We will learn lessons from a hard season

This is my last column for the EDP this season - a season that has seen unhappiness and bitterness between City supporters in the stands and reality falling short of expectations on the pitch.

This is my last column for the EDP this season - a season that has seen unhappiness and bitterness between City supporters in the stands and reality falling short of expectations on the pitch.

As to why this season has been so tough, the reasons have been well documented and much discussed. A horrific catalogue of injuries (111 separate injuries this term, against 60 in our promotion season); the Premier League 'hangover'; a team unsettled by some players wanting to move on to further their careers elsewhere; new players taking time to get used to a new club; the huge weight of expectation with City being quickly installed by the bookies as pre-season favourites - all this cannot have helped one bit.

With the benefit of hindsight, would we have done some of the things we did this season? When we turned down bids in the region of £6million for Dean Ashton from Manchester City and Wigan Athletic last summer, was this the right thing to do? Persuading Dean to stay and signing him up on a longer, improved contract was done absolutely for the right reasons, and if we had sold him then we would no doubt have been accused of a lack of ambition. But, with the benefit of hindsight, it would perhaps have been better to cash-in and re-invest last summer, rather than in January, when Dean was making it very clear that he no longer saw his future with us.

Those are the sorts of decisions that the management and board of this club have to make. And we won't always be right. But we will always do what we genuinely believe to be in the club's long-term best interests at the time.

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There are, of course, lessons to be learned from this season. At the supporter forum at Monday's open day, it was suggested that a number of people at Carrow Road were living in a 'comfort zone'. As Player of the Season Gary Doherty replied, such an accusation is extremely hurtful. No one here is living in any sort of comfort zone. What has been done over the past 10 years has been possible through continually pushing ourselves to achieve, looking to change, develop and improve - on and off the field.

And this close season will be no exception. There is certainly a need to freshen things up so that, on and off the field, we can try to re-create the impetus and enthusiasm that served us so well two years ago. And supporters can rest assured that, with Nigel, we will be sitting down to assess where we can make improvements, on and off the pitch, to try to improve on this season's ninth-place finish.

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Of course, in addition to looking to freshen up what we do, what is absolutely vital is that we go into next season without the division and unhappiness amongst our supporters, which has characterised so much of this season. If we go into season 2006/2007 against a backdrop of acrimony and division, then arguably we are already sunk. But, if we can regain the unity which has turned Carrow Road into a fortress for so much of the last five years, then we will give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving what we all want next season.

Enjoy your summer, enjoy the World Cup, and come back re-charged, refreshed and ready to go again! And finally, thank you for your support this season. Without you, the supporters, there is no Norwich City Football Club. But with your backing, your vocal support, your fierce determination to put aside this season's differences and get fully and squarely behind Nigel and the team next season, we give ourselves the best possible chance of succeeding.

On The Ball, City!

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