There are many things more important than football, the most important being recognising the futility and uselessness of war.
Before the game yesterday, I got to know one of my neighbours in the Barclay better, and it created a very poignant moment. He’s 80 years old (though I would never have guessed) and was born in Germany in 1943. His father was killed in Italy three weeks before the Second World War ended, and he came to England with his mother in 1948.
We have our father’s nationality in common, but mine survived the war and married a vicar’s daughter in Yorkshire.
We held the silence in the ground, as did most people today, although I did mutter “all countries” when the announcer said, “for our country.” As the last strains of The Last Post floated away into the crowd’s applause, I turned to my neighbour who looked at me through his tears and said, “It’s so sad, isn’t it?”.
I gave him a hug and said to him, “Especially when you can see both sides like we can.”
A sage nod, a wipe of his face, and then we were back to Barclay banter. These are the moments that matter, really, not the disarray on the pitch at Carrow Road that followed.
And so to the game. Regardless of the whys and wherefores, it’s stupid and moronic to boo one of your own players from kick-off. How’s that going to play out? Not well, to be honest, and it didn’t.
At first, I thought the boos were because the first pass out from the back was to the left – again. But no, it was because of the player the pass went to. We were becoming witnesses of going from one extreme to the other. There’s been so much criticism of passing to the left from the back, it appeared to me that David Wagner had issued an edict that there were to be no passes to the left from the back at all, even if there was space there.
I don’t understand. Play into space, and play into space quickly. The only thing this team seems to be able to do at pace is to concede goals.
Around me, people were blaming the keeper for the first goal, because it went in at the near post. Yes, near-post goals are bad for keepers to concede, but when your defence just disintegrates and goes missing, when the opposing forward could have planted it either side of the defenceless keeper, he’s going to end up in no-man’s land anyway.
A total abdication of responsibility by the defence. And that’s the story of the entire game, in truth – every player expecting someone else in the side to actually make the final decision on a pass, on a move, on a tackle, on everything. And the criticisms of Hwang Ui-jo for popping up everywhere from centre-half to centre-forward were undeserved – at least he was trying to put himself about. No one else really was.
This was a joyless half-hearted display. Blackburn out-fought us, out-thought us, defended with vigour and courage and commitment, while we just stood on the ball like we were 3-0 up, not them. There were massive holes in our midfield most of the time, holes that Blackburn exploited at will.
At other times, our midfield resembled a hair knot, with five players within yards of each other, obscuring each other’s line of sight, line of pass, a querulous gaggle of Canaries with no idea of what to do. Even when we had 11 men playing Blackburn’s 10 (after a warranted red card – it’s about time football adopted the awarding of penalty goals for professional fouls when a forward is clear through), we slowed the pace for some totally and utterly unfathomable reason.
After 15 minutes it looked like all the Norwich players just wanted to get off the pitch. They weren’t playing for the fun of it. They weren’t playing for the club. They weren’t even playing for themselves. They were just going through the motions whilst being clueless as to how to alter the trajectory of the game.
Even amateur players (perhaps that should be especially amateur players) fight until the final whistle actually goes. Hardly any of the Norwich players did, if any. Why forwards don’t sprint back after losing the ball, or after a shot that’s gone wide, is beyond me.
What is it with sauntering back to the halfway line instead of getting back there at speed so a new attack can be built without someone being in an offside position? What is it with playing out slowly from the back when you’re trying to get back a three-goal deficit?
And don’t talk to me about tactics and inviting the gegenpress so you can beat them on the break. It doesn’t work, not in this environment. Not in this team.
I’m thankful to my seat neighbour for reminding me of the importance of humanity. That, for me, was the most precious thing this season will give me.