Norwich City’s squad must prove they are up for the Premier League
There is a common misconception about modern-day footballers. Premier League ones especially. With the bloated financial rewards on offer and all the trappings that brings, the gap between those fortunate enough to have been blessed with the talent to thrill and the mere mortals who live vicariously through their exploits grows ever wider.
Let's not try to sugar coat it. Norwich City's support has been short-changed this season. Plenty has already been said and written about what went wrong against Liverpool. Suffice to say it was symptomatic of a campaign that remains frustratingly stuck in neutral. Errors were made on and off the park by the Canaries and they were ruthlessly punished by a vibrant Liverpool performance capped by Luis Suarez's brilliance.
City were guilty of individual lapses within a subdued and at times submissive display that got what it deserved.
But one charge you can summarily dismiss is that they do not care. Russell Martin did his duty with the media post-match and the pain was etched across his features for all to see. Martin is always an eloquent spokesman for the Norwich dressing room, yet even he struggled to comprehend just how lifelessly the Canaries had performed.
Martin and the rest of his team mates realise only too well how the game works at such a rarefied level. If you willingly accept the plaudits and the rewards you also expect the downsides that come with such fertile territory.
Being part of the Premier League merely serves to magnify the hopes and the fears of anyone with an emotional attachment. It is the most exclusive club in world football, and there are 72 rivals in the Football League envious of the Canaries' place right now at the top table who would swap places in a heartbeat.
Martin's career path is indicative of many within Chris Hughton's squad. After failing to make the grade with hometown club Brighton he slipped into non league – balancing work commitments in the real world the rest of us inhabit whilst trying to revive a fading football dream. Hard years eventually followed lower down the circuit at Wycombe and Peterborough. Martin led Posh into the Championship and was then promptly sidelined at London Road before Paul Lambert rescued him.
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Now he is an established Premier League defender and a Scottish international. His consistency in a number of positions since moving to Carrow Road has earned him a place in the affections of the Norfolk public and a longer term deal from the club's hierarchy over the summer.
Martin has experienced plenty of lows along the way, which is why you can take it for granted he will do everything in his power to ensure he prolongs Norwich's Premier League adventure. Nor he is alone. Martin's story is echoed by that of Grant Holt, John Ruddy and many more besides.
Hughton's squad care a great deal. Maybe not for the same reasons as those they represent; the ones who spend vast sums following Norwich at home and to all four corners of the country every weekend.
This great game we all love is their livelihood. They have families who rely on them, just like the rest of us. The ties that bind to Norwich City may not be passed down through generations, but the common goal is a similar one.
Relegated footballers are not prized commodities. A footballer's career is so short, success so transient it is in their own blatant self-interest to ensure they do everything in their power to ensure days like Liverpool and Fulham do not become depressingly regular epitaphs in a season that started with so much promise under a new leader.
Hughton is experienced enough to know the buck stops with him. He picks the team, he drills them on the training pitches, he has to make the calls during the frenetic 90 minutes that follow. But his charges need to accept their share of personal responsibility.
Ultimately when they cross that line, they are the masters of their own destiny. They have a responsibility to the supporters and their manager, but the biggest responsibility is to themselves. To remind themselves every passing week of what still remains a long season ahead, just how fortunate they are, how far they have come and how much they do not want to go back there ever again.