Lee Payne: The tricky question Norwich City fans must face up to

The Norwich fans during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/

City fans watch on as yet another Premier League defeat is confirmed against Tottenham - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It’s finished at last.  

Sacking the manager hours after our first win, the outcry over our (actually, rather smart) new crest, Covid running through the squad and protests outside Carrow Road are just some of the delights we’ve been treated to off the pitch since August.  

On it, we’ve been comfortably beaten pretty much every week. Yes, 2021-22 is a season we’d all like to swiftly move on from. 

My own season essentially ended on April 23, as the Premier League’s irritating insistence on having matches on Sunday afternoons meant I’ve been at work during City’s last two home games. Trudging back up Yarmouth Road after the 3-0 defeat to Newcastle, I wondered: am I enjoying this? 

The topic of why we invest so much of our time, money and emotions into this sport is one I’ve tried to tackle before without coming to any real conclusions. I think it’s a bit like searching for the meaning of life. If you start to think too deeply about it, you realise you have no idea. 

Football became so popular because it was the only recreational activity most could afford. During the Industrial Revolution, men worked in factories for five and a half days a week. Since the country was a deeply religious place, Sunday was sacrosanct, so that left only Saturday afternoons for them to let their hair down. 

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Some played the game. Workplace teams were common – the Thames Ironworks side became today’s West Ham. Railway workers from the depot at Newton Heath later became Manchester United. Here, before Norwich City there were Caley’s FC and the Norwich Teachers. The rest watched. Football was the great release for these people. It was what they did for fun. 

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From its origins, I think it’s fair to say that football was what people did for entertainment. 150 years or so later, however, something has changed. There is so much riding on the outcome of a match these days that football is an emotional wrangle that infuriates far more than it excites. 

For the clubs, it is of course money that has caused this. Norwich being relegated will have caused a sudden and significant drop in revenue that will hit hard for an outfit the size of ours. As I write this, we are days away from the Championship play-off final, often billed as the richest game in football. With so much at stake, you can see why it’s hard for some to enjoy what they’re watching. 

I ran a poll on Twitter asking whether winning or being entertained was more important to the match-going Norwich fan. More than two hundred people responded and 60.5 percent of them said winning was what mattered the most. I was slightly surprised by this. We work hard, we choose to spend our hard-earned money and limited free time going to the football. It seems strange to me that so many would go with the view that unless they see City win they might as well not have bothered. 

I want us to win, of course I do. I just think there should be more to it than ruling that anything other than victory equals failure. I was far more entertained by Norwich losing 5-4 to Liverpool a few seasons ago – the day Jurgen Klopp broke his glasses during the celebrations – than I was, for example, by us beating Burnley 2-0 last month. I don’t go to Carrow Road in the hope that Norwich will go a goal up in the first few minutes and spend the rest of the game passing the ball around the back. It would be a win, yes, but I want to be entertained. 

Entertainment has been in short supply for those of us of a yellow and green persuasion this year and we can only hope that next season will see the return of happy faces in the stands. Enjoy the summer.