Search

“We went to war without a gun.”

Another game, another defeat. Anything but a win on Saturday seals Norwich City’s fate, but it was the manner of the loss against Southampton almost three weeks ago that set the tone for what was to come.

In three Premier League fixtures since the restart, Norwich have had four shots on target. They’ve conceded eight goals.

An FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United should be the highlight of any season for Norwich City, regardless of league position.

Remember the glorious summer of 2019? When we were all basking in the glory of a title-winning campaign, looking forward to Daniel Farke and his charges pitting their wits against the best teams in the country and having another crack at the Premier League?

If talk of a great escape a few weeks back seemed fanciful, it feels futile after a defeat at Molineux where City’s spirit looked to have sapped away.

A few days may have passed since Norwich came away with nothing from another terrific performance versus one of the Premier League’s elite, but a sense of disappointment is still niggling away at me.

After watching City play Newcastle off the park in August, it would have been hard to believe Steve Bruce’s side would be 13 points better off the next time the sides were to meet.

For Norwich City fans of a certain era, the FA Cup has provided some special, if not bittersweet memories.

The third round of the FA Cup hasn’t conjured up much joy for Norwich City fans in recent years.

“The problem is they were so well drilled and organised. We had no answer to it.”

Sunday afternoon felt like one of those films that starts off brilliantly but by halfway through you’re beginning to fear you’ve worked out the rest of a frustrating plot that promised so much more.

Given Norwich City’s early season injury woes, they were long overdue a bit of luck.

Watford came to Carrow Road on Friday night averaging a goal every 165 minutes this season. It took them just 76 seconds to score against Norwich.

There is a crisis of confidence in this Norwich City squad... so what better team to face than the only one beneath you in the table?

There is an air of inevitability around when Norwich City concede first.

It’s become a weekly ritual for all those football fans who double up as virtual managers. Scanning the fixtures, weighing up transfers, trying to predict which players are likely to score big points.

When Jack Grealish slotted home Aston Villa’s third goal less than five minutes into the second half on Saturday, it laid bare Norwich City’s shortcomings more than any other.

A ridiculous injury crisis, two and a half hours without scoring an away goal and back-to-back 2-0 defeats.

If Daniel Farke had forgotten how tough the Championship is last Saturday’s game should have served as a salutary reminder.

While the game at Huddersfield had all the hallmarks of early season, with players still feeling their way into their respective systems, the end result was exactly what was needed from a City perspective, and whilst reversing the record run of losses was vital, to do so with a clean sheet was the icing on the cake.

I hardly think the world needs yet another post-mortem on City’s relegation, so let’s look ahead to next season.

So, just the one game to go. Unfortunately, it’s against probably the most potent attacking force in the Premier League, City’s most creative player is suspended, their best striker can’t buy a goal and they’ve got one fully-fit centre-back. What could possibly go wrong?

During the lockdown I wrote several pieces about how unstable the football pyramid was being shown to be, due to precious little of the huge amounts of money at the top finding its way down.

Recently I decided to sit down and watch some of City’s early-season games, primarily to cheer myself up but also to try to see what has changed.

The only positive of Project Restart from the perspective of Norwich City fans is the fact that the relentless schedule of games means that our suffering will be over relatively quickly.

Regular readers of this column will know that I was considerably less than enthusiastic about the return of the ersatz version of football produced to keep the broadcasting wolves from the door of the Premier League, and Project Restart has so far done nothing to convince me that I was wrong.

Well, we’re going to be getting some “entertainment” in the coming weeks, but to paraphrase Mr Spock: “It’s football, Jim, but not as we know it.”

It seems strange after all this time to be talking about live football again. Since the Premier League ground to a halt just before the weekend of March 14, we have seen a break of eight weeks, which will have extended to 11 by the time that the action restarts, assuming all goes to schedule.

This week’s stark warning from Huddersfield Town owner Phil Hodgkinson that up to 60 lower league clubs could go out of business unless the football establishment starts to look beyond the current obsession with finishing the current season and plans effectively for change in the longer term is worrying.

After a period of fence sitting, the Premier League clubs have voted for players to return to training, albeit non-contact, and the Bundesliga has returned to action in Germany. Whether these are sensible moves will be something that only time will tell.

So another week has gone by and we’re still no clearer about the fate of Project Restart, not least because it’s so hard for the average fan to get a handle on what’s really going on.

If there is one phrase that is guaranteed to grind my gears it’s “the integrity of the league” used as a justification by those intent on finishing the football season at all costs.

About the only positive aspect of the absence of football has been the fact that my blood pressure hasn’t been raised by VAR for a few weeks now.

One of my favourite books about what football means to us is “We Ate All the Pies” by John Nicholson.

There has been plenty of speculation about the potential long-term effects of the current crisis and how the world will look once the pandemic is over.

As the enforced isolation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic continues to tighten its grip upon us all, it’s important to appreciate just how badly the absence of football and its associated social networks can affect the mental wellbeing of those around us.

The great soul singer Irma Thomas once sang “You don’t miss a good thing until its gone.” How right she was.

Could it be that the footballing gods have, somewhat belatedly, decided to smile on Daniel Farke?

The Premier League and its propaganda arm Sky Sports see football as all about glamour.

It’s only six months since that sticky early August evening at Anfield when City kicked off their season but as they prepare for the return fixture all the hopes and dreams we took with us that day have largely evaporated.

The inner workings of the transfer system are complex and generally shrouded in mystery, with fees often listed as undisclosed. Consequently it’s hardly surprising that all sorts of myths and misconceptions develop around them.

There have been relatively few opportunities to savour City’s results this season, but last Saturday was a notable exception as the Canaries produced a high-class display to beat a Burnley side who never looked like winning the game.

It’s a peculiar paradox that Norwich City are almost certainly headed straight back to the Championship, probably as the bottom team in the Premier League, yet the team and manager were warmly applauded by fans at the end of Wednesday night’s cruel defeat at Spurs.

It would be nice to be able to put a positive spin onto Norwich City’s defeat at Old Trafford, but the truth is that there was very little to be positive about.

With the madness of the January transfer window upon us it’s inevitable that there will be demands in some quarters for City to spend big money in an attempt to stay up, even though that would be in direct contravention of the blueprint that was put in place when Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber arrived in 2017.

And so we have said farewell to 2019, a year that has had more than its fair share of ups and downs for City fans as we scaled the heights of the Championship only to see the Canaries cursed by injuries and struggling in the toughest league in the world.

“We’re a young team but there comes a point when the lads have got to step up, stick together and be men.”

The only predictable thing about this Norwich City side is its total unpredictability.

Latest from the EDP

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the EDP
digital edition

Subscribe