No going back now. There they are in all their glory.
Forty-six fixtures over which our fate will be sealed for the season 2023-24.
I’ll be honest – I wasn’t ready for them. It feels too soon. It feels not five minutes since we were picking over the carcass of an underwhelming and dispiriting 2022-23, and now we’re being force-fed more of the same.
I’m pretty sure by the time it all kicks off on August 5 our team will have a very different look but for now all we have to base anything on is the squad that currently exists – and it’s not very good.
The three players who have come in have only served to plug gaps left by those who have departed, are to imminently depart, or are the sufferers of long-term injuries.
There has been nothing to excite or to get the blood pumping, so forgive me if I don’t join the small band on Twitter who this morning claimed to be ‘buzzing’ ahead of the release of today’s fixtures.
They, it seems, were buzzing to discover when we lock horns again with our nearest and dearest, and now they know – away on December 16 and at home on April 6, 2024.
Of course, some of the apathy, or at least my apathy, will be chipped away at if the Club signs a few players who, from their footballing CVs, look as though they could make us better. Less so if we continue to sign those just to fill gaps in the squad left by those departing or departed.
Also, the resolution of off-field issues like the one of ownership, the Stuart Webber saga, and the naming of a new sporting director will help resolve the uneasy peace that comes with being a Club in transition (I want to say limbo but was scolded for doing so last time 😀 ).
Hopefully, between now and August 5 something or some things will happen in Norwich City world to reignite a flame that, for me at least, barely flickers.
Quite why we feel at such a low ebb isn’t obvious – our club has spent a large chunk of its 121-year existence in precisely the place it now finds itself – but I suspect it’s partly driven by an overriding feeling that the Club, one very senior executive in particular, doesn’t particularly like its fans.
If the Club doesn’t like us, why should we love it?
But anyway, whether we like it or not, the start of next season is only 44 days away and whether we like it or not we start with a home game against Hull City, followed by a trip one week later to Southampton to reunite with Russell Martin.
Those who are already girding their loins ahead of the first East Anglian Derby since February 2019 will have to be patient. They have to wait until nine days before Christmas for hostilities to resume, which I’d imagine will be of some comfort to David Wagner.
Those chirpy little buggers down south are itching to have a piece of us, not least because they assume derby-day victory – their first since 2009 – to be a mere formality, but for Wagner, the risk/reward of a Norwich-Ipswich fixture would have been the last thing he needed in the opening weeks of the new season.
He’s currently on thin ice with the supporters and, while one way to win them over is to oversee a derby victory, the consequence of defeat when you have the grand total of zero credit in the bank could make for a tricky time, depending of course on how other results have gone.
Either way, nothing bad, from Wagner’s perspective, can come from having to wait until matchday 22 to experience his first East Anglian derby.
And the rest of the fixtures are, well, the rest of the fixtures.
No surprises. 23 home games, and 23 away games with an opening five that looks, on paper, okay and a concluding five that look similarly okay. All of which is meaningless as we have no idea, as is the wont of the Championship, which teams are going to fly and which are going to bomb.
All you can hope for is that we’re not in the latter category but, right now, who’s to say?
Let’s hope the next 44 days provide us with something to cling to.
As things stand, Bet365 have (below) listed City as being more likely to get relegated than to win the title, which seems about right, albeit they also have us listed as joint-fifth favorites at 16/1.
Not so sure about that, but it’s interesting to see how we are perceived outside of the Norwich City bubble.