Lee Payne: Work to do for players, management... and the Norwich City fans
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It may feel like only a blink of the eye since another failed Premier League season came to an end for Norwich City, but we’re back - and there’s work to do.
Not just for the players, not just for the management, but for us fans too.
That appalling relegation hit harder than the others. I don’t think that’s just because it’s still fresh enough in the mind to feel raw. We know what a daunting start the fixture computer spat out for us, so when we were without a point on the board four games in, no one could have really been surprised. I think it was the defeat to Watford, where we were played off our own park by a fellow promoted side, and Josh Sargent’s failure to take advantage of an open goal in the stalemate with Brighton, that set alarm bells ringing and the whole club on a very damaging course.
When I offered my opinion online that given the start we’d made to the season a point at home to a Brighton side who were in the top six at the time was not a bad result, I was ridiculed. ‘Of course we should be beating Brighton at home, you happy clapper’. That was in October, and it was the first indication for me that my fellow City fans were splitting off into factions to hurl insults at each other. I saw plenty of incidents like this throughout the rest of the season.
We were all, understandably, unhappy. We express our emotions about our club in different ways. A worrying number were apathetic. They just stopped caring. I would put myself in that group. Some were angry. Some took a ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ approach and made light of the situation, like those who pretended we’d scored a goal at Selhurst Park and produced the biggest celebration of the season. But we were all unhappy. If we recognise that - realise that we all want the same thing - we can become a united fan base once more, and that will only help the team.
The Premier League’s constant changes to kick-off times meant that work prevented me from attending a Norwich match after the Newcastle game on April 23. The worst thing was that I wasn’t even bothered. I’d become so tired of the predictable nature of the results, wary of the miserable downbeat atmosphere inside Carrow Road, that having a good reason not to go felt like a blessed relief. When the season was finally laid to rest, I needed a break from it all. I came off Twitter, I stopped refreshing the Pink Un website every five minutes and I threw myself into watching cricket.
Having recently moved to Dereham, the announcement that Norwich would play a pre-season friendly there caught my eye. I hadn’t been to Aldiss Park before, and I thought that watching City at close quarters five minutes from home in a game that didn’t matter would make for a fun Friday night. I was right. Being there with 3,000 others, including the hardcore who sang and danced for every single minute as if it was the FA Cup final, reignited my love for the yellow and green. The meaning of it all, that goes beyond which league we’re in, became apparent to me once more. From that night on, I was looking forward to the new season rather than trying to run as far away as possible from the last.
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Ok, so we lost at Cardiff. There’s no need to panic. Norwich are notoriously slow starters to a season and we didn’t have either of our two new signings in the squad. It’s going to take some time to rid ourselves of the relegation hangover, but I am optimistic that this will be a good and entertaining season. Anyway, the weekend was all about the Lionesses, wasn’t it?