See City Relegated? You Must Be Joking...
I'm not sure if you've read it but if you haven't, check it out. It's a very interesting piece of honest journalism from Steve Downes on the EDP website.
The basic thought behind Steve's article is that he would rather see Norwich City, the club he supports, relegated and win a cup than stay in the Premier League and 'just' challenge for 10th place.
Now, first of all let me start off by applauding the honesty shown by Steve Downes, it's obviously his opinion and he's very much entitled to it. Football is all about opinions.
However, I have to disagree. I wrote in a piece the other day about the fact that I do know City fans that have a similar point of view. They would rather that The Canaries be playing in The Championship but win a few more games, thus improving the feel good factor on a Saturday evening.
Norwich City were relegated in 2005 while I was on my honeymoon in The Maldives. There was only one TV on the island we were on and we watched the Fulham debacle on it, it was a horrible, horrible experience. To be the only team that had matters in their own hands on 'Super Sunday' was even more galling after the roll over at Craven Cottage.
Fortunately, this was the last day of our holiday and we flew back the next morning, so it didn't spoil the hols too much.
After that, City toiled in the second division for a few years as the parachute payments quickly went and the debt racked up. An ex-Premier League club with all the expectations and quite a few of the outgoings to match them.
We all know the grim business of post-relegation and not getting quickly promoted again before, after years of mediocrity, eventually slipping into League One (the third division). If I thought relegation from The Premier League was bad enough then falling through the trap door into League One was utter despair.
While there, Norwich City almost went out of business in the following October, this was narrowly avoided by our creditors agreeing to a restructuring of our debts, which by this point were around £23m. All this was a direct consequence of relegation from the Premier League and a failure to then get things right in The Championship.
As we saw before, who says that we would be the team that went straight back up again ala Newcastle? Newcastle were managed by Chris Hughton, it's worth pointing out. We could just as easily be the team who stuttered and then got relegated again - just look at the 'big' teams that have ended up in League one. Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Southampton, Portsmouth and most recently, Wolves.
I can, and will go on, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Birmingham City (there's a lot of 'B's' there) Middlesborough, Portsmouth and so on. All these teams have suffered from a lack of excitement at their grounds since relegation from the Premier League and only Burnley currently look like making a go of it this term after years of mediocrity in The Championship. Who's to say that Norwich City would fare any better?
I think that Steve is comparing us to Wigan last year. Yes, they won the FA Cup and that was a tremendous achievement and they were worthy winners on the day but, they've not exactly hit the ground running this season, have they?
David McNally alluded to the fact that European competition can be a distraction and a drain on a smaller club's squad and therefore their league form. I think that's fair comment. I bet if you asked Owen Coyle, he'd privately express a desire to do without it and to concentrate on a promotion charge.
Steve also talks about having to look forward to 'only challenging for 10th place' as a Canary fan. In response to that, I think you have to realise where we have come from in just four short years.
As I mentioned earlier, in October 2009 we almost went out of business. Since that time the club has undertaken a resurrection of epic proportions. Only Lazarus (and Southampton) have made come backs as big as Norwich City's.
Now, I know that progress has been very quick in those four years and that is despite having to pay off all our external debt, but you can't expect to come into the Premier League and compete on a level playing field immediately.
Indeed, will we ever compete on a level playing field with Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool etc? Probably not.
In spite of that though, I am a firm believer that if you want to improve then you have to play against the toughest teams. No-one is in doubt about the financial rewards on offer in the Premiership and the bottom line is that to compete you need money.
I have always enjoyed watching the best players coming to 'my' football stadium. I can remember watching Rush, Dalglish, Gascoigne, Shearer, Keane, Cantona, Klinsman, Pearce and more recently, Ronaldo, Henry, Zola, Bale, van Persie, Mata, Hazard etc, etc, etc.
If Norwich City had not been playing in the First Division/Premier League then I would not have had the chance to watch these sorts of players in the flesh and tell my kids all about them. Of course, the best thing of all is when your team beats them.
Remember when Youssef Safri put Wayne Rooney on his backside to win the ball, give it to Dean Ashton who then crossed for Leon McKenzie to score that second goal against Manchester United in 2005? Brilliant wasn't it!?
Did any of you have similar feelings about wins in the Championship the following year? Nope, me neither. I can compare the feeling when Leon scored to the moment that Simeon Jackson scored the third goal in his hat trick against Derby in THAT 3-2 victory. Why did it mean so much to beat Derby? Because it put us within reach of the Premier League.
The Premier League is where the action is. The money is in the Premier League because the world pays to watch it. The world's best players are in the Premier League because that's where the money is and that's where the exposure is.
Not everyone likes it, but you cannot ignore it. Playing there is hard and not always glorious but to hope we get relegated and win a cup? You must be joking, Steve.
Aiming for tenth place is progress and if we were to achieve it then next year we'd be aiming higher still - it's not an overnight process.
So, while I appreciate your honesty and your opinion, Steve - I cannot agree with your point of view. Like I said though, it's all about opinions...