No club has any divine right to be in Premier League
12:15 02 October 2012
So in the two weeks since we last spoke what’s been happening? Well, of course we swept aside Arsenal 4-2 thanks to a stunning debut performance.
And then there was the brilliant 2-1 victory against Chelsea at home. What a result. Oh, and how could I forget that great 3-2 victory at Aston Villa? We all wanted to win that one. But the less said about that 7-1 defeat the better I suppose. At least we are still near the top of the league.
Don’t worry I haven’t finally lost the plot and our editor hasn’t given over the next 950 words to a complete madman (those test results have yet to be returned).
And I haven’t been having those lucid dreams again, you know the ones? Where you are a Canary player at the heart of an all conquering Norwich team (or is that just me?).
Instead, since last penning this column, I have been indulging myself in a bit of Norwich City nostalgia, courtesy of the wonders of having an all too sport obsessed television package.
(Stick with me please, there is a point to all this).
Instead of making the most of the recent international break by working around the house or preparing for forthcoming parenthood, I decided to relive the iconic 1992/93 campaign in which Norwich City came a fantastic third.
For those who don’t remember, or are simply too young to, that was a defining year for football in general and much of the top-level football we watch now was shaped by it.
For 1992/93 was the inaugural year of the Premier League and the year when television, in particular Sky television, started to have a major impact on the game.
And while the razzamatazz, glitz and hype of a Sky influenced season largely remains today (though thankfully the dreadful cheerleaders have gone), in the two decades since much of the Premier League has seen massive change.
The biggest difference, of course, it just how much money now dictates what’s happening on the field of play.
Partly due to the television millions and partly the fact that clubs have become the play thing of many a mega-rich millionaire, we are now in a situation where only a small number of teams realistically have a shot at the title.
That’s so different to 1992/93 when Aston Villa were second, Norwich third, Blackburn fourth, QPR fifth, Liverpool sixth and Sheffield Wednesday seventh.
Manchester City finished 9th (which was seen as a success at the time), Arsenal 10th and Chelsea 11th. Manchester United won the league, in case you were wondering.
Another difference has been the influx of foreign footballers and foreign managers, and the changes in style over the years which this has led to.
But also different is the identify of the teams plying their trade in the top league compared to those heady days.
Eleven of the 20 teams in the first ever Premier League are no longer enjoying life at the pinnacle of British football. Several have not only slipped one division, but two, much like Norwich themselves did of course.
And it’s this fact which brings me to the point to be made in relation to the Norwich City team of now. And it regards how we should define success for our club.
I’m betting that, if asked, pretty much every Norwich fan out there would say the team is currently playing in its rightful league.
In fact, time and time again prior to our return to the top division, I overheard fans proclaiming that Norwich needed to ‘go back to where they belong’, that a club from a city our size with our fanbase ‘should be in the Premier League’, or words to that effect. I have probably even uttered them myself.
As such, when things aren’t going so well on the field, such as when we find ourselves going the first few league games of the season without a win, the fans get very twitchy and the pressure mounts both on the players and the manager.
But do we have a right to expect, demand even, that this is Norwich’s level?
Here are some statistics which may surprise. It took 70 years of football before Norwich became a top-flight club – 1972 in fact.
Between 1972 and 1995 Norwich spent just three seasons out of the top flight. However, this is only our third season in the top flight in the 18 since 1995.
This means that in its 110-year history, only 22 full seasons have been spent in the top fight.
It’s also worth considering how many teams of similar size to Norwich see their rightful place as the Premier League?
Also in that 1992/93 league, but not at the top now, were Wimbledon, Sheffield United, Coventry, Ipswich, Leeds, Oldham, Crystal Palace, Middlesborough and Nottingham Forest.
Meanwhile, there’s a plethora of other clubs in the Championship whose ambition must be to get to where we are now.
Such as the likes of Blackpool, Brighton, Hull, Cardiff, Wolves, Bristol City, Leicester, Derby, Birmingham, Bolton, Burnley, Watford and Charlton.
By my maths, including those currently enjoying life at the top, around 45 teams, almost half the league’s clubs, are realistically fighting to enter an elite club which allows just 20 in at any one time.
And fans from all of these teams must look at the likes of Norwich and think that with the right backing, the right manager and the right bit of luck, that could be them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that as a club we shouldn’t aim high. I expect us to be in the Premier League as much as the next man or woman in the Barclay.
But I do think it’s worth placing into context just how much of a battle it is for us to just be able to be part of this league in the first place – because at times I think it’s something some fans are too quick to forget.