Don’t call them long-suffering

PUBLISHED: 15:22 27 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:47 10 September 2010

The Man In The Stands

IF THERE is one expression that the media uses that really riles The Man it is the term “long-suffering”. Before I start, let me state that I do not consider Norwich City fans to be long-suffering.

IF THERE is one expression that the media uses that really riles The Man it is the term “long-suffering”.

Before I start, let me state that I do not consider Norwich City fans to be long-suffering. Yes, we've had a few rotten seasons in a row - and are probably punching just below our weight - but I don't think we warrant the odious tag.

But if there was a long-suffering fans' league table, I would have Norwich, and dozens of other clubs, a damn sight higher than both Newcastle and Man City.

Yet as The Man gorged himself on Sky Sports this week, I was treated to such comments as “it's about time the good times came to Man City - they have suffered long enough.”

And pretty much every reference to Newcastle was accompanied by the words “passionate” and “long suffering”.

Quite what suffering there is in having millions thrown at your team each year and having new or redeveloped grounds I don't know. Try not even having a ground maybe? Although the needy attitude of Newcastle's support lends itself to media exploitation, I don't necessarily blame the fans themselves for having these tags.

It's simply another example of media coverage that often fails to lower its gaze below the Big Four.

For heaven's sake; I even heard Liverpool's fans (recent European Champions and finalists) described as long-suffering the other day because they hadn't won the Premiership yet.

Boo hoo.

There was one result this week that should serve as a reminder as to which fans have actually had it toughest. It was Brighton knocking out Man City.

The Man has to admit he took a peculiarly significant joy in watching Jo and Co get beaten by a club that's not even had a proper stadium for 11 years, but miraculously remains in League One.

The Man felt a certain shared defiance with the Seagulls' fans who ran on the pitch to celebrate at the end. Mohammed Al-Whatshisface probably didn't even know his team were playing that night.

t LEE JUST NEEDS TO KEEP COOL

THE MAN thinks it's fair to say that if there was one player you would not have wanted an injury time chance to present itself to it was Lee Croft.

Although on recent form both Curo and Matty Patty are not far behind in the banjo and barn door stakes, poor old Crofty has shown a complete lack of composure in front of goal in previous games.

Those privileged enough to have been on the pre-season tour of Sweden will have heard at first hand both Roeder and Clark screaming “relax” at Crofty every time he got near the opposition's box. You sense the trouble is - like Curo - Crofty is so desperate to be a success he sometimes panics a bit, and snatches at things.

Therefore as he dribbled towards the goal in injury time last week, The Man instinctively winced as I expected him to provide a vitriol-inducing miss.

Yet lo and behold the ball fair whistled into the top corner, with the players' joyous reactions telling their own story. Get in there!

The Man is not optimistic that Crofty will be able to repeat this feat on a regular basis, but Roeder has predictably put that challenge before him. Relax.

t WRONG CALLS PART OF GAME

READING'S “goal that never was a goal” goal last weekend sparked the latest round of tedious debate about goal-line technology.

It really is up there with the “are A-levels getting easier?” row in terms of its perennial appeal…

When it comes to this subject, The Man is firmly in favour of maintaining the status quo.

As far as I'm concerned - and I know I'm probably in the minority - I consider bizarre referring decisions to be part of the charm of football.

In a game that is increasingly predictable, at least at the top end, nonsense decisions by the linesman are a refuge of randomness.

After all, what would we talk about following a game is there wasn't a such and such in the black to moan about?

Even though in recent years we've seen the s**m score two goals at the Barclay End that would have been ruled out by TV replays, I still wouldn't change things.

Without human error we wouldn't have enjoyed the humorous spectacle of Aidy Boothroyd being dispatched to the stands in absolute fury, or his tirade about it being weirder than a “UFO landing on the pitch” after the game.

Do we really want to rid football of this theatre? Surely not.

However, The Man is not worried that the football authorities are about to install CCTV on the pitch, for one simple reason, the big clubs don't want it.

Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and the like know that 90 per cent of contentious decisions go their way, and it really isn't in their interests to lobby for change.

Seven subs on the bench? Yes please. Let a ref objectively decide whether that 90th- minute shot from Wigan went over the line?

No thanks.

t PLAYERS' PAY IS THE PROBLEM

ALL eyes will be on the club's accounts when they are published.

Neil Doncaster has already softened the fans up by revealing they will show a significant loss, so it's sure to make quite grim reading.

In the longer term, what will be really interesting will be to compare the accounts of this year, with next year's - to see exactly where the Turner-inspired axe has landed.

We already know that our ticket genius Andy Cullen is not going to be replaced, which although understandable financially, is a decision The Man finds deeply depressing.

As is well documented, our troubles - and those of all similar clubs - boil down to the fact we pay our players too much.

In that context it was refreshing to hear about a Spanish player called Joseba Etxeberria this week.

He has agreed to play for Athletic Bilbao for the footballing pittance of 25,000 Euros a year just because he wants to give something back to the club he loves.

I don't expect Etxeberria's actions to be repeated too often.

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