As calendar years go 2016 has been bit of shit hasn't it? The annual equivalent of putting your hand down the side of a comfy pub chair cushion to retrieve the pound coin that just rolled out of your pocket, only to plunge your fingers into the snot-filled tissues the previous occupant had stowed down there.
Maybe 2017 will be better. We are very confident that it might be. As such, we put together a wishlist of 6 things we'd be happy to see over the next 12 months.
1 - An official word on the club’s position regarding safe standing
As much as they might be social media’s public enemies number 1 and 2 right now, the appointments of Jez Moxey and Ed Balls were met with hope and optimism by those supporters who wish to see safe standing introduced at Carrow Road. Both have previously gone on record to state they support the idea, meaning a significant proportion of the board is already convinced.
While it would be difficult to envisage Norwich being one of the first in England to conduct a trial, it would be interesting to get an official club stance on where they’re at with the premise. With apathy and hostility replacing bon homie in and around Carrow Road at the moment, something positive has to be done for the sake of both the club and the fan. We need a coherent strategy on how to improve the match day atmosphere (more on this later) and safe standing would be an excellent start.
We may not be (legally) standing on the Barclay Lower in 12 months time, but an official acknowledgement from the club that they are in favour would be a big step forward.
2 - Some semblence of defensive organisation
Many have berated the club’s inability to sign anyone that shows an ounce of defensive know-how over the last few transfer windows. Most even acknowledge the new darling of Carrow Road, Ivo Pinto, while swashbuckling (which is legally the only word you can use to describe the attacking efforts of a handsome Iberian) in the final third, can be found lacking in positional sense when in and around his own box. The solution? Sign a new centre back. Actually, sign 3, put Bennett and Bassong in the docks on Haymarket for public stoning and start again.
Well, no. All of the squad’s current backline have their faults, otherwise they wouldn’t be plying their trade in the Championship. What Norwich have lacked in recent times however is any kind of leadership or organisation to help solidify the team. The protection in front of them hasn’t helped. Tettey’s knees are seemingly gone, Mulumbu can only run for 45 minutes and Graham Dorrans, fine passer that he is, struggles to grasp the fact a holding midfielder is also required to tackle people quite a bit.
Klose and Mulumbu aside, the class of 2014-15 are still largely in place. From the moment Alex Neil took over in December 2014 until the end of the campaign the club boasted the best defensive record in the division. The personnel are there, the desire to defend a set piece competently, or even pick up runners from deep isn’t. That doesn’t take new players, it takes concentration, a willingness to put your head in where it hurts and some bold and decisive coaching to drill into those within the team how to keep the opposition out effectively.
3 - A sense of purpose around recruitment
Criticism has been correctly levelled at Norwich’s recruitment set up for the past 18 months. There seems to be no clarity of purpose, potentially exacerbated by a revolving door policy for those involved with the process. The one man this stops with however is Alex Neil. If the club are to be believed, his is the final say on all transfers and he has been the one constant of poor transfer windows. It would be harsh to blame him for the summer of 2015, but the squad’s deficiencies should have been addressed since then.
Whether Neil is in charge in a few days/weeks is as yet unknown. The probability is he will deservedly have his time called but results and results alone will define his future. Whoever is in charge though, the problem persists. What we have signed recently is a rag tag bunch of players whose perceived talent is now correctly being called into question. There is an alarming lack of lucidity surrounding where we are headed, while other similar sized more successful teams have a definitive vision for their future.
Whether it is an investment in youth, proper scouring of the continent or a gamble on hungrier players in the lower leagues, vision and long term thinking needs to be the order of the day.
Something. Anything. The near silence that greeted the first (admittedly drab) 45 minutes against Aston Villa was shameful and embarrassing. As if to prove the point the Barclay (why is it always only the Barclay) made a concerted effort to lift the noise second half. The effort was rewarded with a much better performance and ultimately the winning goal. Do that every week and it would be worth more than the odd point here or there over the course of a season.
This isn’t just a moan however, because we are half-full people remember? No, this is also a suggestion piece…
5 - That extra 10 percent
As much as the perceived wisdom would tell you Alex Neil has lost the players, we’re not entirely convinced that’s true. Spirited second half displays, although limited in number, would suggest otherwise. If they really aren’t bought into what the manager is saying why would the players suddenly turn it on after a wee chat or a curly finger?
However, what the gaffer isn’t extracting from them right now is that extra 10 percent, the defining quality which can turn a point into 3 just by chasing down lost causes or straining every sinew to make a last ditch challenge. They’re the moments which can shape seasons, and we’re not seeing enough of them right now...
As a result, AN's time at the helm looks almost up and if (or when) he does go, the new boss will surely only need to get the maximum out of the players he already has at his disposal to get us back on track. Surely? Please?
6 - Excitement
The main thing we want from 2017 is to fall in love again. To be wooed by a team fighting for every ball, brave and creative in possession who leave you gasping for breath and beaming. The kind of team who when 1-0 down away from home, you don't switch off the radio because you know the game is up, but are captivated by a daring willingness to hit back and enthral.
We want to be excited, with all the ups and downs that entails, not just bored and miserable as yet another set piece concession leads to a no-show. This marriage is failing, we want the excitement of the chase back. It's time for Norwich to get adulterous, or failing that just to stop in at Ann Summers on the way home.
2016 was shite in so many ways. We do however want to offer our thanks to everyone who has supported the site since we started in July, whether that’s been by tweeting us kind words, buying a t-shirt or telling a friend about us.
Happy new year you beautiful yellow and green bastards.