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Ian Clarke: Time to act to avoid Norwich being the new Ipswich Town

PUBLISHED: 10:19 22 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:22 22 March 2018

Will Norwich star James Maddison, pictured celebrating scoring a penalty against Reading on Saturday, be heading to the Premier League this summer? 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Will Norwich star James Maddison, pictured celebrating scoring a penalty against Reading on Saturday, be heading to the Premier League this summer? Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

Right, hands up if you would have stayed at home in the warm on Saturday if you hadn’t got a season ticket or not bought your seat for the game a while back.

Norwich Head Coach Daniel Farke gets animated during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
17/03/2018Norwich Head Coach Daniel Farke gets animated during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 17/03/2018

Yep, I thought plenty of palms would be waving.

In all my 40 years as a City fan, I don’t think I can ever remember a match when I have been so cold.

There was hardly a warm front of positivity going into the match to tackle the Beast from the East.

Any lingering dreams of the play-offs had gone, goals at Carrow Road were as rare as balmy evenings and the visit of Reading didn’t quite have box office blockbuster material written over it.

Plenty of empty seats during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
17/03/2018Plenty of empty seats during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 17/03/2018

The number of empty seats reflected that.

As it turned out, there were several reasons to be cheerful in a long-awaited and much-needed win.

There was more purpose, intensity and directness than in recent weeks.

The contributions of Onel Hernandez and Josh Murphy encapsulated that. I love a proper winger and hope they are given more freedom and encouragement to bomb forward.

Chris Gunter of Reading and Josh Murphy of Norwich in action during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
17/03/2018Chris Gunter of Reading and Josh Murphy of Norwich in action during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 17/03/2018

Earlier this season I publicly questioned what Mario Vrancic does for the team.

I still remain to be convinced about his week in week out consistency, but that lad has a real gift of an incisive pass.

I so want Dennis Srbeny to succeed. He looked much better against Reading. If only he could have found the River End with that gilt-edged chance.

In recent columns I have written about the need for this season not just to drift away and for real momentum to be built up.

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I know I wasn’t alone last week in being pretty smug when some stats came out about comparative crowd sizes between Norwich and Ipswich.

The Tractor Boys have played in front of more empty seats at Portman Road in the last month (four games, 65,241 empty seats) than the Canaries have for the last 121 games over six years at Carra (64,984).

Even on an afternoon when the season could be seen as over and the east wind could cut you in two, our attendance was over 25,000.

This season Carrow Road has sold 94.3pc of seats. which is the most in the Championship ahead of leaders Wolves (91pc), Leeds (83.2pc) and Sheffield United (82,2pc).

As I thought about the figures and sensed the mood among a lot of fans (not just due to the weather), my mind went from arrogance to a feeling of “that could be us”.

I haven’t heard how many NR1 season tickets have been renewed for 2018/19.

I would be very surprised (and of course delighted) if it matches this year’s total.

There is no doubt there is a general feeling of disappointment among supporters about the way this term has gone.

The league position, still being below Ipswich, too few goals and too many drab matches are all factors as we near the end of a second season in the second tier.

Imagine if we were in the shoes of the boys and girls down the A140 and hadn’t tasted top-flight action since 2001/2.
I feel we are still far ahead of Ipswich in so many ways on and off the pitch, despite the league positions.

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What is essential, however, is that Daniel Farke, Stuart Webber and the board (and indeed the supporters) are awake to the warning signs that Championship inertia can bring.

Leaving aside the controversy over the funding of the academy, I am encouraged that a strong emphasis is being put on bringing through young talent.

We love seeing our own flourish.

The unsustainable wage bill has started to be tackled and that will continue in the summer.

There is an argument of you get what you pay for. However, for too long big money was paid to certain players who just didn’t justify it.

While I still cling on to the hope that James Maddison may decide to give it a bit longer at Carra, I can’t believe a top club with a fat wallet won’t come calling.

If that’s the case, the proceeds simply have to be used wisely to get the striker (strikers) we so desperately need and strengthen in the other areas to give us some real solidity and creativity and tempo.

Angus Gunn has been fantastic and I would love him to have a another year with us. If he returns to the Etihad, that position between the sticks has to be another priority.

I really hope the likes of Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris return and can replicate what they have done at Shrewsbury for us next term.

Enjoy your international break and let’s hope for a good Good Friday when Fulham come calling.

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