Terri Westgate: Why this is not the worst of times for Norwich City fans
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Being a football fan isn’t all about the glory, but it does inspire our devotion.
Last season, Norwich fans were rewarded for ours, and it felt like all our Christmases came at once.
Gifted a 30-goal-a-season striker for free. Produced so many last-minute winners it was staggering. Defeated our arch-rivals with ease, confirming a decade of dominance – we rose to the top of the table, as they sunk to the bottom. Beautiful football, amazing goals, exhilarating matches. It was the best of times.
Such seasons live long in the memory, but they are the rare ones. For the majority of football supporters, any pre-season optimism usually falls quite quickly into mediocrity. For a few it ends in disaster. Of the 92 clubs which started this elongated season, 71 will end in the division where they started. 10 will be promoted and 10 will have been defeated by the spectre of relegation. Bury FC, had the worst fate of all. Failing to make it more than a month into the season, the club went into administration and was thrown out of the league, leaving its fans bereft.
We are all aware of these numbers; but the optimism of the football fan thinks you will beat the odds. It is for another club to fail, yours will rise above. Even as the games progress and results indicate a certain inevitability, you still have hope that things will change.
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Teams have come back from seemingly hopeless situations before, there is always chance of a “little miracle”.
Yet the cold hard numbers for Norwich City this season will look stark in the record book. Performances and circumstances won’t be reflected in the list of defeats and goals conceded. As with every failure, there is a list of ifs and buts.
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Throughout the campaign we had awful luck with injuries and decisions from officials. We started brightly, but slowly you could see the confidence of the players drain away.
However, I will forever believe that the pandemic irrevocably decided the outcome. With five home fixtures left before football was suspended, the guaranteed noise and support at Carrow Road meant that upsets were on the cards. In the previous three home games we had defeated Europe-chasing Leicester and relegation rivals Bournemouth, with just a narrow loss against the-then champions elect in between.
Behind closed doors took away that advantage.
Those who say it shouldn’t have affected Norwich fail to understand how we got to the Premier League. The glorious run to the title last year wasn’t achieved just by tactical nous and ingenious recruitment. Those unbelievable comebacks weren’t simply a result of the effort and skill of the players. The team was also lifted to a dramatic and joyful renaissance of football by the cauldron that Carrow Road became. Watch back the home tie highlights against Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday, and hear the noise from the crowd when the injury time goals are scored. It makes your hairs stand on end.
We will never know if the recent results against Southampton, Everton and last weekend’s opponents Brighton would have been different if played under normal circumstances. But my gut tells me that they wouldn’t have been the same three defeats.
Both fans and players have suffered as a result of this enforced separation. We cannot demonstrate our unyielding love for the yellow and green, if even ultimately this season ends in failure. Unable to lift the players by singing their names. They are left like Todd Cantwell to sit desolate on the pitch alone. The Barclay empty and unable to respond to his despair.
This may not be the best of times for Norwich City, but it’s not the worst either. The club is well run, ensuring that our finances are not ruined by these events. We will bounce back. And that glorious day when we can return to our seats and roar the team on will breathe new fire into their hearts and bring the joy back to our football.