I’ll not be heading to Carrow Road tomorrow for the final hurrah of 2022-23.
Not through choice or because I’ve decided that a one-man protest will sock it to the owners and sporting director, but because poor health will prevent me from doing so, just as it has done since mid-December.
The pandemic aside, it’s by some distance my longest spell away from Carrow Road since my journey began. No sympathy required though. All things being equal, I’ll be back next season.
(Before anyone accuses me of clogging up a seat that could be used by others, I’ve been registering my seat on the club’s ‘buyback’ facility).
But, worryingly, I’ve not missed it as much as I expected. Part of it, of course, boils down to not feeling well, but there’s a part of me that’s – for the want of a better expression – fallen out of love with our football club.
The club appears not to particularly value, or even like, its supporters. That much has been made abundantly clear through the words and actions of Stuart Webber and the various suits that surround him, and (as an aside) I’ve also had that communicated to me from some within the Club.
The ‘us against them’ psyche has filtered down, and they, the Club, appear content with that.
Nothing has emerged from Carrow Road to suggest otherwise. If you’re not with them, you’re against them, is the attitude that pervades, and has done for the last couple of seasons.
Not only are we unvalued and unloved. We’re perceived as a hindrance.
But also we’re not stupid.
There’s a reason why, even before Christmas, empty seats aplenty were dotted around Carrow Road. Folk have become disillusioned and they don’t like being taken for fools and/or taken for granted.
That the football on offer has been pathetic is clearly a factor but it runs far deeper. To assume people are staying away because the team has been half-hearted, disinterested, and a bit rubbish ignores the lot of your average football fan.
If we’d decided to stay away every time City have been on a poor run, or because things are a bit shit, then the place would be empty.
We don’t support Norwich City because they’re a great team – we leave that to nouveau Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd, and Liverpool fans. We support Norwich because, for a million different reasons, we have, or have developed, a connection.
In my case, it was because my dad and both grandads were City diehards but for everyone it’s different. What we do have in common is that none of us chose Norwich City because we expected them to be challenging for titles and winning trophies. We hope, but we never expect.
So I do struggle a bit with those who cite their reason for not attending to be the quality, or lack thereof, of the football. That’s not been guaranteed since 1902.
But, we’re also our own worst enemies. Most of those who complain will, finances permitting, renew their season tickets. And the Club, by its own admission, sees the takeup of all available season tickets as a vindication of their direction of travel and culture.
If they’re renewing, they must be happy, right?
But we’re not. Far from it. We’re not remotely bloody happy.
The daft thing is, of course, despite me waffling on around how the unrest goes far deeper than us being grumpy about the team’s lack of performance, if – by some miracle – they start next season well and win a few games, our angst around the Club’s toxic culture and us fans being taken for mugs would soon be temporarily shelved.
We’re that fickle. A winning football team can paper over a million cracks.
So what point have I spent the last 600 words trying to make?
Well, what I’ve been clumsily trying to get at is the dichotomy that faces many of those who will be attending NR1 tomorrow.
Clearly, Teemu Pukki deserves the send-off to end all send-offs. He’s been an absolute superstar both on and off the pitch and he has more than earned the love and warmth that he will get from Carrow Road.
The tricky bit for many is how to square that with wanting the Club to know how unhappy we are with it, with the way it’s been mismanaged, and with the contempt they’ve shown (and continue to show) us.
It’s a tricky balance, especially as history tells us that any Carrow Road warmth will be embraced by the Club and used by them as evidence that everything is still tickety-boo.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know that Pukki’s big day shouldn’t be marred in any way. His final lap of Carrow Road should be remembered by him and his family forever and for all the right reasons.
Equally, the masses are unhappy and there will be no platform to express that directly until August.
Answers on a postcard. Let us know what you think.