to believe that our stable, financially sound club, with no money to spend on strengthening our dynamic, Championship winning squad, might just be able to hold its own in the Promised Land.
How little we knew at that time.
Inevitably, that burgeoning injury list had to take its toll and the rot appeared to set in. Defeat followed defeat, including that 5-1 humiliation at home to Aston Villa. It was so bad that a 0-0 at Bournemouth was seen as a possible turning point.
Alas that was a false dawn and we tumbled right to the bottom in early November. A 2-0 away win at Everton, and a 2-2 draw with Arsenal gave us hope, but near the bottom is pretty much where we stayed, clinging on to the belief that at least Watford were worse than us.
Apart from missing critical players with long term injuries, our talisman, our free signing, free scoring Finn, had lost his touch. Whether this was as a result of a lack of confidence, or maybe the toe injury had affected him more than we realised, we will never know for sure, but so many chances went begging. His Premier League stats make very disappointing reading.
So, we started the New Year where we ended 2019, at the bottom of the league, in fact by the end of January we were beginning to be cast adrift. Little did we know then that our points tally of 21, reached after a rare 1-0 win against Leicester on 28th February, would not be improved upon.
Then the Coronavirus hit, changed life as we know it, and the world went into lockdown.
Eventually, we began to hear rumours that the Premier League would be finalised on a points per game basis, which meant we would be down without kicking a ball again, and then followed talk about the remaining games being played behind closed doors.
As long as everyone involved was going to be safe, this was clearly the best option for us; we had some injured players back, hopefully a fresh mindset, and surely the capability of turning things around?
There were nine games to play, some of them surely eminently winnable against teams at our end of the table. Daniel Farke set a target of five wins from the nine, which would have given us 36 points, which, as it turned out, would have been enough for that yearned for 17th position in the league.
We all know how it started – a 3-0 reverse against Southampton, followed by 1-0 loss to Everton. With other results going our way, this was frustrating to say the least. Never mind though, there were still seven games to go, we still had hope.
But to have hope, you have to have the performance and they were sadly in short supply. As supporters, we had the right to assume that the players would come back fighting, desperate to cling on to their well-earned place in the EPL. While it definitely didn’t help, surely it shouldn’t matter that the twelfth man wasn’t there at Carrow Road, after all other teams had also lost home advantage.
Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse, defeat followed defeat, with the goals against totting up. The only goal we managed to score was a glimpse of the Emi magic against Watford, but we still went on to lose, obviously. I also mustn’t forget to mention Todd’s effort in the FA Cup quarter final against Manchester United; that cruellest of games.
In truth, we hardly ever looked like scoring but, despite the immense efforts of our POTS Tim Krul, we always looked like we would concede. We were not good enough before lockdown but the football produced after the break was so poor as to almost defy belief.
So, we stumbled on to the last game of the season, ironically at Manchester City, and a 5-0 drubbing, but I was expecting them to score 8 or 9, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be! And there ends a disastrous season for Norwich City, with the sixth lowest ever points total in Premier League history, and a club record ten defeats on the bounce.
I have already said I am no footballing expert, but even us armchair fans are allowed opinions aren’t we? My thoughts about this season are as follows:
- We really missed Sam Byram, who took his chance when he got it and proved to be a shining light amongst debatable recruitment.
- Daniel Farke never seemed to get substitutes on early enough. I can remember tweeting ‘what is SuperMario supposed to do in two minutes plus stoppage time’.
- Farke seemed to rigidly persist with the same personnel, whatever the performance level, when players such as Vrancic, Stiepermann, and sometimes even Hernandez and Buendia, were reduced to bit parts.
- I don’t know what fitness monitoring took place over lockdown, and I don’t pretend to understand, but when they returned in June, players looked tired and lethargic, and shadows of the playerthat never knew when to give up last season.
- Why would Farke not give the youngsters more of a chance, especially when we were pretty sure of the outcome of the season. Adam Idah always looked hungry when he stepped onto the pitch, an image that had been sadly lacking elsewhere.
Having said all of that, and although I know not all will agree with me, while the heart and soul appears to have been ripped out of this team by such a dismal season, I still have every confidence in the Webber/Farke partnership and am hopeful for the new season to come.
We may well lose a few players, but I still feel, with the addition of a few ‘rabbit out of the hat’ signings, which we know those two are capable of, that a new positivity may emerge.
I will admit that I am looking forward to the Championship. After all, Farke knows what it takes to win this league, and hopefully, we may just get to remember what it is like to win again.
Of course, it also means we will be back on the EFL on Quest, with its proper punditry, and there is no VAR!