Fans have to produce the goods too
There has been quite a bit of comment about our away form being better than our home form, and while I think there are tactical reasons for that, I have to say that I also think that the attitude of the fans is also becoming a factor.
While the support on Saturday was pretty good, the Doncaster game is a case in point. While we played poorly, the way in which the crowd reacted whenever we played the ball short at the back cannot have failed to have an impact on the players.
However, what was so much worse was the amount of abuse hurled at out own players. The obvious example is Aaron Wilbraham who was subjected to some pretty vile remarks throughout the game by the brains trust that surrounds me in the Jarrold.
Let me first of all say that I was surprised when he was signed because he is quite clearly a target man, rather than a goalscorer. However, he wins a lot in the air, holds the ball up well and, most importantly, gives 110% whenever he is on the pitch.
Over the years I’ve seen much more talented players abuse the yellow and green by phoning in performance after performance, so I appreciate commitment. Unfortunately that sentiment doesn’t appear to be shared by those around me.
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If Wilbraham is a bad signing the blame rests with the manager, not the player. As long as he gives his all for Norwich City he will have my support.
Unfortunately it seems that this is a recurring theme with our fans, as Russell Martin and John Ruddy went through a similar process (and Chris Martin continues to do so). Players don’t pick themselves, and all we can expect is that they give maximum effort and perform to the best of their ability, even if it may be limited.
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Generally speaking though, players who sense support from the crowd (Grant Holt for example) will find another gear, but those whose every touch brings groans will shrink into their shells. Players are human beings just like the rest of us, and we should show the same attitude to them as we would expect to have shown to ourselves.
The way in which Wes Hoolahan’s game disintegrated after his bizarre penalty miss as the crowd started to get on his back against Preston shows how easy it is to neutralise the most talented player. It also shows the fickleness of football fans, as the other match deciding issue, when Holt, untouched, chose to throw himself theatrically to the ground with only the keeper to beat, seems to have generated much less opprobium, yet it was just as responsible for costing us two points.
There is a wider issue here, which Paul Lambert has clearly recognised. As we reach the finishing straight the tension will rise exponentially. He has to keep the players calm and focussed, but we must play our part too.
Games (even apparently easy ones) will become battles and calm heads both on the pitch and in the stands will be decisive factors. What the players DON’T need is personal abuse and groans whenever they slow the pace of play down or go backwards to go forwards.
We’re all in this together and all want the same thing, so let’s all get behind the team, even when things aren’t going well. As we have seen, other teams are just as susceptible to failing to take points from games that look easy.
We should always remember that football is actually played on grass not paper!