Norwich City are in danger of becoming party-poopers
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I have reached that stage in life when I am regularly attending children’s birthday parties.
It tends to involve standing around the edge of the big function room with all the other parents in a village hall or soft play area while an enthusiastic entertainer tries to find the best way of organising a rowdy bunch of excitable kids who are high on a mixture of fizzy pop and life itself.
It’s not dissimilar to watching Championship football.
Trying to work out what’s supposed to be happening and where everyone is meant to be standing in amongst the organised chaos takes a fair amount of concentration and experience.
Norwich City’s subdued performance against Barnsley at the weekend reminded me of the point at these parties where the inevitable game of Pass the Parcel takes place. The participants are arranged in a circle, so the formation makes perfect sense, but there is always one child who slows the pace of the game right down. This boy, and it usually is a boy, eagerly collects the parcel from the person sitting next to him before switching into slow motion. He takes as long as he possibly can to move the brightly-coloured package along to the child sitting to his left-hand side.
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The fear that someone else may steal the opportunity to tear open the next layer of wrapping paper when the music stops overrides any feeling of optimism that by the time the parcel next arrives in his sweaty palms he could be in a better position to strike and win a desired Sherbet Dab or tube of Smarties.
The reality is that all the spectators get frustrated by the drop in momentum and fail to understand how something as simple as passing an item between two people who should be working together for the greater good of getting to the ultimate prize underneath all the paper can become so complicated.
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It’s even worse when this happens at your own party and the fact that Norwich City are struggling to win in front of their home fans is adding to the feeling of the Ribena glass being half-empty rather than half-full at our mid-table shindig.
With more than 10 times the number of supporters watching the Canaries in the flesh at Carrow Road compared to when they play away it is understandable that the home record carries a greater sway in terms of how a team is perceived by their own supporters.
If City had beaten Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Ipswich at home this season, but drawn at Barnsley, Hull and Burton rather than the other way around, they would have exactly the same amount of points as they do now. But the fact that the 25,000 fans who rock up for every match at Carrow Road would have been treated to four wins rather than two would make them feel more kindly disposed towards the way this up-and-down season is shaping up.
As it is, Norwich City sit slap bang in the middle of the table with a campaign that still feels like it could go either way. Too many more performances like the one against Barnsley would suggest a long, cold winter lies ahead, but this squad has also proved capable of a remarkable run of form during September which saw Daniel Farke nominated for Manager of the Month.
The sum total is a set of men in yellow and green who are neither up nor down, which makes Mr Farke the ideal candidate to play the part of our special surprise guest The Grand Old Duke of York at the next children’s party.
It’s hard to believe that Nottingham Forest haven’t been in the Premier League at all this century.
The City Ground always feels like one of the grandest places to visit in the Championship and when Norwich City run out there on Tuesday evening there will be the usual temptation to talk in terms of it being one of the most imposing away trips in the division.
The Championship is no respecter of reputations and Forest’s relegation from the top flight under Big Ron Atkinson in 1999 was, until now at least, the point of no return.
It doesn’t matter that they’ve won the European Cup twice or that Roy Keane and Stuart Pearce used to beat their chests in that famous red shirt or that Brian Clough managed the club for almost 20 years, they are where they are.
It takes a lot to change the mindset of a football supporter and because Nottingham Forest were one of the leading lights in the country when I first started watching and going to games that distinctive tree on the club’s badge will always have a certain resonance with me. I really need to learn to move with the times and remember that football is not like the Boat Race and that if the balance of power didn’t shift from time to time we’d be discussing whether Royal Engineers should be considered as favourites to win the FA Cup again this year.
It’s too easy to get bogged down in nostalgia and I just know it will happen to me again on Tuesday when the team sheets come out at the City Ground. They are likely to show Gunn in goal for Norwich City and a Walker in the Forest team. Any child of the 80s or 90s will have fond memories of Bryan Gunn playing for the Canaries and the excellent Des Walker who starred in defence for England and Nottingham Forest. Tonight their sons, Angus and Tyler, could well be on opposite sides.
If there is a more crushing reality check of the passage of time than realising it’s 18 years since Nottingham Forest were in the Premier League it is being able to remember the dads of the players of today when they were in their prime.