Again Norwich City fans sit and wish it could have been us
- Credit: PA
Over the course of the weekend just gone and the coming one there will – or should – be a lot of consideration in these parts of what might have been.
We could have been battling our way through to the quarter-finals of one cup competition and preparing for a Wembley showdown in the other.
I wouldn’t mind so much if we’d made amends in the league since crashing out of the Capital One Cup to Aston Villa, but you suspect we’d probably be on pretty much the same sort of points tally if we had won every cup tie going since then. We’d certainly have built up more momentum, that’s for sure.
The words “two”, “wasted” and “opportunities” spring to mind, not least for the fact that both our conquerors were promptly dispatched by lower-league opposition with much more determination than we ever showed.
In the brochure to celebrate the 1959 FA Cup run the cartoonist EH Banger depicted the City mascots Canary and Dumpling looking across to Wembley beneath the caption: “We should have been there, bor…”
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That’s certainly how I will be feeling this Sunday afternoon, that’s for sure.
One day we will get to Wembley, I’m certain, but I just hope my old-age pension will stretch that far.
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I can’t be alone in seeing this season as drawing something of a line in the sand as far as cup ties go.
Time was when I would always go to home ties and make as many away games as I could.
This season I opted out of Tottenham because of the ludicrous pricing policy, but I’m now thinking that even £10 or £15 tickets don’t provide value for money either.
And as for away games – well, maybe it’ll just be like the Peterborough trip again, visits to places where I’ve never seen Norwich play before: your Chesterfields or Accringtons.
After all, if too many players in yellow and green can’t be that bothered, then why should I?
This last point was reinforced by watching the Saturday-evening highlights of Luton against Millwall.
The Lions were clinical in their disposal of plucky – but, let’s not forget, non-league – opposition, and, like Barnsley, have now reached the FA Cup last eight for the second time in a decade. (When did we last manage that once?)
Contrast that with our dire display. Three weeks on and our team could still have been out there and probably not scored against Luton – although exhaustion and exposure might have taken their toll by now.
Had we dealt with the Hatters properly we would have had an extra fixture – the 33rd of a not-exactly-demanding campaign, We’d have been able to give some new blood a run-out and we’d probably be in better shape for the forthcoming visit of Everton rather than having a fortnight in which to ponder whether we’d ever manage to score more than two goals in a game again.
Plus, if we were having to travel halfway across the country at some point like Blackburn we’d be taking a lot more supporters than the 1,400 visiting fans seen at the Emirates on Saturday.
Concentrate on the league? If that was the thinking it hasn’t really had much of an impact as yet.
In 12 years of active home-and-away support I need little more than the thumbs of both hands to count the truly memorable and enjoyable proper cup ties City have been involved in.
I’d nominate home to Chelsea in 2002, the trips to Tamworth and Paulton, possibly winning at Torquay in 2006… and that’s it, frankly.
It’s all a contrast to the supporters of Bradford and Swansea, both of whom went out and gave it a real go in all their cup ties this season and have been thoroughly rewarded.
For them it’s now a case of what can be, rather than what might have been.
• TV INTEREST IN CANARIES HAS WANED
So either we’re an unattractive proposition for satellite viewers or else we’re no longer of interest because we’ve invisibly embedded ourselves in the lower half of the Premier League table.
It’s a glass half full or empty way of looking at how our fixtures in April were overlooked for television coverage.
Now Stoke away is of minimal interest to supporters of either club, never mind anyone else, so I can understand that one being completely ignored.
But City-Swansea meetings are usually eventful, while Arsenal and Reading also have plenty to play for when they take us on.
I find it impossible to believe that the home game with Aston Villa in May won’t be broadcast, so that would take this season’s total of live transmissions to eight.
But that is still well below the figures of 12 and 11 in 2004/05 and 2011/12 respectively.
Entertaining or not, the probability is that we’re no longer a story of interest to other parts of the country.
Currently only Stoke will have been featured fewer times than us by the time the current schedules come to an end in April, while we’re level with Swansea and Wigan.
Put bluntly, Swansea have also lost their novelty value in their second season back in the top flight, many people think that this is finally the year Wigan are going down while the vast majority of football fans would draw their curtains if Stoke were playing at the bottom of their garden.
It doesn’t really matter in the grand financial scheme of things – the Canaries and their ilk will still be paid for a minimum of 10 televised fixtures even if the final total falls short of that.
So I’ll be quite happy if our final matches at home to West Brom and away to Manchester City are of no interest whatsoever because we’re already secured our survival.
• ALL WORK AND NO PLAY IS WHAT WE NEED TO HEAR
I don’t buy into the “Abu Dhabi was a mid-season jolly in the sun” school of thought seen over the past few days… for one very good reason.
The total lack of news about it on the official NCFC website.
Granted this has made the club’s preferred avenue of information even more threadbare than usual – there are times you imagine a story on any given Tuesday in its entirety consisting of: “Yesterday was Monday. Tomorrow is Wednesday.”
But there haven’t exactly been too many on-the-spot reports of “the lads at work and play”, which rather leads you to hope that the trip has been all about focusing on aiming to maximise the number of points the Canaries can accrue in their final 12 fixtures of the season.
• LATICS HELP TO HINDER THE TOFFEES
The best part of the weekend for City? Without question it was Matt Smith’s dramatic late equaliser for Oldham.
Still think it’s merely delaying the inevitable place in the last eight for Everton by 10 days, but it still affects their preparations for Saturday’s visit to Carrow Road, given that they’re probably the highest-placed Premier League side who would put out a full-strength team for such a replay.
Who knows, we might even obtain our fourth successive draw against the Merseysiders.
A win might be asking too much – history suggests that the only way this might happen is if Mike Walker is in charge of one of the sides.
So it’s not one of the upcoming fixtures about which I feel particularly optimistic.
Even if we lose, I won’t yet share the messageboard sentiments of “the Canaries won’t go down” – it’s quite possible.
Our fate will be decided by Southampton at home and Wigan away in the coming six weeks.
Get to Easter without another victory and we will be in all sorts of bother – our winless run will have been extended to 14 games and that’s a downwards spiral we might not be able to get ourselves out of.