All season we've been testing the theory of "Along Come Norwich". Was there anything in it or was it just a massive myth and confirmation bias?
Andy Lawn investigates...
As football fans we are hard-wired to witness events through colour-tinted glasses. Every refereeing decision is wrong. Every near miss or injury is further proof in a previous life we must have done something terrible to lady luck.
All football fans experience it, but at Norwich we have given it a name. We have even given it a hashtag; #alongcomenorwich.
Many City fans will already know where the phrase “Along Come Norwich” comes from;
Has your striker been on a barren run of 14 games without a goal? Then Along Come Norwich to help you out. Haven’t won away in the league for 2 months? Along Come Norwich to banish your travelling blues.
It is not all doom and gloom however, as similarly the rule works in reverse. For example; in late 2015 Manchester United were unbeaten at home having only conceded once in the league and Along Come Norwich with a Tettey toe-poke.
It also gave us a name.
When we started AlongComeNorwich, one of the things we wanted to do with the site was see if there was anything in the phrase, or if it was purely confirmation bias, the embodiment of the pessimistic football fan looking for something that’s not there. So, during the course of the season, along with some of our twitter followers, we picked a few “Along Come Norwich's” each game to see whether they came to pass, keeping a running total throughout the season to prove/disprove the theory.
First though, what exactly is ‘confirmation bias’ and why did we think #alongcomenorwich might just be a psychological comfort blanket? Here’s Professor Sharam Heshmart to explain;
“Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.
“Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.”
So when we lose at Birmingham, ending their run of 8 home games without a win, or face a freefalling QPR at Loftus Road and go down to 10 men within a minute, we all shrug and think; “Ugh, typical, along come Norwich”.
Do Norwich come along though, or is it all bollocks?
The season didn’t start well for the hashtag, with City travelling to a Blackburn Rovers side who hadn’t won on the opening day for 5 years, fertile #alongcomenorwich territory then? Nope. In the mother of all false dawns, we smashed them. 1-0 Reality.
Next up was Sheffield Wednesday at home and two big #alongcomenorwich opportunities; first they hadn’t won away in 5 and ex-chubby Canary Gary Hooper was in the midst of a 5 game goal drought. 1-0 Wednesday with a Hooper winner then surely? Nope. 0-0 on the night and 3-0 to reality.
The hashtag finally got its first #alongcomenorwich point at home to Bristol City, although it was less than earth-shattering as we ended their 3 game winning run.
Next up was Birmingham City away and the first #alongcomenorwich storm of the season as we went down 3-0, despite the Blues having not won at St Andrews in 8. Typical Norwich was the cry, although in truth Reality still led 3-2.
The hashtag would not come so close to reality again, as we didn’t ‘come along’ far more often than we did.
By Christmas, and our 3-1 defeat at Reading, reality was scoring at twice the rate of the hashtag leaving the score; Reality 22-11 #alongcomenorwich.
That rate continued for the rest of the season, where every #alongcomenorwich moment (Reading being put to the sword 7-1 despite having won their last 3, or Rotherham beating us, despite losing 15 of their previous 18), there were double the amount of times the hashtag didn’t come to pass (beating Gianfranco Zola’s Birmingham, despite them being yet to win under him and not losing to Blackburn at home and failing to end their run of 7 away games without a win).
With the season now down the final score is;
Reality 33 - 18 #AlongComeNorwich
Is this the death of the hashtag? Probably not because, to give the final word to Professor Heshmart;
“People are prone to believe what they want to believe”.