Saturday 9th December. Bookmark the date City’s season turned around. Maybe…
Outside the Barclay, right by the exit, there’s a rather cheerful steward. Not one of those men in jackets who tell you to sit down should you get a little excited watching your team. More a gentle, helpful kind who would help you to your seat. Or go and get the ball were it to be kicked into the stand.
Every week he ushers the punters on their way with a ‘thanks for coming’. ‘Have a good rest of your weekend’. And ‘see you next time’.
I mention him because the other kind of steward is taking on the pantomime villain role at the moment. Especially given the letters sent to inhabitants of Block A of the Barclay over the past week.
Not our steward though. The pleasantries roll off his tongue as though he’s been practising in front of the mirror all week, building up to his moment. And all to bring a bit of joy to a mass of increasingly ageing men (sorry to be stereotypical ladies). A group of men to whom you could add ‘progressively agitated’ to their list of descriptive trademarks.
Us City fans all love a good moan
You know the sort. Take an age to get down the stairs. Mainly ‘cos they’re permanently turned to their mate berating the stupid sideways and backwards passing on offer. Moaning about the standard of Vrancic and Watkins. And crucifying Josh Murphy for another abject display.
You know the sort because, as a reader of this blog and a fellow Norwich fan, you recognise them as yourself.
I certainly do.
As a 30 something, I started watching the Canaries during a seemingly Golden Age. I chose City over Manchester United for two reasons:
1) My dad supported them; and
2) The Canaries had just beaten Bayern Munich in their own hinterhof.
We were actually pretty good and exciting to watch. Everyone knows what happened next. A number of years rotting away in the First Division were to await me when my mother decided to buy a pair of half-season tickets for my father and me in Christmas ’99.
Perhaps this is why I accept upper mid-table in The Championship as an alright season. It’s scary to think that there are young fans who have grown up knowing only Premier League, Championship success and playoff victories. Those a little older will remember cup victories and high finishes in the then First Division.
Who knows what the newest assembly will spend their formative years watching.
This current crop are not all bad
Darren Eadie will always be my favourite player. Iwan Roberts a legend for his perseverance in a number of abject sides. And Grant Holt a hero for his role in taking us back to the Promised Land.
I never got to watch the likes of Kevin Keelan or Martin Peters, but I do remember Fernando Derveld, Jon Otsemobor and Carl Robinson. This gives some context to our current crop of players. Mario Vrancic is not one of the worst midfielders to ever play for City. Josh Murphy is destined for a good career at a level higher than League One or Two.
James Maddison and Alex Pritchard will soon be in the Premier League.
With or without City.
Pritchard the Catalyst
Undoubtedly the return of City’s number 21 had an impact on the way City played on Saturday. His presence on the pitch ensured Maddison was afforded more space than he has in recent weeks. His willingness to get on the ball allowed his teammates an easy pass. His forward running and low shot led to the first goal. His vision and creativity put Wednesday on the back foot. His all-round performance gives hope to City fans as the side enter the second half of the season
Watkins’s entrance at the expense of the hapless Murphy provided the urgency to complement Pritchard’s directness. Suddenly Vrancic found he had more time and space in which to display a range of passing seen only fleetingly in previous matches. Angus Gunn now had an outlet whenever the need arose to go a little longer than a tap to the nearest centre back.
Unlike the man he replaced, Watkins actually attempted to win his headers and frequently did so. A spell out of the side will do Murphy good, although he may find it hard to get back in if Saturday’s second half proves anything more than a positive blip.
The return of Tettey, Trybull and Naismith could provide further impetus for the side to kick on. If they have any ambitions of the playoffs it needs to happen soon.
Stubborness, boos and cheering
The atmosphere before the game was pretty sterile. The return of a stage-managed ‘On The Ball’ did at least create some noise. The chants referencing the subject of standing ensured a level of vocal support was maintained. But the boos were definitely audible at half time.
By the end though the whole crowd was singing as the Canaries finally gave their fans something to cheer.
While the chants of ‘We are staying up’ and ‘How shit must you be, we’re winning at home’ were delivered with term firmly in cheek, Tommy Trybull and Angus Gunn’s personal ditties were sung with gusto. Crowd and team came together, in a way that they haven’t since a very early part of the season.
This wasn’t the perfect performance, but it was certainly one that moved in the right direction. As the confidence and intensity of play returned to the players on the pitch, the entertainment increased too. This was fun to watch again, and as City recorded their first three points at Carrow Road since early September the Norwich fans for once left happy.
And one steward no doubt had a little twinkle in his eye.
Thanks for coming City. See you again next week?..