Non... Je ne regrette rien...
- Credit: Archant
Forgive me some indulgence for a second – there’s an image in my head that I just can’t shake.
It’s around 6pm on Sunday, May 19 and Norwich City have secured enough points to avoid a heartbreaking relegation to the Championship.
Manager Chris Hughton has found himself ‘Let’s Be Having You Style’ in front of the away crowd armed with a microphone.
A brass band strikes up. It’s a familiar refrain but one you probably can’t quite identify.
Then Hughton takes to the mic.
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“Non, Je ne regrette rien” he sings, serenading the Canary faithful with all two-and-a-half minutes of the classic Edith Piaf song (Youtube it if you really don’t know the one).
Then, like the emotional final scenes of a film, Hughton, his players and supporters disappear into the distance ready to look forward to a brighter future – in the Premier League.
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But why, you may rightfully ask, have I cast our manager in the role of a deceased French singer – and the fans a baying public?
Well it’s because our current flirt with relegation (for until we know the outcome of Saturday’s match we are still simply flirting with that as a prospect) has brought to my mind the theme of regret. Like Piaf herself, I want Hughton and his team to look back on the season that is soon to finish and feel confident they have no regrets.
For if the worst does happen and Norwich join QPR and Reading (down bar the shouting) in the bottom three after the final game – that surely won’t be something they can say (or sing)?
Yes, the power of hindsight is a wonderful thing, but looking back on the 33 games of the season so far, there are so many matches that you can’t help but feel were wasted opportunities for Norwich. Games we might live to regret.
And had we shown a little bit more ambition in these matches arguably we’d be looking forward to the Reading game as the opportunity to move closer to a finishing place in the top 10.
For while we can all moan about decisions going against us, such as those last week at Arsenal and Sunderland several weeks before, ultimately Norwich’s fate is in the club’s own hands.
As the old cliché rightfully goes – these things do tend to even themselves out over the course of a season.
Go all the way back to August and September and those draws (and four lost points) at home against West Ham and QPR seem even more significant now in terms of being missed opportunities.
Meanwhile, in October the Canaries dominated a 10-man Aston Villa – but again only secured a point.
But it’s a handful of games in January, February and March that continue to stand out. They felt like wasted opportunities then – and even more so now the club is scraping around for whatever points they can muster.
Had those draws at home to Newcastle, Tottenham, Fulham and Southampton, been turned into wins there would be much less concern at our plight than is starting to build up among the Canary faithful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m confident we’ll stay up. Our three remaining home games should see us home.
But we’re no longer in a situation where we can ignore the spectre of relegation outright or denounce anyone who brings up the subject as a pessimistic doom-monger, as has been the case in some quarters in the past few months.
After all, there’s nothing to say we won’t be looking back on the Reading, Aston Villa and West Brom matches with the same sense of regret at two dropped points, rather than three gained.
And if that happens, we could be in real trouble.
That’s why Saturday’s so crucial. Let’s get the all important win under our belts, settle those nerves and move us closer to safety.
As we’ve said in the Evening News all this week the hard work needs to start with the fans.
Let’s leave any grumbles at home, unite as one, and make Carrow Road a real cauldron of noise – something it all to rarely has been this season.
Do that and it’s up to Hughton and his players to ensure their regrets remain too few to mention.
• Watching the Under-18s progress in the FA Youth Cup has been a joy – one of the highlights of the season in fact. While the experience of progressing so far and playing in front of big crowds will help each of the players individually – I think it can have real benefit on the club as a whole. Just think how good it looked to prospective NCFC players of the future, whether young or old, to see that we are a club whose fans will turn out in droves for such a game – and has a good enough team spirit for the senior players to turn up as well. Just think of how excited we’d get at similar progression in the adult FA Cup…
• Remember last season’s breathtaking 3-3 draw at Arsenal? How could you forget, it was a classic and last week I found myself watching the extended highlights again. And a look back to this time 12 months ago and Norwich were on the back of a pulsating 2-2 draw with Everton and a 2-1 win away at Tottenham. Heady days indeed and being reminded of these games emphasises how this season is unlikely go down as a classic in the annals of time – no matter how it ends up.
• Thanks to Gary Saunders for another letter outlining his latest views on how Norwich and Chris Hughton can pull themselves out of the relegation mire. Let me know if you agree. He writes: “We must gamble and go for the win, you don’t win games by trying not to lose. Push players forward despite the risk of losing. Play two strikers and Wes Hoolahan behind them in our remaining home games. If we’re going down, let’s go down fighting. Attack, attack, attack!” Sounds like a good team-talk to me.
• Peterborough, Luton, Millwall, Blackburn and Wigan plus Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Bradford. It’s not a list of some of the teams we could be facing next season if we suffer relegation. They are the 10 sides who would, had things gone differently, have stood between Norwich and a cup final this season. The first five teams in the FA Cup, the second the Capital One Connect Cup. Yes, it still galls me that we missed such a great opportunity for real progression in both competitions. Ironically, the toughest team on this list, namely Spurs, we actually beat.