We’ve all been there, sadly. That time when a relationship starts to turn sour: a bitter taste left in the mouth where there had previously been an intoxicating sweetness of optimism and hope.
Who hasn’t suddenly been stranded in a position when you know things need to change despite having wanted it to work out? Sadly, there comes a time when drastic change is needed and inaction and malaise simply lead to toxicity that poisons lives.
Norwich City Football Club and I have almost broken up on multiple occasions: when Robert Chase started a fire sale; with the dire reigns of Glenn Roeder and Peter Grant; relegation to League One; the loss of Paul Lambert; and being bored to tears under Chris Hughton.
However, every time, even when I vowed to never darken their door again, I was soon seduced and back in love. A psychologically abusive relationship where I suffered but kept coming back for more – pain and ecstasy in equal measures, over and over again.
I guess the thing is over the years the reason I have crawled back for more is that however much the club hurt me or, from time to time, took my support for granted, I knew they loved me. They listened. It might have taken time, but, eventually, they would come around to my way of thinking.
With age comes experience, confidence and awareness. My tolerance for being messed around has all but eroded. And so this is why the latest disagreement with the love of my life feels a little different. This time it feels like the Club might not want to listen or not care if I walk away – and I feel like I might not care either.
I used to feel excited around the Club. Now I feel bored.
I used to feel that we were all pulling in the same direction. Now I think we see ourselves arriving at different destinations.
I know I’m being gaslighted. Fed unpalatable half-truths and being blamed for things I and other supporters couldn’t possibly have caused.
We’re at that point of no return. The Club and I want different things.
I’m not taking things personally, though – the club isn’t talking to anyone apart from itself. The disillusionment I feel is felt by fellow supporters and the local media. It couldn’t be more obvious – we don’t mean anything to the club anymore.
They tolerate us, but we’re not welcome to know as much about them as we used to. It’s almost as if they don’t want us to be around anymore or daring us to break up with them.
As well as the erratic behaviour, there’s the fact we know the Club loves someone else more than us: whether you think that’s Dean Smith or Stuart Webber, or both, the club won’t listen to sense regarding either of them. It’s obvious they are going to end up getting seriously hurt by one or both of them.
Christ, how did we get ourselves into this mess? And how on earth do we get out of it?
I’m experienced enough to know that there will be no kissing and making up this time. We won’t just be able to have a reconciliatory cuddle and forgive and forget. Things are going to have to change drastically for us to get to a place to try again.
Someone is going to have to leave and some serious words said before we can look to share a future together.
Whether it’s a Smith, Dean or Delia, or Webber, someone is going to have to walk out of the door and take the toxicity with them. However, my worry is that having seen more empty seats appear around me in the Upper Barclay game by game, the club is happy for the growing number of disenfranchised fans to walk away rather than think about changing its current attitude.
I’ve loved Norwich City all my life, but it’s being tested to the limit by the team, its management, and the club’s leadership. I can’t help feeling that rather than being led back to the Premier League we are being dragged kicking and screaming into Championship obscurity.
We’re at a junction. And now’s the time to change direction or face being stuck in this cycle of anger and disappointment for many years – but it shouldn’t be me or any fan, or the local media, being forced to walk away from Carrow Road.