Managing Expectations

The 1982 World Cup song was a tuneless old number. It had a catchy chorus, some dreadful singing, and some even worse haircuts in the video. As World Cup songs go it was no better than average; just as was England’s meek exit following a promising start in the group stage.

I’ll remember the 1982 tournament for brilliant Brazil, Paul Rossi, Harald Schumacher’s dreadful assault on Patrick Battiston and Marco Tardelli’s manic goal celebration in the final.

And also for the lyrics to the song – This time, more than any other time, this time... we’ll get it right, we’ll get it right.

These lyrics are starting to remind me of the way that Norwich City are approaching next season in the Premiership. Sometimes in life you only get one chance to get it right much like a World Cup which comes around every four years. This season is Norwich City’s chance.

Last season was also Norwich City’s chance. It was likely to be our best chance to get into the Premiership for the next few years. We had direction from the top of the club from a committed chief executive, and a squad cannily assembled by a fiercely ambitious manager that never knew when they were beaten.

As the season progressed we had players who were playing at the peak of their ability and in many cases above what maybe they thought they could achieve. Failure would have meant a second season in the Championship, the possible loss of players or even (please no!) the manager. Another season in football’s second flight would have meant competing against clubs with �50 million of parachute payments in an increasing un-level playing field.

Last year we got it right. But will we get it right this season?

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Even before the season has kicked off, Norwich City have got it right so far on the recruitment front. Targets have been identified and brought in before the really silly money has started to be thrown around. James Vaughan and Steve Morison signed, both purchased for decent prices as well as Elliott Bennett plus a long term loan. Recent reports linking us to Huddersfield winger Anthony Pilkington for a ramped up price of �3 million make me think that doing our business early has saved City a small fortune. We’re now seeing average Premiership players such as Jamie O’Hara command a fee of �5.5 million, and that’s even before wages are paid. Those prices sound more like madness than financial fair play.

On the non-playing side the club have excelled themselves. We have record season ticket sales on the back of our promotion. The Errea kit launch video that has been seen well over 210,000 times has helped fuel record shirt sales, all money in the bank for the football club. Sponsors are falling over themselves to be associated with the yellow and green army.

On the interweb the club twitter is thriving and driving people back to the official site where more clicks equals more revenue. Announcements are timed to get maximum exposure at around 5.30/6.00pm. Every time there’s a big news story due I have this vision of our chief exec in his office refusing to press the “update news” button until there has been 100,000 fruitless clicks on the NCFC website. Who remembers CJ in Reggie Perrin saying “5-6-7-8 always pays to make them wait”? Kerching!

Being a real worrier, and fretting is what really keeps me going in life, I have two concerns about next season. One sort of leads me to the other so I’ll start with my first concern.

The level of expectation this season is huge. Massive. Overly massive in my opinion.

Two years ago I’d no idea what to expect and was proved right. It was a mad old season starting with the biggest low I’d experienced as a City fan and ending up with the high of Charlton away.

Last season I’d had some idea of what to expect and was proved completely wrong. I’d dared to hope for an upper mid-table finish, maybe a late playoff push and keeping some form until the end of the season. As our form improved and expectation grew Paul Lambert tried to dampen it down, “Remember where we’ve come from”, was reeled off in many of his post match interviews.

This season I know what to expect and I hope I’m proved wrong but City fans need to remember Lambert’s wise words of caution.

My worry is that our fans, spoiled with last-minute winners and ten away victories a season, think that this season will be as much fun as the last two. It won’t. Trust me. After the euphoria of the first few games, it will be tough. And then the players will need the crowd more than ever to spur them on, drive them forward and to keep the spirits up when they are giving their all and maybe losing against a team full of internationals.

We’ll get less from the refs as we all know the big teams get the big decisions. We’ll be up against world class players who are used to brushing teams such as City aside with ease. It will be a struggle.

I expect this season to be a real hard slog where Paul Lambert will need to ensure the team are performing at the clich� ridden level of 110% each game.

It’s important that us, the supporters need to be at the same level.