Carrying on the debate around atmosphere, Jon Punt considers where the root of the issue might be, and what needs to happen next.
Norwich City have endured a pretty ropey 18 months. A needless relegation with barely a whimper. A stop start Championship campaign which beyond October never really threated to hit the heights everyone expected. Subsequent in-fighting between the fans. The arrival and departure of Jez Moxey. In short, it’s been a bit shit lately.
One of the key issues raised has been that of leadership. No captains on the pitch, a manager with no plan B, a Chief Executive not listening to fans and a Chairman prancing around for the enjoyment of a TV and Takeaway nation. Some of those assertions are fair game, others are reaching a bit, but all hasn’t been well – the Yellow Army haven’t been happy campers.
Those matters are now being addressed. The arrival of Stuart Webber as Sporting Director was the catalyst. Webber is honest, ruthless and meticulous. Then came Daniel Farke, based on early impressions an affable and engaging Head Coach who’s happy to change it up tactically. Steve Stone, who bridges the divide between old and new, provides common sense in a world of football that’s gone slightly bonkers. We now have good and sensible football governance.
Russell Martin has been re-signed, possibly primarily for his ability to lead a squad rather than defend a set piece. Zimmerman, Franke and Vrancic all seem vocal on the pitch, so the club is getting its house in order.
What of the supporters though? Introspection is possibly the hardest thing to contemplate when the blame seemingly lies elsewhere. Did the fans back City as much as they could have during the recent downturn in form? Almost certainly not. Was that understandable? To an extent, but we’re all signed up to never mind the danger or bravo win or die, so that doesn’t really wash. That’s not a criticism or swipe at fellow supporters, merely an honest assessment of how bad things have got. The players have said it themselves, we as fans can make a difference – so why haven’t we?
Maybe that comes down to a failure in leadership too.
Lee Payne recently talked of sitting in an area of the ground because of its atmosphere, yet does not wish to contribute to it. Where are the leaders to instil in him the sense of duty that comes with sitting (or mainly standing, obvs) in the Barclay?
Andrew Lawn talked of being a natural extrovert, ready to back the boys at the drop of a hat. Where are the leaders to help direct his exuberance?
Terri Westgate called for a return to the traditional singing and vocal values of the Barclay. Where have the leaders been to help the stand remain steeped in its roots?
Of course there are leaders in the Barclay, but those of their ilk have been too few and far between in the last two seasons. Its accepted that season ticket holders will want to retain the place they’ve occupied for years on end, so the chant starters or those that sing loudest are dispersed over the course of 3,000 seats across the Lower Tier.
Barclay End Norwich have been admirably championing supporter issues over the past few years with atmosphere at the heart of what they stand for. Their organised congregation of like-minded individuals at U-21 fixtures in the McNally era either represented the dying embers of a fire that’s burned so long it’s become too old and wet, or the spark of new blood ready to ignite the terraces once more.
My hope is it’s the latter, but they can’t do it alone. They need people to join their cause, to stand with them and lead the way for the others who aren’t quite sure what the Barclay or Snakepit is all about anymore.
Terri also touched on a point that resonated immediately. That in days gone by, “supporters were a unit rather than a collection of individuals” and “the Barclay was an identity rather than the name of the stand.” That identity still exists in some of us, but the apathy generated from City’s recent exploits and the nature of the modern game has meant it is eroding away in the many rather than the few.
Maybe a Webberlution or FarkeFuture will help bring us all back together, but it’s doubtful it will be enough if results aren’t instantaneous. The longer term solution is within the fans’ gift. Let’s get back to our roots. If we want to be a collective then we need to start acting like one. Pre-match organised meet ups at designated ‘singing’ pubs might be a start, with the inevitable march to the ground together, chanting as we go.
We highlighted Forza Garibaldi’s (a Forest fans collective) efforts last season at doing something slightly different with the same goal. They organised pre-game boat parties for fans with great success and they’ll be doing the same this year along the River Trent. Why not just steal their excellent idea or do something similar? Ferry Cross the Wensum anyone?
To their credit, the club have tried to kick off the process at recent fan consultation events, and a number of actions have been agreed. One of them was around the club providing a space for Barclay End Norwich to create flags and banners – help them out if you can, their cause is worthy. But the club ultimately can’t build a sustainable raucous Carrow Road atmosphere, they can merely facilitate a discussion. Only we can make the change, and we now need the leaders among us to stand up and be counted. As a drunk ol' gal once eloquently put it “We need a 12th man here…. Where are you? Let’s be having you!”