Harsh jeers, maybe, but no need for a boos ban
The storm in a teacup award for this week goes to the debate about Norwich City being “booed off” after the 1-1 draw with Doncaster on Tuesday.
From where I was sitting, it sounded like a couple of hundred fans – at most – in the Barclay Stand booing at the final whistle for, what, all of five seconds? It wasn’t as if the players trudged down the tunnel with jeers and cat-calls echoing all around.
Even if it was as many as 200 fans, which I doubt, it still means that more than 99 per cent of City supporters inside Carrow Road went home peacefully, without protest, no doubt disappointed that Rovers had snatched a rather fortunate point and a bit disgruntled about the chances their team had missed, but very appreciative of what Paul Lambert and his squad have achieved over the past 18 months and well aware that fluke own goals happen occasionally.
The views of the manager and captain were then sought over this brief show of dissent on the terraces and a debate opened over whether supporters have any right to boo at all.
Well, frankly, if they fork out their hard-earned �25 or �30 to watch the game, they are entitled to say what they like within the bounds of decency, however irrational or jaundiced their views may be.
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As the old saying goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Yes, criticism is unhelpful, and in City’s current position, may be seen as rather ungrateful, but even when they were top of the Premier League, there were fans who found something to complain about. It’s just a fact of life.
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I can’t seriously believe this group of players, who have had such magnificent support this season, are going to be derailed or discouraged by the spur of the moment reaction of a minority of fans so dissatisfied with a draw at home to Doncaster that they chose to vent their frustrations for just a few seconds at the end of the match.
That Carrow Road was quieter than usual on Tuesday night is certainly true, especially in the first half. But perhaps Doncaster chairman John Ryan was cleverer than we thought with all his pre-match talk about their lengthy injury list and his desire to get the game postponed. It may have had the double effect of spurring Rovers’ remaining players into proving him wrong and deluding the home supporters into thinking an easy three points were up for grabs.
There is also the likelihood that fans, like some players, find it harder to motivate themselves for certain games. After a succession of high octane encounters at home to Queens Park Rangers, Cardiff, Millwall and Reading, just possibly the prospect of Doncaster on a Tuesday night did not produce the same adrenalin rush.
But I don’t go along with the view that City fans are significantly quieter or more inclined to moan than supporters anywhere else.
I’ve seen City play on about 70 grounds and with a few notable exceptions – Millwall, Newcastle, Ipswich on derby day – I wouldn’t describe any of them as a cauldron from first whistle to last. Most home crowds quickly become subdued if there isn’t an early goal.
Even at Leeds last weekend, the wall of noise in the first half gave way to groans, anxiety and angry outbursts from home supporters as the Canaries got on top after half-time, and especially when Wes Hoolahan put them 2-1 ahead.
It took Davide Somma’s equaliser to bring the home crowd back into full voice and guarantee a very noisy last 15 minutes.
Lambert and skipper Grant Holt were quick to refer to just how far the Canaries have come over the past 18 months and this is not in dispute. It has been a truly remarkable recovery from the despair and disbelief of August 2009.
But their success – just two defeats in the past 19 Championship matches - has created such an air of expectation that a result like Tuesday night is bound to be seen as missed opportunity.
With little more than a quarter of the season left, City are still in the play-off places, within striking distance of the automatic spots, and in the context of a promotion challenge, a 1-1 draw at home to depleted Doncaster is inevitably seen as two points dropped. In the here and now, this is a promotion battle.
That expectant mood is unlikely to change in the next three home games, all against teams currently in the bottom eight places in the table. Fairly or unfairly, a high proportion of the 25,000 will turn up to each of those games with their hearts set on a home win, and a few of them may even boo if they don’t get it.
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Henri Lansbury’s “Dougie” goal celebration at Leeds was one of the most carefully rehearsed since a certain Neil Adams was scoring goals for the Canaries.
It was back in October 1996 and our Evening News columnist had just equalised direct from a free-kick in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United at Carrow Road.
City then launched into a Greased Lightnin’ dance routine that certainly caught the home crowd by surprise.
But the combined footwork of men such as Keith O’Neill, Andy Johnson, Rob Newman and Danny Mills was about as likely to earn them a place in the hit musical as John Travolta was to curl one round the wall past Alan Kelly from 30 yards.