Time to bury memory of wasted years

One of the most entertaining aspects of Glenn Roeder's post-match Press conferences over the past six months has been his verbal jousting with one particular national tabloid journalist.

One of the most entertaining aspects of Glenn Roeder's post-match Press conferences over the past six months has been his verbal jousting with one particular national tabloid journalist.

The reporter in question has accused Roeder of taking unfair advantage of the loan system, questioned his team selection, and, in one lively exchange after the 1-1 draw at Watford, asked the City boss if he was surprised that striker Jamie Cureton, who scored a spectacular equaliser on the night, had not joined a “top” Championship club last summer.

On this occasion, it was a bit like throwing a lighted match into a box of fireworks. I was almost out of my chair myself to answer it.

Roeder was swift to reply: “We are one of the top Championship clubs - we are. I found them in a mess with eight points. The league table doesn't lie. We're gradually sorting it out, slowly but surely.

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“Rome wasn't built in a day and nor was Norwich. We play in front of 25,000 - actually I am quite fed up with the low profile we have.

“It is my job to change that. I want that responsibility where we are expected to win promotion and whether we can do it in one hit we will have to wait and see.”

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Since that spat at Vicarage Road nearly eight weeks ago, talk of promotion has given way to renewed anxiety about the more immediate future. City's claim to being a top club in this division has been undermined by the series of poor results that left their Championship status still at risk before today's home game against Queen's Park Rangers.

But the essence of what Roeder said was correct. If only in terms of support, City are a big club in this division, and they put half a dozen Premier League clubs to shame.

There has been only one Championship team with bigger average attendances this season.

City's Carrow Road gates, before another sell-out for the final home game today, were averaging 24,483, beaten only by Sheffield United's figure of 25,441. Ipswich were comfortably in the shade in seventh place with 21,645.

City have better average crowds than six Premier League clubs - Blackburn, Fulham, Reading, Bolton, Portsmouth and Wigan.

Last season, the Canaries' average gate of 24,544 was beaten in the Championship only by promoted Sunderland and Derby.

And in 2005-06, City's figure of 24,833 was only narrowly topped by Sheffield Wednesday.

With well over 19,000 season tickets sold for 2008-09 before the first renewal deadline on March 1, City look to be heading for similar crowd figures next term, even though it was still not certain this morning which division they would be playing in.

All this makes little difference if your team is not producing the results on the pitch, but there is no doubt Roeder is acutely aware that fans at Carrow Road have been short-changed for too long.

He returned to the subject yesterday when he urged his players to sign off on a winning note in front of their own fans and secure their place in the Championship next season.

“The supporters have been magnificent,” he said. “The fans have been fantastic all year. As I said in the very beginning, it was one of the reasons I wanted to be the manager of this club, because the club could draw 25,000 people to watch it in what was virtually a hopeless position.

“My first game, the atmosphere inside Carrow Road, I didn't realise it could get as serious as that.”

It can, and does, get very serious. Ask the 50,000 in front of City Hall four years ago.

But there has been precious little for them to shout about for three years now and there are times when one wonders whether, despite public statements to the contrary, City's packed stadium has become just like wallpaper for those sitting in the directors' box - stuck fast and still showing no signs of fading.

If we are still watching Championship football next season - and one would like to think it has all been settled by the time you read this - one hopes the ambition of the manager and the fans will be matched by those with the power, and the money, to bury the memory of three wasted years.

t I read this week that the Government has again bottled out of introducing new laws against ticket touts.

Instead, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham called for event organisers and promoters to agree to a voluntary code. The main aim is to tighten up on auction websites, where many tickets are now sold.

It is impossible to walk from a tube station or car park to a big match at Wembley or Lord's without being pestered by an army of touts asking for “spares”.

But not once have I seen any police officer or ground official attempt to challenge these parasites or move them on.

Mr Burnham says the practice of re-selling tickets at inflated prices “leeches off” the nation's cultural life, but argues that legislation against “secondary agents” should be a last resort.

Why? Why is there such a reluctance to sort out these people? Could it be this is how MPs get hold of their tickets for the big events?

The touts are easy enough to identify, but there seems to be no willingness to deal with them. A big truck to round them up and a caged open-air compound - where they could spend the day until the event is over - would be my preference.

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