Is It Just About Staying Up?
Following last Saturday`s 1-0 home win over Hull City, Norwich City sit 12th in the league table with a 5 point gap between them and the three clubs in the relegation zone.
Much has been written and said about the extremely demanding nature of the team`s end-of-season run in which will see them face Liverpool (h), Manchester United (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h) in the last four games. Nobody can say for certain what these games will produce points wise but the likelihood is that City will need to garner the 15 or so points likely to be required to preserve top-flight status from the 12 games between now and their visit to Anfield on 19th April.
According to opinions coming out of the club, provided survival is achieved the manager will have fulfilled his brief.
Norwich City Chief Executive David McNally`s bold intervention into the Chris Hughton debate when he spoke live on BBC Radio Norfolk last Wednesday is undoubtedly to be applauded. His decision to speak directly to City fans in the aftermath of the club`s embarrassing exit from the FA Cup at Fulham last week showed once again his admirable willingness to acknowledge supporters` dissatisfaction, something that many of his counterparts at other clubs never do.
However, his unequivocal assertion that Chris Hughton`s job is simply to keep the club out of the Premier League`s bottom three is, to me at least, a worry.
McNally`s viewpoint is that of a businessman, a pragmatist and a professional. He has played a central role in the club`s recent success, masterminding the off-field effort as Norwich City have gone from flirting with administration to being debt-free in just 4 short years.
I have no hesitation in suggesting that he is probably as good a Chief Executive as there is to be found anywhere in British football; I am hugely grateful to him and admiring of his expertise, notwithstanding the fact that he banks what most of us would consider to be a huge salary for his efforts.
His perspective, though, is different from mine. I am a supporter of 44 years` standing, a season ticket holder and, like many other fans, I reckon, a little bit of a dreamer.
For me Premier League survival is important but it does not represent the difference between sporting life and death, as Mr. McNally suggested. History has taught me that unless you support one of the so-called 'big clubs`, the likes of the Manchester teams, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea, you have to take a lot of disappointment and frustration in exchange for the few really good times.
Some of my best memories as a City fan came when we were outside the top division and even include one or two games when we were in League One! Yes I was there when we won the League Cup (and on the two occasions we lost at Wembley) , I witnessed our amazing 4-5 defeat at Coventry in December 1977 when a last minute penalty save prevented a 5-5 draw and will never forget Mike Walker`s European campaign, but perhaps my most enjoyable supporting evening ever was at Leicester in March 2011 when I was thrilled and excited not just by the energy and drive of the team in our 3-2 win but by the collective passion of the 'Yellow Army`.
I wrote of that occasion as follows:
'At Leicester last night City fans enjoyed themselves. Perhaps forgetting the pressures of work, financial stresses, health worries or any of the other day-to-day issues which might touch our lives negatively we not only saw but almost became part of a great away performance. We cannot play for Norwich City, though there won`t be many of us who have not, at one time or another, dreamed of pulling on the yellow shirt, but we can sing, clap and roar our support for the team. We can urge them on with our energy to go a bit further, run that little harder and put in that extra tackle. The consequent performance on the field and the 'feelgood factor` off it, possibly explain just why we bother. We are football supporters for nights like last night. We put up with the bad times for exactly nights like Leicester and seasons like this.'
My point is that my love of football and, more particularly, of Norwich City, is not based on cold economic judgement like that of Mr.McNally. I am emotional about it. I like to be thrilled, excited, teased, tempted, and perhaps even offered the chance to imagine that my team might win another major trophy in my lifetime. Just now and again I like to see my yellow-shirted heroes tear into an opposition side with reckless abandon and score 4, 5 or even 6 goals. Just now and again. Maybe in a Cup game.
It goes without saying that I want Norwich city to stay up. I want them to be 'mixing it` with the best teams in the country and I understand the financial implications of relegation.
But I still believe that a team can, with our resources, stay in the Premier League and offer more in terms of excitement. Too often in the last two seasons, both home and away, I have been left cold and unmoved by City`s football, amazingly even finding my mind wandering elsewhere as I have watched. Too seldom, far too seldom, have I been charmed, thrilled, and transported to another, better, place by the football.