Michael Bailey: A can of worms, transition missions and the sense of entitlement – the final six things learned of the season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
So it sure was a game too far for Norwich City as they headed to Hillsborough to round off their season against Sheffield Wednesday – here's a final six Sheffield slaps from MICHAEL BAILEY…
1 – Football can hit you hard
Last weekend James Maddison got his due reward for a stellar campaign, as he was named City's player of the season. This weekend, there would have been just one more requirement: stay fit.
The young man has handled himself so well this season, it got to the point where no one was begrudging him the prospect of his big Premier League move – one entirely on the cards this summer.
Likewise with City planning for a funding gap in excess of £15m the other side of a parachute payment-less summer and rebuilding work still to do, there was the ideal solution for them.
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Which means that the one thing no one wanted to happen at Hillsborough, took just 11 minutes to arrive.
The fear is there that it's a bad knee injury and with it, opens a whole can of worms over City's summer plans – not even to progress, but simply adjust to their new reality. Football really does know how to hit you where the pain is excruciating.
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2 – We all love a lingering goodbye
It started from the moment the two teams lined up after emerging on the pitch. Nelson Oliveira was already applauding the visiting fans – more than I'd ever seen him before, and in a way that he wanted to make sure people could see what he was doing. He kept up the habit after the game too.
Indeed, by that point we had Oliveira and Ivo Pinto alongside loanees Harrison Reed and Angus Gunn with a knee-braced Maddison, as the sole players left on the pitch saying their goodbyes.
It remains to be seen if the future plays out along the path full-time was showing us. But the pats on the back should really be directed towards the fans that took their applause.
They probably knew what they could get at Hillsborough, yet they stayed until the end and took their players' apologies and gratitude with respect.
And that implicit togetherness with most definitely be needed the other side of the summer.
3 – Learning is painful
Players don't always want to be reminded of the journey they've made, but Timm Klose offered it in solidarity to Christoph Zimmermann; you can understand why.
In many ways, the big German centre-back was never expected to become the front-line option he has. And yet, far more experienced defenders with bigger reputations have made the error City's number six had to come to terms with on Sunday.
It is perhaps the biggest challenge facing Norwich from here.
They want to give young players the chance to develop; to give hungry players from outside England a chance to prove themselves. With that will come lessons, mistakes and patience – and as those inside the club will know, a degree of knowhow has to sit alongside that.
Klose experienced the rough side of the Championship last term and has been an unsung hero this. He is as important to Norwich's future prospects as the kids beside him.
4 – No one is immune…
Klose was spot on in assessing where Norwich go from here – acknowledging it's not just the players that need to have learned from their last 10 months of Championship battles; the coaching staff will need to do likewise.
That City's back-room set-up has the humility to learn from this season – what went well and what failed – is going to be crucial from here.
Crucial in terms of making progress and especially, encouraging supporters that what is being done at the club is for the right reasons and bearing fruit.
In fairness, such judgements on the entire campaign should not come from Sunday alone – personal dynamics always rear their head on the last day.
But in turn, City's refined art of making scoring goals look the hardest thing in the world to achieve – while on occasion gifting them all too easily at the other end – is one of several themes seen at, yet not exclusive to, Hillsborough to work on.
5 – ...And no one is entitled
The last thing City fans sat at Hillsborough would have probably felt is thankful, yet they really should.
City have spent four of the last seven seasons in the Premier League; a financial legacy that only comes to an end this summer. And there they were, hosted by a huge ground and a bankrolled club with a sizeable history that has been outside the top-flight since 2000.
The noise inside that place was huge when the fans wanted it to be, which was an achievement in itself given their awful campaign and what may happen there next.
Transition awaits Wednesday too, albeit they may have the money to do it. Even then, the potential at the club has always been impossible to ignore; one that befits the top flight – and should serve as a signal no one is entitled to it.
Anyway, in some ways we could all do without the trip to Hillsborough. It's now eight games since City last won there, conceding 23 goals in the process. Ouch.
6 – The lines are drawn
Transition season. That's what this was. Everyone from fans, players, coaches and board members have said it – us too – and in turn, it's been useful in explaining an erratic campaign.
And you know what, it's true. The phenomenal change undertaken across Norwich City Football Club was both necessary for the club to sustain outside the Premier League, and to give it a platform for future success.
The problem is, a transition season intimates that once it's finished you've done all your transitioning and life will be good again. It's a new expectation City will have to battle with.
It was clear on our live match coverage that some fans will wait 10 games into next season, before letting rip if things haven't improved.
And while most will no doubt be prepared to wait a little longer, there is no hiding that City's Owls thrashing has done nothing to encourage supporters that all will be well, so long as it's a different season.
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