Why We Boo When We’re Winning


Anyone who hasn’t kept up with this season might think we’ve lost our damn minds. Jon Punt explains why there’s more to recent fan outbursts than first meets the eye.

We may as well get this out of the way quickly. Booing your team during the middle of a match, one you’re actually winning, is inherently daft. It’s counterproductive; it’ll affect the players and get people’s backs up. 

But it happened. 

Attribute it to an over-excitable band of divorcés or a vocal minority – but alongside that minority singing that less-than-complimentary observation on Wagner’s abilities, three times that number were turning to their mates with that unmistakable and now-familiar look of bewilderment. However, just as we saw on Saturday, there were perfectly good and plausible reasons for the individual players’ respective withdrawals. It’s just that contextually, it seemed like a complete misstep.

Many will have had Saturday in their minds when the subs occurred. The muscle memory of a fair few poor changes along Wagner’s tenure all came to a head. On the face of things it looked as if we were protecting what we had, with at least 40 minutes left to play. It also very nearly went the other way; after Asprilla’s wonderstrike the match was on a knife-edge and had become stretched and unwieldly. Anyone could have won it from there and it took a moment of quality from Barnes and Sara to set Norwich on their way. Some might say it was that little bit of luck City have been missing for most of this season. 

However, it wasn’t just the substitutions or the perceived retreat into our shells that provoked that crowd reaction. Month after month of division, in-fighting and not being listened to has meant the spectre of toxicity looms large. When looking to address fan discontent under Smith’s and Wagner’s management, the club has adopted a range of tactics – but none have been effective. Sticking your head in the sand and banking on a few wins to improve the mood rarely works. And actively coming out to blame the fans, however true that may or may not be, isn’t exactly PR 101 either. 

Based on what this team’s showing us they’re capable of, there’s genuine reason to be optimistic for the remainder of the season

It is difficult not to feel for Wagner. For all my views on his coaching deficiencies, and the possibility that the upturn in form is in spite of his tactics rather than because of them, he comes across as a good human who has gone out of his way to improve the bond between players and fans. It’s that work that’s arguably kept things from going into full revolt during the horror run earlier in the campaign, so it’s sad things have come to this.

On a human level, if you look at it from Wagner’s perspective, what more can he do? The team are in a fine run of form, unbeaten at home in nine games and as it stands, sit sixth in the table. Would we all have taken that barely three months ago when Szmodics rolled in Blackburn’s third and it felt as if the end was inevitable? Of course we would. Based on what this team’s showing us they’re capable of, there’s genuine reason to be optimistic for the remainder of the season.

Because of all that, it’s difficult to apportion blame towards Wagner when he calls out the fans’ reaction. Given the team’s recent record, it’s completely understandable he would feel exasperated and confused by what’s happening. Through the prism of his designer spectacles he can do little more. But despite all of this, he’s actively barraging a section of supporters on the probable eve of season ticket renewal day, which *checks notes*, will likely continue to be the most expensive in the league. The optics of that are, well, not great. 

What appears to be increasingly obvious is the ongoing presence of division and discontent, ready to pop out from under the undersoil heating at the first sign of things going south. Rather than dismiss this as unacceptable fan behaviour, the club could perhaps treat it as a catalyst to do something. This is actually an opportunity, a wake-up call; not just fans whinging. 

The reasons why people have booed, chanted something derogatory, or simply stayed away from Carrow Road entirely, are usually far more nuanced than some would suggest. The first step to healing those rifts is understanding the ‘why’, and exploring what can be done to address it. The only real party with the ability or agency to do that is the club itself.

That isn’t conjured up with a few wins on the bounce, it’s built on solid foundations and the fundamentals being looked after

They need to lead on conversations with supporters and really try to understand why so many things feel just a little broken to them. The club has shown us what good looks like, only to wrestle it away. A little more of the openness shown in 2017-18 would be a start. Letting down their defences and showing some humility would be great. Demonstrating that they’re willing to listen and meaningfully change things, or facilitate the fans already working towards developing the culture of their club would be even better. These are all things that feel within reach, but yet it needs the club to start those conversations. 

The powers at Carrow Road should understand that no one wants it to be this way, and that it’s utterly bizarre that we’ve reached this stage. Everyone wants a united fanbase where we’re cheering on a successful team – regardless of who the head coach is or what the sporting director is saying; the perceptions of the executive team or who owns the football club; even what the local press are reporting. That’ll never change. 

What fans want is a football club they feel connected to and a team they can be proud of. That isn’t conjured up with a few wins on the bounce, it’s built on solid foundations and the fundamentals being looked after. Something which some people feel – rightly or wrongly – has been neglected for far too long. 


  1. Owen says:

    Odd that Wagner suggested the unpopular changes made last night, the catalyst for the boos, were made as both players (Sarge and Onel), had said at half time that they were ‘struggling’. Onels face as he left the pitch suggested otherwise, I and many others around me, thought he had put a decent shift in. Sarge I get, having not been back in the fray for long after a notable absence. We are a hard bunch to please I guess!!

  2. Manfromthesouth says:

    Good article .NCFC has for years maintained that we have “the best fans in the land” on but then treated them as season ticket fodder whose opinions are irrelevant or unwelcomed. Delia’s and Wagner’s reference to a wingeing minority (anything up to 20%)is probably the vocal representation of a much larger fan base (up to 50% I would suggest) who have exasperations about the lack of direction or communication from the owners other than platitudes or generalisations .For example why are overseas investors increasing their stake in the ownership and not backing it by increasing the player budget ?Do the owners want to see promotion gained this year or not.These are essential questions that need answering.
    Fans are not idiots .Many have followed Norwich or other teams for many years and understand what goes on in football matches – what gets fans motivated or excited. There is nothing like a defender with a crunching tackle, a tricky winger who can beat a full back and then cross a ball to a striker who is deadly in the air or a penalty box striker with lightning reactions.
    We don’t like to see such players substituted by boring midfield square or back passing robots who just give the opposition renewed hope even when they are a goal down. So I can understand the crowds reaction last night .Great teams have killer instincts and this current regime have a negative vibe which is soon picked up by the crowd who realise what will happen next (and nearly did last night!)
    Unwelcome as it may have seemed to some, last night’s show of dissent is unfortunately the only way a large part of NCFC followers feel they can or will be

  3. Sam says:

    Absolutely spot on 👏 even after the wins and the run we’ve had at home. It’s still feels like there is a massive divide between the club and the fans. We should be together in this, yet they seem like they always want to rattle the fan base up, make snide remarks and then ask for us to back them? We will continue to follow this club through thick and thin. We will always be here in our number, time they start to understand and appreciate us once in a while. After all, we’re supposed to be “ONE CITY STRONG” upa nodge 🔰

  4. Simon says:

    Mr Wagner has asked those who boo to stay at home. I don’t boo, but anyone with a brain can recognise that in every single game we gift the initiative to the opposition by incompetent coaching and strategy. Sometimes they take it and take points, sometimes they don’t. This isn’t a plan. It ‘s management by default. So whilst I don’t boo, I’m happy to accede to Mr Wagner’s request and not renew my season tickets to show my support for his position. Perhaps if enough of us actually do that people at the club will start to see the problem.

  5. David says:

    Managers come and go,players come and go Fans stay for good.

  6. John says:

    Excellent observations Jon.
    Unfortunately, given his record with substitutions, the events of Tuesday were guaranteed to happen. No doubt we’ll learn at tomorrow’s press conference just how injured Hernandez and Sargent really are.
    Last Saturday’s debacle will live long in the memory as QPR were there for the taking. If Sarge had to be replaced surely van Hooijdonk should have been given a chance?? I just hope we don’t miss out by just 2 points at the end of the season

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