Nick Sellers writes his first article for Vital Norwich ahead of the long trip up to relegation threatened Blackburn Rovers. He urges us all to be thankful we haven’t ‘done a Venkys’.
Cast your mind back to the weeks leading up to August the 13th 2011. Not only was this the opening weekend of the 2011/12 Premiership season, but it was also City’s first match in the top flight after six years in the Football League wilderness. But before a ball had even been kicked against Wigan, critics were already coming out of the woodwork to cast judgment on our final league position. Many had us penned for a bottom three finish. Some even had us tipped to finish at the bottom of the bottom three.
Good job Lambert’s men didn’t read the script.
But it appears one of the teams tipped to rival City in the survival battle did read the script, notwithstanding a brief spell around the turn of the year.
As I type, we are a couple of days away from the long trek up to Ewood Park, returning to the North-West where our tenure in the top division initially resumed. At the beginning of the campaign, you’d be forgiven for billing this one as a battle for survival for both clubs. But thanks their tremendous hard work, the visitors sit 14 points above the feared 18th spot, and 16 points ahead of their hosts with just four matches left.
For Holty and co, it’s job done. For those like myself who will take part in the 9-hour round trip, it’ll be a party atmosphere and a cracking day out. For everyone connected with Rovers, it could be one of the final death knells in what has been a truly horrendous season for them.
The mood in Norfolk couldn’t be better at present. But with Delia, Stephen Fry and the team launching our new home strip, a Global Canaries initiative and a Pass It On campaign, combined with yet another mediocre season for our neighbours down the A140, I think it’s important just to spare a moment and think about where we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved this year and thank our lucky stars that we haven’t gone and done a Venkys.
Whilst our yellow army has defied the naysayers, Blackburn have done anything but. Their owners clearly have no concept of how a football club should actually be run. Their manager is clearly not capable in such a role at this level of the game. They do have a shrewd buy in the form of Yakubu, but despite his goal tally it’s the goals the other end conceded by their scandalously inept defence that have almost rendered the Yak’s hard work useless. The supporters, though justifiably enraged, have taken their frustrations to extremes which have left their gaffer needing some hired muscle to look after him. It’s all a far cry from the 94/95 season where both teams saw completely opposite conclusions.
Nothing less than victory for Blackburn will do on Saturday, or it’s surely curtains for them. While I don’t really feel anything in the way of sympathy for them as an actual club, I feel a huge sense of relief that we haven’t ended up in their situation.
Excuse me if I’m not so quick to point and laugh at them, just as I didn’t laugh too hard (just a bit) at Ipswich when they received a 7-1 spanking from Peterborough. It would be so easy to giggle and snigger, just as the relevant parties no doubt would’ve done on the flip side of the coin, when we’ve endured exactly the same sorts of problems in seasons prior.
But what Town’s 7-1 loss to The Posh and Blackburn’s relegation threatened season has provided me are chilling reminders. Reminders of that game in 2005 at Craven Cottage. Reminders of that absolute abortion of the 08/09 season. Reminders of the sheer apathy, shattered pride and dark, murderous thoughts running through my head at 5pm against Colchester (or come to think of it, from about 3.20pm) in our League One kick-off.
It’s days and seasons like those that give me a sense of perspective on not just football, but life in general. How can it not?
But there is also the opposite feeling, like when you see a club like Reading (And Southampton are virtually a given) enjoy similar success to your own recent accomplishments like promotion. You know that the supporters of those respective clubs are absolutely giddy with a renewed zest for life (And no doubt a fair amount of alcoholic beverages in their system). It’s the best time to be fan and you want to sustain that feeling for as long as you possibly can, just as we’ve managed to do.
My point in a nutshell? I just want us to be thankful. Thankful that we are owned by a half-decent cook and not a group who process chickens. Thankful that we have a handsome, talented Glaswegian at the helm and not a Glaswegian who is anything but. Thankful that we’ll be playing Premier League football in Norfolk again next year while the only time they’ll get to play a team in yellow is when travel to Vicarage Road on a freezing Tuesday night.
But there is one thing I’m actually a bit jealous that they’ll have and we won`t. Despite all their failings, doom, gloom and general misery, there is one crumb of comfort they’ll have that we, the Canaries, will not be able to enjoy next term.
At least they’ll get a derby with their traditional rivals. And I’ve got a hunch we won`t be seeing such a thing for a long, long time.