Backing Norwich City is the only option
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's supporters need no lectures on loyalty after following a club that seemed intent on self-destruction not all that long ago.
The back story of the fall and then rise has been told many times since the Canaries scrambled into the Premier League. There is no need to pick through that carcass again, but it is worth placing the scale of the epic journey in proper context after a rather fractious atmosphere for a brief first half interlude at Carrow Road against Swansea.
Given City's struggles to fully extricate themselves from the suffocating relegation fight since the end of that club-record Premier League run, the pressure has ratcheted up on everyone in and outside the football club.
Chris Hughton and his players feel that as much as the fans. The simple difference is they can do something about it, but when Michu rammed home a goal that had been coming after Swansea's total domination of the opening 30 minutes it triggered an audible undercurrent of disaffection inside the stadium.
It was sporadic in nature and brief in duration, but there was an inescapable sense the discontent was not solely sparked by a game, but perhaps more worryingly, a season running out of control. A sentiment one suspects that would have reached fever pitch on the half-time whistle if Robert Snodgrass had not guided Elliott Bennett's deep cross home; less an equaliser more a lifeline.
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The broadcasters may bankroll top level football now but the supporters remain its most valuable currency. How desirable a product the Premier League would be if games were played out in empty stadiums is a moot point.
Fans have a voice and they pay enough to express their dissatisfaction. They invest not just time and money but in most cases an emotional attachment bound by family ties. Yet the heightened level of tension and anxiety which swirled around pockets of the stadium following the Spaniard's strike can only ever be counter-productive.
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Michael Turner revealed in his post-match interview it had been mentioned inside the home changing room at the interval. That might explain Turner's immediate reaction to his fantastically executed sidefoot finish on the hour mark. Before the big man was engulfed by his team mates a look of what could only be described as stoic resistance creased his features as he got to his feet in front of the Lower Barclay.
It might not quite have been the proverbial cupped hand to ear gesture that he employed to answer the critics following his early season struggles after he glanced home a header to salvage a point at Villa Park, but there was certainly a parallel.
Turner, along with the rest of Hughton's squad, still have plenty of hard graft ahead to secure their Premier League futures. That onerous task hardly becomes easier if elements of City's fan base break ranks. The only cast-iron guarantee between now and the end of this season is those upcoming home games against the likes of Reading and Aston Villa will be similarly fraught affairs. Norwich may even find themselves in a identical situation to their sluggish start against the Swans. If they do, that is not just a fresh test of the players, but the supporters.
To eulogise about City's loyal fan base is as patronising as it is to spout glibly about everyone being in this together. Norwich's annual season ticket take-up underlines the depth of feeling in this part of the world towards their football club. They care, they are passionate and they want to see Norwich in the Premier League next year and beyond. But berating Hughton or his players is self-defeating at such a critical juncture.
Compared with the eruptions from Sunderland's disgruntled supporters directed at Martin O'Neill and his under-performing Black Cats when Norwich visited recently, Carrow Road witnessed only minor grumbling at the weekend. It needs to stay that way between now and May.