Chris Goreham: Norwich City panto season failed to raise many laughs

Emi Buendia is sent off by referee Kevin Friend Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Emi Buendia is sent off by referee Kevin Friend Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Anyone feeling sad about the loss of this year’s Theatre Royal pantomime would have found solace at Carrow Road on Saturday... Norwich City’s home season finale ticked all the boxes.

Emi Buendia and Josip Drmic cast themselves as the ugly sisters with red cards that would have had the crowd, had one been allowed in, booing and hissing with gusto.

It forced the Canaries to kick off the second half with a 4-4-0 formation, but at least it couldn’t get any worse. Oh, yes it could! Ben Godfrey’s own goal summed up a wretched Carrow Road campaign for the City defence. They have been late to several balls and have failed to heed regular shouts of “He’s behind you!” from the excellent Tim Krul while marking at set-pieces.

There’s no pleasure to be taken from what has happened to Norwich City this season. The panto analogy is an attempt to put on a brave face after an awful month.

I drove to Carrow Road on Saturday with all of the windows in my car wound up, the heating on full and wearing my coat. It still wasn’t enough to fail the Covid-19 temperature checks that have been a condition of entry since the re-start. I should feel fortunate to have been allowed into the last six home games, but without fans, atmosphere or Norwich City goals it’s been a joyless experience.

It’s barely a month since Daniel Farke greeted Project Restart by declaring that five wins would probably keep City up. His target of 36 points isn’t going to be far off what it will take to stay in the Premier League. Five wins from nine was a tall order, but with games against Southampton, Everton, Brighton, West Ham and Burnley at home as well as Watford away, it genuinely didn’t feel impossible.

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We cannot possibly have foreseen the fact that Norwich were about to lose five straight home league games without scoring. The last time a side did that in the top flight was Birmingham City in 1922. The Canaries still had 13 years at The Nest left in front of them and the world was recovering from the Spanish flu pandemic.

Stuart Webber was right to hold his hands up last week and admit that many mistakes have been made. Norwich City’s Premier League demise isn’t all his fault, though. Daniel Farke hasn’t got anywhere enough out of his team since football came back and the players themselves will need to live with a series of poor performances that etched an ignominious relegation on to their CVs.

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It’s interesting that the Premier League’s current bottom three of Norwich, Bournemouth and Aston Villa have all stuck with the same managers that began the season. If they all go down it will be the first time since 1992-93 that no team relegated from the top flight has had a managerial change.

I’m not suggesting that City should dispense with Farke. They now need a coach who can win promotion from the Championship and until Saturday he was the last manager to win that division.

There is no doubt that his cause hasn’t been helped by poor recruitment, injuries and a lack of top-flight experience and quality in the squad. The manner of City’s decline since football moved behind closed doors must, however, have eroded some of the credit he had in the bank.

A rapid refresh is needed and soon we are going to all have to agree to stop moping about what has now gone. The Championship doesn’t approve of teams who feel they are too big or too good to be there as Middlesbrough, Stoke, Huddersfield and the rest will testify.

Webber is going to have to rediscover the formula that gave Farke the weapons to succeed in the promotion race last time. He can do it. It was interesting to hear the sporting director say that Norwich City went to war without a gun this season. Especially considering that one of his first signings for the club was literally A Gunn.

Graphic stuff

Mid-table respectability has been a long way off for Norwich City this season.

That’s why a graphic in a national newspaper last week placing the Canaries ninth in the Premier League caught my eye.

It’s not going to be enough to keep them up but, given everything that’s happened, it was a remarkable achievement. Believe it or not City supporters are officially only the ninth sweariest in the division.

Researchers had combed through half a million social media posts to see which supporters tended to use most expletives about their club. Only 5.3pc of tweets featuring the #ncfc hashtag used by Norwich fans contained anything blue.

Our vocabulary has been tested by some jolly frustrating VAR calls and a series of bloomin’ annoying defeats this season. I am sure you have shouted “fiddlesticks” a few times as another opposition player heads home while being left unmarked at a set-piece.

The survey took me back to my formative years at Carrow Road. Which of us can honestly say that hearing grown-ups swear liberally isn’t one of the stand-out things when you start going to games?

Parents, grandparents and teachers all become different when lost in the throes of a football match. The Family Enclosure in the early 1990s was full of old boys insisting that they had definitely said “Fleck”, but we all knew what we’d heard.

It reminds me of the call we took a couple of seasons ago on BBC Radio Norfolk from a Norwich City supporting mum. She had decided that it was unrealistic to shield her young son from all of the hilarious chants that ring out during a football match. Clearly there are words that can’t be repeated at home or school. To get it out of his system her son was permitted one free swear word per match

I have thought about them a lot this season. With so many defeats and disappointments to contend with I just hope that the quota has been raised in line with inflation. You certainly wouldn’t have wanted to use that one opportunity too early in matches this season.

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