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Fans’ nerves can transmit to players

12:13 25 November 2011

For the benefit of those who couldn’t make it, our forum with Craig Fleming last Friday was a great success.

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Craig was a highly entertaining guest and listening to someone who has been through the experience of trying to survive in the Premiership made for a fascinating evening.

However, one thing in particular stuck in my mind as I made my way to Carrow Road on Saturday.

Craig had made the point about the significance of the crowd in terms of the team’s confidence levels, giving an example of the incredible fightback against Middlesbrough in our last Premiership season as a case where an animated crowd had energised the team on the pitch.

However, the other side of the story was the effect that an apprehensive or overly-critical crowd can have in terms of draining confidence. On Saturday, the latter effect was much in evidence with a palpable air of tension around the ground, which grew with Arsenal’s early dominance.

There is no doubt that our support at home can sometimes appear equivocal compared to what happens away from Carrow Road. Perhaps it’s because there is an expectation that as we are at home we should dictate the game, or maybe a fear that any errors will be ruthlessly punished, but, whatever the reason, it seemed to transmit to the players on Saturday.

Arsenal, of course, need no help from anyone. At times their passing and movement was breathtaking and anyone who sees them as a group of Fancy Dans would do well to consider how little time our players were given on the ball. Like Barcelona, their workrate is often overlooked, but just watch a replay of the winning goal and see how quickly an apparent space for Russell Martin to drive into becomes a cul de sac.

Football is an exhausting game when you don’t have the ball and there were times in the closing minutes when City started to resemble a Spanish bull awaiting the matador’s sword.

Hard work and endeavour can only get you so far when faced with that level of class, but there is no disgrace in losing to a side of that quality and on that sort of form, although they didn’t impress everyone. Walking from the ground I heard three fans opining that Arsenal passed it about a bit, but were “very ordinary” – 62pc possession suggests that they were rather more than that.

However, while it would be great to claim the scalp of an Arsenal, a Chelsea or a Manchester United, these are not the games that will dictate our future. Points in such games are a bonus, but if we can perform well and don’t capitulate it keeps confidence levels intact for the really vital games against the sides against whom we are directly competing to stay up.

On Saturday, 10 of Arsenal’s starters were full internationals, with a further six on the bench. The fact that we ran such a side close is a positive, and we do not have to face such quality every week.

Tomorrow is a new game and we need to show the team that we believe in them from the first kick to the last.

Finally, a quick plug for another City legend.

Jeremy Goss was due to run Sunday’s Norwich half marathon blindfold with Steve Plunkett to raise money for the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind. Gossy is injured and can’t run, but Steve will be doing it with Keith Moore as his running guide, so please Google “Gossy and Plunky at Virgin Money” to find out how to sponsor him.

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