More shows like this and my optimism will fade

I suppose I was asking for it last week when I said I had stuck a tenner on the Canaries to win the league, and the deluge of e-mails I have received since then has included more than one questioning my sanity.

I suppose I was asking for it last week when I said I had stuck a tenner on the Canaries to win the league, and the deluge of e-mails I have received since then has included more than one questioning my sanity.

I do, however, still think we have the chance to be as good (or as average, depending on which way you look at it) as any other team in this league.

Having said that, many more performances like the ones we saw at Hull and Rochdale and we'll be back to the depressing situation of looking to steer clear of relegation rather than anything else.

As I have said on several occasions, I am a Peter Grant fan and I see no reason why the team he has assembled can't take us towards the top six. But equally, it is Grant who must take responsibility for the downsides, and he must shoulder the blame for the poor showing at Hull and the embarrassment at Rochdale.

We were rubbish in the first half at Spotland on Tuesday, and not much better after the first 45 minutes.

The appearance of Darren Huckerby in the starting XI was a welcome relief, and he was certainly up for the fight, but there were far more negatives than positives.

Most Read

Ian Murray was apparently not feeling well, so why was he on the pitch in the first place? In the second half, Simon Lappin replaced him at full-back and Luke Chadwick took over from Lappin in midfield, and we looked a lot more secure, so why wasn't something done about it earlier?

The illness-hit Murray aside, the central defenders were the worst culprits. Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell looked like accidents waiting to happen all night, and their distribution was poor.

Norwich fans have become experts at celebrating silver linings. You can't really blame us - we've had such a shockingly depressing decade or so that clutching at straws has become a speciality of ours.

Last year we found ourselves in the position of punching the air because we'd played well against Chelsea and only lost 4-0. All season we consoled ourselves with the fact that in Dickson Etuhu we might have a player who might be quite good one day - never mind that he only bothered turning up for one game in six.

And now some people seem thrilled to pieces that we have won a penalty shoot-out against the team 91st in League Two (and they're only off the bottom on goal difference).

The defeat against Hull three days earlier was, in the big scheme of things, not the end of the world - at least in terms of the result. But Hull were not very good, and it wouldn't have taken much of a performance for us to have got three points from the game, let alone one.

There are only four teams that haven't already lost this season. Some will say that shows what a competitive league this is, while others will say it simply highlights what a bunch of average teams we all are - and the fact that Ipswich are top proves the latter point.

As it's all much of a muchness, if we can just sort a few basics out we could yet have a half-decent season.

What is clear, though, is that while most people will give things a little time to gel, many more displays similar to those we have seen this week will see the optimism on the terraces disappear sooner rather than later.


Two away grounds in four days - and two very different experiences.

Every year, you uncover a few gems. Last year, for example, I was surprised by the fantastic support Blackpool got from their fans in their poxy stadium, as indeed I was with the tremendous vocal backing their supporters gave them in the cup replay at Carrow Road. I adopted them as my League One team and was pleased to see them come up.

This year, my League Two team is now Rochdale. Tuesday night's visit to the North-West was an enjoyable experience all round - off the pitch, at least.

Before the game, we found a decent pub - the Church - by the ground, and we were allowed to eat our fish and chips from across the road in the beer garden, somewhat bizarrely watching women of a certain age practising their bowls.

For some reason, the bowls club members had to walk through the pub to get to the green, and the whole thing looked like a set from Midsomer Murders (although on this occasion the crime didn't actually take place until our players took to the field a little before 7.45pm).

Meanwhile, we parked 20 yards from the away turnstiles (for free), and the guy in the club shop was happy to waive the official rule of no debit cards for transactions under £10.

All small things, admittedly, but it's the little touches that can make an away-day fun.

It was a different story at Hull last week, however. I wasn't aware of any history between the two sets of fans, but there were some really nasty pieces of work in what I guess is their equivalent of the Snakepit.

Apparently there were Nazi salutes aimed in our direction, and there was certainly some bother after they scored. (They don't even make very good hooligans - I'd always assumed the idea was to cause mayhem when your team let a goal in rather than trying to charge the away fans when your team goes 1-0 up.)

After the match, there was some more nastiness as a number of pre-pubescent kids thought throwing things at the Norwich fans was fun. A handful of us were then let out of the so-called “sterile” area by the stewards so we could get back to our cars, only to be greeted by some panicked-looking coppers who told us that we had better get back behind the gate unless we wanted the Hull fans to kick our heads in (they actually put it a little more strongly than that, but that was the gist). Over their shoulders were a number of angry-looking Hull fans trying to get past the stewards and the police, so we took the police advice.

Quite what we'd done to upset them is anyone's guess. They had, after all, just won.

I suppose it was just the combination of a day in the sun with a lot of beer and a small-town mentality. Mind you, I'd probably have a chip on my shoulder if I came from Hull.

Here's hoping that they end up with Rochdale in League One next year.