As the criticism of Dean Smith’s Norwich intensifies, perhaps it’s natural that shots are fired back towards the dissenting voices.
There has been a narrative playing out in some quarters that City supporters are unappreciative, expecting too much, and acting like spoilt, petulant children.
That accusation is easy to shrug off when it comes from national broadcasters. A case of lazy journalism from those too far removed to fully understand. However, when it stems from local columnists or club legends interviewed on Radio Norfolk, it is less forgivable.
They should know better.
Because Norwich City is blessed with a fanbase that has demonstrated remarkable loyalty and genuinely knows its football. If the natives are getting restless, there are genuine and valid reasons.
Sure, there’s always a Canary Caller or Twitter account that strays into the realms of nonsense, but they are not reflective of the majority of supporters.
To gauge the mood of the masses, you simply have to sit among them at Carrow Road and witness an atmosphere that is as flat as the Fens and as enjoyable as being stuck in traffic on the A17.
But let’s address the accusation that we’re collectively throwing our toys out of the pram because we’re not p*ssing the league whilst playing ‘Champagne football’.
Firstly, there is a legitimate argument that supporters of a club, which has won successive Championship titles have every right to expect something similar.
Parachute payments and the experience of knowing what it takes to climb out of this league, are a huge advantage and failure to replicate the ‘yo’ in the ‘yo-yo’, would represent a significant regression in the club’s delivery of its long-term strategy and stated ambition.
However, the unrest was obvious when City were level on points at the top of the table and unbeaten in nine matches, so clearly something is wrong.
If your only barometer of fan engagement is high ticket sales, then you won’t see it, but I can assure our Finance Director that many of the fans feel disconnected.
And it’s not due to a sense of entitlement or unrealistic expectations (for the record, I predicted an 8th-place finish in MFW’s pre-season prediction piece). Personally, it boils down to this:
I don’t know what the plan is anymore.
I don’t know what Dean Smith is trying to get the players to do, and it appears that the players don’t either.
I don’t know what we would do differently if promotion was achieved, to avoid another season of ridicule and abject failure in the top flight.
I don’t know what the intent is behind Mark Attanasio’s investment and selection onto the board or what it means for the long-term future.
And yet, I’m expected to lend my full support to the club whilst being criticised (albeit mildly) for not doing enough to provoke some sort of reaction from the players on the pitch.
How can you unconditionally support an approach that you don’t fully understand?
The state of the nation’s politics demonstrates what happens when people blindly support something, rather than questioning the direction of travel and ultimate destination.
I’ll admit, I was later than some in signing up to the Webberlution. In his first year, I watched Daniel Farke’s side toil towards a mid-table finish and remained sceptical.
But we were repeatedly assured that this was a work in progress. That we were developing a new footballing blueprint and had to pay for the “sins of the past” before rebuilding the squad over several transfer windows.
The plan was clear and carefully explained.
We were implementing a new ‘sustainable’ model that required investment in the Academy to generate a conveyor belt of promising young players for future income. The development of a robust strategy that was built on succession planning and consistency to provide resilience against player sales and the inevitable departures of key management staff.
There was a refreshing openness from the club and a willingness to engage with the fanbase and media – illustrated perfectly by MFW’s Connor Southwell (before his transfer to Archant) being granted access to a candid and enlightening interview with the Sporting Director.
I bought into ‘the project’ completely and was rewarded with the most memorable and enjoyable title-winning season.
The conviction of the supporters meant that the sales of Maddison, Godfrey, and Lewis were accepted as being part of the plan. Relegation was met with disappointment, rather than anger or recrimination, and the togetherness that ran through the club resulted in further Championship success.
And then, the masterplan started to unravel.
There was the bizarre sponsorship deal with BK8, the departure of Head of Recruitment, Kieran Scott, the failure to replace Buendia and Skipp, and then the quotes and subsequent media fallout surrounding the Sporting Director’s future and extra-curricular activities.
But for many of us, the tipping point was the recruitment of Dean Smith as Farke’s successor. A man who was still employed by Villa when Daniel was relieved of his duties, which suggested a knee-jerk appointment rather than a carefully crafted transition.
Relegation, has been accompanied by a change in style which has left the team looking a shadow of its former self and the remaining crown jewels shining less brightly.
We currently look like an above-average Championship team that has become less than the sum of its parts and wholly reliant on rare moments of individual ability from players that we won’t be able to keep at the club without parachute payments.
Crucially, there is a deafening silence from those running the show. We’re restricted to a few scripted interviews from the in-house media team alongside Dean Smith’s post-match analysis, repeatedly telling us what went wrong, rather than what they’re doing about it.
If the club expects our unwavering support, it needs to give us reasons to provide it.
Be open and tell us what the plan is.