Chris Lakey: A strong sign that the Norwich City plan is working would be good
PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:00 05 April 2018
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Right, tin hats time. This is going to cheese off half the people who read this and perhaps delight the other half...
On Good Friday I had the pleasure of returning to Carrow Road for work purposes for the first time in around seven years.
It was nice to see some familiar faces, in the media room and in the stands in front of the press box.
Sitting down with the laptop in front of me it was like old times. Almost.
Not much after 5pm I went outside in the drizzle as fans made their way back to their homes, and I felt as cheesed off about football as I have done for a while. Because I suddenly had doubts that this Norwich City plan was working.
City had just been taught a lesson by a Fulham side who were gifted the psychological initiative before a ball was kicked and were granted control of Carrow Road for 90 minutes. Sure, there were times when City were dangerous, but if anyone had any doubts that Fulham would take away three points, they dissipated by the minute.
If I was a fee paying fan I would be boiling with frustration.
It is so easy to jump over the fence here – on one side is angry me. The fan who wants to see Norwich do well and has the patience to allow the owners, the managing director, the director of football and the head coach and his players the time to get a completely new system working properly.
The other side of the fence is for the fan who pays money to go and be entertained. The fan who, like every other fan in the country, expects it served up on a plate in front of him. The fan who wants a return for his investment. Now. Not next season.
If you go into the supermarket and buy a loaf of bread, you don’t wait until its baked. You get it there and then, ready to enjoy. If it’s not to your taste, well, you either don’t buy it again or you try something else.
City made me boil - a feeling I had to temper given I was a) working and b) therefore being paid for the privilege rather than charged.
The frustration was summed up when Ivo Pinto bombed down the right flank, got level with the Fulham area, looked up and saw Dennis Srbeny. No one else. They’re were just about trotting over the halfway line.
City were so reluctant to take even the slightest risk in attack – and that is when Fulham knew the game was theirs for the taking. I can easily fall into the trap of reminiscing about Paul Lambert’s teams, and I know people at the club who used to raise their eyebrows in admonishment in the past for doing so, but his teams never lost the mind games. They refused to give the initiative to the opposition, they refused to kowtow. They were always, but always, on the front foot. Yes, there might have been a price to pay with a little defensive frailty, but it was hardly an issue. This lot can’t attack and they can’t defend either .
This season City have scored 42, conceded 50 in 40 games. In Lambert’s League One season of 2009-10 it was 89-47 in 46 games and the following season in the Championship it was 83-58. You don’t need me to work out the averages.
But you see what’s happening here – I’m getting angry again.
Lambert’s team gave us excitement, value for money, points and promotion.
Depending on your side of the fence, the 2018 Canaries give you either some optimism for the future and a big dose of patience pills, or imbue you with the madness of King George.
Pinto and Josh Murphy were the only players I saw who used their pace - and, frankly, some fans don’t help Murphy. Do something wrong and the moans are enough to wake the dead. He’s waiting for that reaction, you know. Don’t people say you should learn by your mistakes? Let him make mistakes. Let him learn, let him get better. If not you will hound him out.
Fulham are a good side, they don’t need any help. but I feel this City side is too timid in its approach. And they most certainly do not have a man out there who is the figurehead. A Grant Holt (see, I’ve done it again). Holt inspired those around him. Where does Murphy look for that?
If there is a saving grace it is that a lot of City fans have the virtue of patience. They are allowing the establishment time to get it right. But for how long?
If City don’t start next season at a fair old lick, there will be trouble. The explanation that it is a work in progress will not wash. I don’t agree with pillorying those in charge. Webber and Farke have a mandate which is dictated by certain circumstances beyond their control. But they have accepted the challenge.
We need a sign or two that it is working.
I had planned to go to The Walks on Easter Monday to watch/report on King’s Lynn Town’s big game against Kettering.
Instead, thanks to the rain that appears to have fallen for weeks now, I will be watching it next Thursday evening.
A night under the floodlights is all well and good, but not as good as it would have been on Monday.
Lynn owner Stephen Cleeve would have been expecting a very healthy crowd, one which I doubt he will get close to next Thursday, simple because, well, fans have to work.
Cleeve wasn’t alone: many club chairmen would have felt the same - Wroxham v Kirkley and Great Yarmouth v Gorleston were a couple of belting fixtures for local football fans but, like Lynn’s game, were lost to waterlogged pitches.
Maybe league officials need to recognise the fact that we have horrible weather in this country and that it is inevitable that games are called off, and establish a couple of Special Saturdays, spare days if you like. Make a fuss of them, a ‘thing’ if you like.
It would mean fans who work can get to the games and enjoy a relaxing football experience, rather than rush out of work, hot foot it across the country and then leg it home for a decent bit of kip before work the following day.
And maybe further up the footballing food chain there ought to be an initiative to help clubs invest in 3G or 4G pitches.
Many won’t fancy it because of the cost, but they can become a community asset, which helps bond club and would-be supporters, helps finances, and helps fulfil fixtures that might otherwise be lost.
The fly in the ointment is that 3G surfaces are not permitted in the English Football League. If a club is promoted from the National League and doesn’t install a grass surface it can be demoted and fined – and that is a National League rule, which they say they will scrap if the EFL accepts 3G pitches.
Sutton United are currently facing this dilemma – but did anyone hear Arsene Wenger moaning about their playing surface when Arsenal went there in the FA Cup? No. Because Wenger isn’t stupid.