Lee Payne: There’s no need for City to fear relegation

Leicester City celebrate their shock Premier League title success of 2016, a feats unlikely to be re

Leicester City celebrate their shock Premier League title success of 2016, a feats unlikely to be replicated by Norwich City Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Football is back! Three months on since it was suddenly interrupted, the nation’s favourite sport resumes to boost our morale.

Norwich City are deep in the mire, but there have been enough surprises thrown up over the years to give them some hope of staying up. The situation is not irreversible. A couple of wins and their rivals will start to quiver.

It will seem strange for me to say this, but I am honestly, truthfully not bothered about whether City avoid relegation or not. I don’t actively want them to get relegated – that would be perverse. I’m a Norwich fan and I want Norwich to be successful. I’m just a little bit apathetic about which league the club finds itself in next season.

I can see the comments now.... “You would say that when you’re bottom of the league”. Actually, I’d be saying it if we were already safe. The Premier League is a bloated, vain, avaricious monster. It has not enhanced its reputation during the coronavirus crisis – in fact, it has made itself look rather ugly.

The 91 professional clubs in the English league system are all well aware that the Premier League is the pinnacle. We often hear the phrase ‘the promised land’. It’s the top of the pyramid and the whole machine is geared towards reaching it.

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However, if you’re not one of the ‘big clubs’, it’s very easy to feel like you’re not welcome in the top division. Norwich are just there to make up the numbers. To have an exciting year going to these big, fancy grounds and playing these famous teams and then going back down where they belong. We’ve even been moaned at for apparently taking the place of supposedly bigger clubs who deserve it more... Leeds, Nottingham Forest and their ilk.

When you keep hearing these things I think we can be forgiven for wishing to be somewhere where we are more valued, where it’s just more fun. If that place is the Championship, then so be it.

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We are lucky at Norwich that our board are sensible and the club’s financial future is not dependent on the Premier League cash cow. So relegation wouldn’t be the end of the world for us, although I reiterate that it is not what I want to happen.

It’s something of a Catch-22. Last season was so special and so memorable because City won so often, and found more and more dramatic ways to do it. But a successful campaign ends with promotion, and the near certainty that you will go entire months without seeing another victory. I just have a real problem with a competition in which at least half of the teams playing in it strive only to remain in it.

Jamal Lewis enjoys the taste of success as Norwich celebrate promotion - the Championship was great

Jamal Lewis enjoys the taste of success as Norwich celebrate promotion - the Championship was great fun ... Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

“But, but, Leicester!” you might say. A fantastic story, absolutely, and one that I am glad to have witnessed, but it wasn’t quite the fairytale it is often made out to be.

The club were backed by a billionaire owner and they could attract a renowned manager like Claudio Ranieri. It was so special because it was so rare. There’s no chance of Norwich achieving anything similar any time soon.

My other sporting love, cricket, has been very patient during the coronavirus pandemic, in no rush to return until it can be fairly sure of the safety of everyone involved. It’s arguably easier to play cricket in a pandemic – the game is already set up for a form of social distancing. But the governing bodies have taken their time to get things right. The Premier League, by contrast, was talking about ‘Project Restart’ when the country was still in full lockdown. It left a sour taste.

So football is back, and fingers crossed that our beloved Norwich City can pull off the great escape. But if they don’t quite manage it, it won’t be the end of the world.

Can City survive?

No, they’re not quite good enough.

Who will be relegated?

Norwich, Aston Villa, Watford.

Who is the most important player/person for City for the rest of the season?

Daniel Farke. He’s got to motivate while the fans can’t.

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