Ian Clarke: Don’t let the bad dream become a long-time nightmare for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The past month since Project Restart kicked off has been one of the most soulless and least enjoyable periods in my 40 years as a Norwich City supporter.
We have had far, far poorer squads over the years, there have been spells of more depressing defeats and times when the disconnect between fans and the players/manager/board has been immensely worse.
Clearly the bald statistics say so much about why Canaries’ fans are hardly enjoying the boost to the nation’s morale which we’d been promised from the return of football.
Six defeats from six games, just two goals and 13 conceded.
The prospect of relegation being confirmed on Saturday is so disappointing when the game against West Ham was one we’d targeted as one of the victories which could see that little miracle achieved.
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A host of unwanted records have been set - and if Daniel Farke’s men can’t cobble a return of points together in these last four matches, the 2019/20 season will be remembered in years to come for all too many reasons.
So many people have said to me that the whole coronavirus pandemic seems like a dream.
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When the 9,000-strong yellow and green army joyously celebrated the famous victory over Spurs little over four months ago, I’m sure none of us had any comprehension that the crisis would develop so rapidly, brutally and tragically.
We hugged and high-fived our fellow fans and had absolutely no thought of social distancing,
The drama, the celebrations, the singing and the shared bond with the players and staff was what football is all about.
Compare those pictures from the Tottenham Stadium with the images of Todd Cantwell and Co after the Brighton defeat.
It was so, so sad to watch.
And for me – and I know for many other supporters I have spoken to – what makes the whole period so much worse is that we’ve not been able to be at the grounds.
Before the resumption against Southampton, there was an audible level of optimism.
It was a huge ask to get five wins from the remaining games, but we dreamed it would be achievable.
The dream has turned very sour.
Would our boys have done better if we’d been there roaring them on? We’ll never know. But the inability to give it everything we can to the lads and missing out on the matchday banter with our mates is why we feel so, so flat.
Sadly, City have been generally outplayed, out-thought and at times bullied since the resumption and, as has been the theme of this season, paid the heavy price for mistakes.
So where do we go from here?
How do we make sure this bad dream doesn’t turn into a long-term nightmare?
It may seem bizarre to say, but perhaps speedy confirmation of the inevitable may help.
The gap between seasons is likely to be much shorter than normal, so the wounds can be licked quickly and planning can start for a speedy return.
Questions have to be asked, lessons must be learned, but we simply must not have a prolonged mourning period.
The whole club has to be 100pc on it the minute the 2020/21 Championship campaign begins.
A positive start is essential to get the momentum for a fresh promotion push.
The long-term nightmare of becoming stale in the second tier cannot happen.
It seems inevitable that some of the squad will leave.
The messages from the top brass that we don’t need to be a selling club are encouraging and I like the overtones of hard ball with would-be suitors.
Reports this week suggested that City’s players would see their wages halved in the second tier – at a time when it’s said the average Premier League wage is on £61,000 a week.
The vultures will circle and the temptations will be great.
If business is going to be done, let’s make sure it’s on our terms and the demands are high to allow quality replacements to be found.
The sight of Adam Idah and Josh Martin together on the pitch at Vicarage Road on Tuesday night was a huge positive and there’s no doubt they are two of our great prospects going forward. I would like to see them both play for the rest of the season to give them valuable game time against great players and give them the message that they’re the present as well as the future.
Then there’s the big issue of how the authorities can get fans back into grounds and end the sad alienation. Of course safety has to be number one priority - but football will just not be football until it can happen.
Timmy, Timmy Krul
The only thing more likely than City’s relegation being confirmed is for Tim Krul to be voted player of the season.
Early in the campaign, it looked like there’d be loads of contenders,
Teemu Pukki couldn’t stop scoring, Emi Buendia weaved his magic, the term “Dereham Deco” was in danger of being planted on the nation’s lips as Todd Cantwell took the top flight by storm and we had high hopes that young defensive trio of Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis would thrive in the Premier League.
As the months have gone on, Timmy, Timmy Krul has emerged as the true consistent force through the disappointing campaign.
His howler at the Emirates was a blot on an otherwise excellent return from the custodian who has shown quality, character and leadership.
For all of the poor memories of this season, we’ll never forget his penalty shoot-out heroics at Spurs.
I really hope he’s with us to lead the promotion charge.
What could have been
We had to marvel at Danny Welbeck’s brilliant goal on Tuesday.
“Overhead and out” was my colleague Tim Warner’s clever headline to sit over the picture of the Watford striker in full flow.
I know I need to get over it and move on, but every time I see a strike like that, I have to turn my thoughts back to August 2015 at Carrow Road.
Cameron Jerome. Crystal Palace. Simon Hooper. Grrrrr.
It would have been one of the great NR1 goals had the ref not chosen for some inexplicable reason to rule it out.
Since that day, so many pundits have harked back to what a poor decision it was.
In that opening match of the campaign, Jerome would have levelled for the Canaries and we may well have gone on to win and give us the perfect start.
As it was, the game was lost - and ultimately City got relegated that season.
Yes, I know my tongue may be slightly in my cheek - but what we want as supporters is consistency in football.