Chris Goreham: Swings and roundabouts – the life of a Norwich City fan
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The great thing about Norwich City's current league position is that we can all be right about them at the same time, a point underlined by their two most recent matches.
The impressive 3-1 win over Aston Villa at Carrow Road provided the perfect dossier of evidence for any Canaries fan desperate to see the good in the plan currently being worked through by Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke. When added to the impressive cup displays against Chelsea and Arsenal and a series of good results and decent performances on the road at places like Wolves, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, it's not difficult to paint a picture of a squad high in promise that, on its day, can compete and regularly better the best the Championship has to offer.
However, five days earlier, the Canaries had capitulated in alarming fashion, going down 4-1 at QPR. An opportunity for those who are concerned about the direction the club is headed in a post-parachute payment period to remind us that this season has also seen City concede four goals at Millwall, Hull and Aston Villa, fail to beat bottom club Burton Albion on two occasions and produce a less-than-inspiring 23 goals at home. For context, they scored 55 at Carrow Road last season.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. Norwich City's distance of travel next season, up or down, is not pre-determined, but there are some huge decisions to be made over the next few months which will go a long way towards deciding whether this mid-table season has been the start of a thrilling climb or an alarming slide.
There are understandable concerns about the prospect of a squad shorn of James Maddison's supreme talent as well as loan stars Angus Gunn and Harrison Reed with experience like Alex Tettey and Wes Hoolahan also at risk of departing at the end of their contracts. What should the club do, given their financial constraints about players like Timm Klose and Ivo Pinto who were signed in sunnier Premier League times and are probably paid the wages to match?
It's not all doom and gloom, though. There's the tantalising prospect of Daniel Farke nurturing the consistency out of Josh Murphy that could make his barnstorming performance against Aston Villa a regular thing. Ben Godfrey has impressed for Shrewsbury this season during his loan and seems certain to become a big cog in the midfield wheel of Norwich City sooner rather than later, while the emergence of a fully-formed full-back in the shape of Jamal Lewis has restored faith in the club's Academy.
If you add all of the above together, and the positive ying is just as valid as the negative yang, you end up with a sum that suggests a team that is 12th in the Championship. Have Norwich City reached mid-table respectability or obscurity? It depends on your perspective and, if you're anything like me, that probably changes with each passing result.
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So what's to be done? The worries are just as understandable as the excitement and the intrigue. All those promotion and relegation battles of the past 10 seasons or so have taken their toll and it feels like the City support needs its fix of tension in April and May even if it does come from within.
It's probably best to cling on to moments like Murphy's wonder goal against Aston Villa and relax into a rare stress-free end to the campaign. Next season is definitely going to be different. Norwich will be embroiled in a big finish in 2019, but whether it's going to be a promotion battle or a relegation fight depends on which City fans you speak to.
It's a funny old game
Norwich City have nothing left to play for this season. Or do they?
Anyone who saw the delight Manchester United supporters took from delaying Manchester City's inevitable Premier League title at the weekend will understand the perverse joy football fans take in ruining things for others.
It was the same when Timm Klose's dramatic late equaliser denied Ipswich a much-anticipated East Anglian Derby win earlier this season. Those manic celebrations from Norwich fans were about Town not winning rather than City getting a point.
Having seen a Fulham side with 'nothing to play for' relegate City from the Premier League in 2005 with that infamous 6-0 hiding I have always been suspicious of teams with 'nothing to play for' in the final few weeks.
Aston Villa had the chance to move to within four points of second-placed Cardiff by winning at Carrow Road at the weekend, with a match against the Bluebirds to come this evening. As satisfying as it was to see City win so well, there was also an element of joy for the home fans in denting the promotion hopes of a side with Canary pantomime villain Lewis Grabban in their squad.
So watch out tonight, Sunderland. They may well need the points to help in the battle against relegation, but Norwich owe them one. I know we're supposed to be friends after the 1985 Milk Cup final, but the Friendship Trophy became worthless the moment they beat us in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final and then rubbed salt into the gaping wounds by winning at Carrow Road two years ago to send us down to the Championship.
I see Sunderland as the sort of friends you meet on holiday that don't understand the offer to 'come and stay with us if you're ever in Norfolk' was made out of politeness and wasn't meant at all. Yet every year they turn up with their silly red and white striped suitcases.
It's Cardiff at Carrow Road at the weekend. If City can pull off the sort of performance and result they did against Villa I can imagine the Barclay giving Neil Warnock the sort of traditional Norfolk reception that befits being beaten by a team with 'nothing to play for'.