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Chris Lakey: City fans must not forget their words carry some weight

PUBLISHED: 10:24 17 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:45 19 June 2018

Josh Murphy - wonder if he's glad to be gone? 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Josh Murphy - wonder if he's glad to be gone? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

Be careful what you wish for.

Ian Henderson celebrates scoring his second goal  against Millwall in 2003 Picture: Nick ButcherIan Henderson celebrates scoring his second goal against Millwall in 2003 Picture: Nick Butcher

Last season, at Carrow Road, I left shaking my head after one game, not at the paucity of quality I’d witnessed, but by the actions of some Norwich City supporters.

The reason was their reaction to the performance of Josh Murphy. He hadn’t played particularly badly, it’s just that he appeared to be the conduit for their frustrations overall.

I’d mentioned in a podcast or a column at some stage last season that Murphy was a young man still learning his trade – and in response got some rather naughty replies that disagreed with me: at 22, 23 he was, apparently, a grown man, able to handle criticism, however it was delivered. Really? A fully matured man? Not on your nelly.

It matters not whether you are 22, 32 or 102, ridiculous, unwarranted and hurtful criticism bites the same way.

Murphy, for some reason, was targeted by a few fans who should have known better. I am not suggesting for one moment that fans should get happy clappy and applaud their team no matter what. What I am suggesting is that they don’t act like idiots and blow their lids just because they are let loose at a football game where, it seems, all usual rules of common decency are set aside.

Murphy is now a Cardiff City player, having completed a move this week that will net City a reported £10m.

Sporting director Stuart Webber said: “Josh has had some difficult times at the club and hasn’t always been every fan’s favourite, but he’s always got his head down and worked really hard to be the best he can be.”

And that sort of sums up the problem for me: Murphy never set out not to do well. Footballers at this level cannot hide, they get found out. They do what their coaches ask of them: if Daniel Farke wanted Murphy to cut inside when he attacked his defender, then he had to cut inside, even though his instinct may have been to do otherwise. It is the coach who picks the team, not the players, so if a player is not in form, don’t moan at him, because it isn’t his fault.

So you have a player who has tried his best and it hasn’t quite come off; maybe he’s a touch off his game, maybe his opponent is just too good for him, maybe he’s carrying a knock. That doesn’t mean his efforts should be met with abuse from his own supporters. And if anyone says it didn’t happen, well, they are mistaken. It did. And in a place like Carrow Road on matchday you can hear people breaking wind in the stands, so you can sure as hell hear them shouting abuse at you.

Moan and groans are part and parcel, emotions that just cannot be hidden. But the next step up is more deliberate.

And you wonder just what a fan gets out of abusing a player, especially one of his own. It’s hardly guaranteed to make him play better is it?

For the club’s director of football to say he “hasn’t always been a fans’ favourite” is quite an admission. Even when Murphy’s exit was confirmed, the haters couldn’t resist another pop.

I’ve seen it over the years with others – I always thought Ian Henderson didn’t get as much love as he should have done, while Chris Martin didn’t have to make too many mistakes before tongues began wagging. Plenty of players get the moans and groans, but to differing degrees – some get away with the worst of it because the fans are desperate for them to do well (RVW).

Again, I am not suggesting a gagging order on gobby fans – just that the potty mouths who do it for effect, however adverse, just think again. I doubt they have driven Murphy out of the club, but similar actions could have more direct effect on players less mentally strong to handle them.

Lots of players are on the end of unwarranted abuse. It isn’t just Murphy. It isn’t just Norwich City. But it is unnecessary.

Of course, the vast majority of fans act as you’d expect: Norwich supporters are not known for jumping up and down and causing problems left, right and centre. Just a few of them do...

Incidentally, it was interesting to see Neil Warnock had to fly out to Malaysia to see his owner, Vincent Tam, to convince him to part with the cash to buy Murphy.

I can tell you from experience that is a long, long haul so I guess Warnock thinks he is worth it. Warnock is cracking for a sound bite, but he probably ought to have kept this one quiet. If Murphy doesn’t cut the mustard there will; be an “I told you so”.

The other Murphy twin, Jacob, is in that position at Newcastle, although you’d hope fans would understand that some players need a little time to settle in and cut him some slack.

Rio grand

I know that over the next few weeks, Robbie Savage is likely to drive me mad.

The BBC and ITV have World Cup casts bigger than Ben Hur, and ‘name the best pundit in Russia’ is going to be tricky.

Sav has a daily breakfast show on BBC Radio 5 live - which will trump Talkrubbish any day of the week, even with him in charge. I listened in yesterday and it was the brilliant Rio Ferdinand who stole the show. Ferdinand has a knack of talking properly about games, players, tournaments from a player’s point of view: no skirting the issues, the former Manchester United man tells it straight and can be compelling listening.

I struggle with ITV at the best of times, so I will do my best to avoid them ruining my World Cup. Instead, it will be John Murray and Ian Dennis on the radio, Rio wherever I can get him, and Gary Lineker in the studio introducing TV commentators like Steve Wilson and Guy Mowbray.

I can leave Glenn Hoddle and his “that right foot hit that ball into that goal”.

Robert’s no fool

Only Fools and Horses is usually the only TV programme I watch time and time again, but this week I’ve branched out.

Speedway’s British Championship on BT Sport was simply irresistible.

Norfolk’s Robert Lambert won it, winning every race in the process, and at the same time putting to bed any claims that the sport is all about who gates first.

The 20-year-old was simply sensational, particularly when beating Chris Harris and Scott Nicholls in epic encounters on the shale at the sport’s national HQ at Belle Vue.

Lambert was fresh from helping Great Britain to silver in the Speedway of Nations competition – fresh enough to win six races on the bounce.

Lambert – from Foulsham in north Norfolk – has ‘future world champion’ stamped all across him. He’s exciting to watch, he’s young, fearless, well spoken and clearly ambitious.

And magnificent to watch in full flow – his passing manoeuvres genuinely had me jumping out of my armchair.

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