Chris Goreham: These are worrying times for Norwich City fans...but isn't it always?
PUBLISHED: 20:00 07 May 2018
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You’re not really a Norwich City fan unless you’re feeling very worried.
That constant nagging feeling in the pit of the stomach has been present during the relegation battles and promotion pushes of recent seasons and it turns out that fretting about what the future might hold doesn’t disappear with the onset of mid-table mediocrity.
The final day of the season provided one last opportunity for the current Canaries to send supporters off for the summer with an idea that things are heading in the right general direction. Wes Hoolahan’s fond farewell to Carrow Road a week earlier had built the semblance of a feel good factor, even with nothing more glamorous than 12th place in The Championship on the line.
When James Maddison was forced off within the opening 10 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday the remaining players were given the chance to ease the supporters’ biggest fear.
The assumption that City’s Player of the Season will leave in the summer has left many fans wondering how difficult Norwich would find it without their talisman.
They had 80 minutes at the weekend to show that they can cope without him. The trouble is City were also without Grant Hanley, their best defender, and Alex Tettey whose qualities as a midfield enforcer have earned him a two-year contract despite the acknowledgement that his battered and bruised body won’t allow him to complete anything like a full Championship season.
The Hillsborough humbling that followed could easily be dismissed as the sort of thing that can happen on the final day of the season when there’s nothing serious to play for but the manner of this Canary collapse only confirmed the feeling that another transitional transfer window is essential if the club is to build a squad deep enough to reverse the trend of the last 12 months that has seen them go from finishing eighth to 14th in The Championship.
The irony that it was a 5-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday which prompted the last summer of change at Carrow Road is hard to ignore.
That scoreline on City’s last visit to The Owls in March 2017 ended any realistic hopes of a play-off place and was almost the last straw for Alex Neil. He would have just one more match as Norwich manager before being relieved of his duties.
The root and branch restructure which followed, on and off the pitch, meant that Norwich returned to Hillsborough 14 months later with Timm Klose the only player from Neil’s penultimate starting line-up to be in Daniel Farke’s first XI this time.
The personnel may have been different but the similarities in terms of the sloppy defending which led to the Canaries collapse were crushing for those fans who had travelled, perhaps more in hope than expectation, for one final time this season.
No competitive football for the next three months certainly doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to worry about for Norwich City.
The parachute payments are gone and so for the second successive summer the mission is to rebuild and reshape the City squad while also trying to save money. It’s a very difficult thing to do as the club’s drop in final league position over the past two seasons illustrates and may be even more challenging depending on the severity of Maddison’s injury.
They either need him on the pitch with a side built around him or converted into a transfer fee big enough to ease the financial concern at Carrow Road.
So have a good summer and try not to worry too much, there is very little supporters can do at this time of the year.
We’ll be back at Hillsborough next season and it couldn’t possibly be 5-1 again. Could it?
It could be better...but it could be worse
With Norwich City marooned in mid-table, it’s hard not to cast an envious eye at the scenes of celebration engulfing some grounds in recent days.
We know what it’s like to make the most of a promotion party so there is a grudging admiration that comes with watching other sets of fans and players united by silly hats, funny wigs and open top bus parades.
It was while dreamily gazing at a picture of Cardiff City’s squad celebrating their promotion to the Premier League that I spotted a familiar face, beaming from ear to ear, right behind manager Neil Warnock.
It was none other than Yanic Wildshcut, Norwich City’s Dutch winger who, after struggling to make much of an impression in his year at Carrow Road, was sent on loan to the Welsh capital. He may only have started three league matches for The Bluebirds but Wildschut certainly found himself in the right place at the right time and can return to Norfolk this summer with a medal to show to his team mates at the start of pre-season training in July. I’m sure they’ll be delighted for him.
It’s not all popping champagne corks though. Seeing Barnet, complete with former Canary cult hero and occasional BBC Radio Norfolk co-commentator Michael Nelson, drop out of the Football League by virtue of goal difference on the final day was a stark reminder that there are worse places to be than 14th in the Championship. Neither did it sound right to hear Paul Lambert, a man who Norwich City fans associate only with celebration, giving defiant interviews about Stoke City’s relegation.
The Potters demise proves that the concept of being an ‘established’ top flight club is one that doesn’t really exist. Even after a decade in the Premier League, your number can still come up.
Perhaps the saddest sight of the weekend was outside Hillsborough as we heaved the commentary equipment back to the car for one final time this season.
I overheard a dad explaining the concept of relegation to his young son, both wearing replica Sheffield Wednesday shirts. The lad, who can have been no more than seven or eight-years old paused before asking his dad, in a broad Yorkshire accent and a forlorn fashion, “So… Wednesday will never ever play Barnsley again?”