David Freezer: Desire to defy the odds is essential for City

Norwich City's Kenny McLean celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Premier

Norwich City took on the role of giant-killers as reigning champions Manchester City were beaten at Carrow Road in September 2019, with Kenny McLean scoring the opener - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Football, eh?! It’s broken, all about the money, big business, billionaires, VAR farce and players rolling around like they’ve been shot - but we still love the drama, the emotion and those epic moments of celebration. 

That affection and dedication has been tested more than ever in the past year or so, yet the hunger has not only remained but grown stronger. 

 

From a Norwich City perspective, it’s the anticipation of those pre-match beers, that first full-throated On The Ball City, the proper celebration of a Carrow Road goal, the taste of victory - and the moans and groans with friends and family when things don’t go to plan. 

With yellow and green glasses on, there’s been plenty to be grateful for during this last year. 

While all associated with the Canaries have at least had the entertainment and enjoyment of a Championship title triumph which has broken club records, supporters of the majority of other clubs haven’t been as lucky. 

City fans deserved - and needed - that upturn in fortunes after the abject slump to relegation last year as the Premier League season resumed in June after three months of coronavirus lockdown. 

Put yourself in the shoes of the Ipswich fans lurching from one disappointment to the next, as a tumultuous season forced an overdue exit for Paul Lambert and the hurried arrival of new ownership from across the Atlantic, as a third season in League One was confirmed. 

Most Read

Or go further down the ladder and look to Southend and Grimsby falling through the EFL trapdoor, with established clubs including Colchester, Scunthorpe and Walsall scrapping for survival. 

At least the Canaries have given us plenty to smile about, as the next revolution of the ‘yo-yo’ process bounced upwards at a time when we’ve all needed some positivity and something to look forward to. 

All of which means Norwich are returning to the Premier League circus at a particularly interesting time, amid the continued fallout from the ‘big six’ controversially attempting to create the anti-competitive disgrace that was the European Super League. 

City are minnows in the big scheme of those conversations but can join in the national motivation to knock that ‘big six’ down a peg or two next season, to enjoy some upsets and defy the odds more often. The Canaries have more reason than most to proudly have a chip on their shoulder though, a point to prove. 

That ‘yo-yo club’ status will follow them, it’s unavoidable. The supporters of other clubs and most in the national media aren’t interested in the minutiae of the Norwich City project, of why a wealthy benefactor isn’t being sought, of why a promoted club isn’t willing to break the bank to survive. 

With all that has been happening in the last year, I get the sense that belief in the moral centre and sensibilities of City’s self-sufficient model has grown stronger. Fresh interest in the Canaries Trust has surged, for example, as that fan group pursues becoming the club’s 11th biggest shareholder in light of the Super League attempt - amid a wider national conversation about supporter representation on club boards.  

Senior staff at Norwich had already made fan engagement a key part of their approach in recent years, with the colourful displays and work with fan groups to improve atmosphere clearly evident pre-pandemic.  

The recent special edition shirts to contribute to that atmosphere fund, the club’s extensive community work and support of the Community Sports Foundation and the announcement in recent days of a new supporters panel - a consultation group of 12 as decided by a public vote - are all evidence of the good work that City can be proud of. 

Ultimately it is what happens on the pitch that is the most important issue though. Operating self-sufficiently makes striving for survival in the Premier League even harder than it is for all promoted teams, demanding near-perfect execution of the game-plan in terms of recruitment, tactics and motivation. 

Sporting director Stuart Webber and the club’s hierarchy have accepted that when making clear that their target is to be in the top 26 in the country every year, that the club is not defined by Premier League survival. They aspire to that achievement, of course, but put the long-term health of Norwich City as a community club as a non-negotiable aspect of their model. 

Next season, as the attempt to prove that a self-funded club can compete in the top flight, that passion for the project needs to be felt in the dressing room as well. 

That desire to upset the established order, to force their way onto the billionaires’ playground as mere millionaires, to be David slaying Goliath, can be used as added motivation for the players. 

It is Webber and Daniel Farke’s job to ensure they already have a squad simmering with hunger and determination to succeed but that over-arching understanding of what Norwich City is trying to achieve can only add fuel to the fire. 

The Canaries finished in the top five of the top tier three times in seven seasons between 1987 and 1993. Hitting such heights again, unfortunately, seems unlikely to be achievable again but even getting close to such success would taste incredibly sweet these days. 

Leicester may have lived the dream in 2016 with their remarkable Premier League triumph but, while they couldn’t be accused of buying the title, billionaire ownership certainly galvanised the Foxes and set the wheels in motion. 

Just look at how hard Tottenham have found success despite their financial strength, having one of the best strikers in the world and an incredible new stadium. 

Or West Ham, with their wealthy ownership and successful swoop for the Olympic Stadium. Their fans can barely believe they’re in the mix for Champions League qualification this season. 

Norwich fans would love to dream again at some point but to start with, just one season of survival would go a long way to making that self-sustainable model much healthier. 

Webber and Farke tell their players to ‘ignore the noise’. Supporters will have to do the same if a united spirit is to help defy the doubters. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus