Di Cunningham: Success - suck it and see

Chris Sutton, Norwich v Blackburn, Feb 22, 1994

Chris Sutton back on 1994 - special days for Di Cunningham - Credit: Archant

Taking ownership of an ancient Ford Fiesta, getting my own place, my first proper job; life events that were long sought-after and hard-fought for.

Up there with the adolescent triumphs of using peel-off eyeliner and my first gig (the Boomtown Rats) these rites of passage symbolised ‘arriving’, but also immediately generated the jeopardy of potentially crushing disappointment.

Yes, the car broke down constantly and the liquid plastic eyeliner caused significant loss of dignity with its tendency to ping off like jumping caterpillars. 

So when I moved to Norwich (for my second proper job) in 1993 and got a season ticket that came with free Uefa Cup games I should have known it wouldn’t always be that way. 

Those heady heights in the top half of the Premier League table for its inaugural seasons, of beating Bayern Munich, and having the third top scoring player in the league (Chris Sutton was equal third with Matt Le Tissier on 25 goals behind Alan Shearer’s 31 and Andy Cole’s 34) became unsustainable as the nature of football finance changed with the Prem’s global TV rights-driven model bringing in owners with little interest in the game and even less in the character of their newly-acquired club.

It’s interesting to reflect that Manchester City’s league progression since 1992 has parallels with that of the Canaries - both teams were founder members of the EPL (then the ‘Premiership’) both have subsequently been relegated to the third tier, promoted and relegated again. There the journeys diverge with the Citizens’ re-profiling as the world’s richest club courtesy of Sheikh Mansour, cementing their membership in the Premier League, while Norwich City have demonstrated the perpetual motion of the relegation and promotion cycle of a club that’s well managed and motivated but short on billionaire directors.

The incalculable cost - just enjoying the whole matchday experience at Carrow Road Picture: PA

Nothing beats being there ... - Credit: PA

I would say this wouldn’t I - but for me the success experienced these days by Manchester City supporters is not the only kind of enjoyment to be had from a football team. Think of the Barras Bravas - the mass of travelling hardcore fans of generally mediocre clubs in South America , or nearer to home ‘Kult’ club St Pauli, whose home match tickets are notoriously tricky to come by even though the team is rooted in the depths of 2 Bundesliga.

Todd Cantwell

Todd Cantwell - he's one of our own - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Of course, there’s visceral joy for us currently seeing our side topping the Championship (and there are plenty of Canaries fans who prefer our seasons of ongoing victory in the second tier to those of relentless adversity in the top division), but how much more delighted are we to see a homegrown or youth player thrive and deliver for the first team than an expensive signing (not that we have those these days!), to have players and directors with an active interest in the city’s community, to have a quirky history that inspired the Canaries nickname, to have the oldest football supporter song, to have an active fan family and vibrant supporter-generated and funded stadium displays.

What we need now - particularly during and after the pandemic - is to work together to ensure our club has the capacity to endure and progress, off as well as on the pitch. To a degree that may mean rethinking what ‘success’ is.

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