Opinion: Norwich City fans entitled to have a voice

One of the oldest of all football arguments resurfaced at the weekend, courtesy of a disgruntled few who made their feelings known during the game against Fulham.

After a poor first half by City, during which they conceded a goal and almost all decent possession, the players left the pitch to a crescendo of indifference. A few in the Snake Pit area, I was later told, exercised their right to boo, but from the middle of the Jarrold Stand their feelings weren't immediately clear. Which means that most of the ground perhaps didn't hear them. Similarly, I barely heard the chanting that was aimed towards Gareth Bale last week, although the proximity of the press bench to the Snake Pit meant their little gems didn't go unreported to the outside world. What a lovely picture was painted of Norwich City's support.

The Mirror wrote: 'Bale silenced the cruel jibes of Norwich fans with two fine goals to finally break home resistance. He was taunted with monkey noises and branded an ape by a section of home fans in the first half – chants described as 'disrespectful' by Redknapp.'

And of Bale's second goal, The Sun wrote: 'Bale, who had suffered some stick and monkey chants from the home fans, will have enjoyed the moment.'

It's unfair to taint the vast majority of City fans with such bile – as unfair as it is to suggest the players were booed off the pitch at half-time on Saturday.


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A minority felt it was their right; and it is, whether you agree with their views or not. Once you pay your entrance fee you are entitled to make your views known, as long as what you say is within the law of the lands.

Some will exercise that right, others will hold back, because they feel that trying to lend encouragement is more helpful than criticising. The belief is that criticism, booing, can have a negative influence on players.

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Then there's the rather more simple argument: that the Encouragers don't agree with the Boo-ers. Wouldn't be the first time at a football match, when there are usually more than 25,000 different opinions.

The case put by the Encouragers is a 'look where we've come from' attitude, 'we're small fish in a big pond' and all that, but I can't say that really cuts it with me. The fact that City were in League One a couple of seasons ago does indeed show they have come a long way; it makes for great comparisons – 'two years ago we were playing at Wycombe' – but it is hardly a water-tight argument. When City were doing the League One circuit it was because they had been dire in the Championship the previous season. They deserved to be there. That's how league football works – it's like a sieve that sorts out the good from the middling to the bad.

By the same token, City deserved to go up because they were better than anyone else in the division, they didn't fall through as many holes of the sieve.

Today, they deserve to be in the Premier League. They have, as the manager tells us, 'earned the right' to be there. But once you earn that right it's a little mischievous to fall back on the 'little old Norwich' response when things go wrong.

Which brings us neatly back to the question: to boo or not to boo – or more accurately, to moan or not to moan.

Should you decide that muted applause is the very lowest rung on your ladder of praise, rising through warm applause, up to excited and finally to Simeon Jackson-inspired let's-go-wild-with-unbridled-love-and-passion stuff, then you are perhaps guilty of living in too much of a soft-seat comfort zone.

As much as a football team has a right to the thrilled response of the crowd, such as that which greeted Jackson's equaliser on Saturday, they need to be reminded at times that all is not always rosy in the Carrow Road garden. If it were, City would be top of the league. I am not condoning booing for the sake of it, but if Paul Lambert keeps them on their toes, then the fee-paying fans can play a similar role. Settle for average, or poor, performances and they become more of the norm than they ever should be, more acceptable.

Do not listen to the man who said, 'let's out these people who are booing'. It's a ridiculous breach of free speech rules.

Walking off knowing that you could get a very large flea in your ear from 500 fans in the corner of the ground because you haven't performed is a sure-fire way of reminding a player of his obligations.

We all have different opinions – none of us is right or wrong.

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