The new football season is almost upon us. After a gloriously restorative summer break, the Little Yellow Bird crew are BACK. How are Rich Jeffery, Clare Thomas, Seb Ward and Zoë Whitford feeling?
2017/18: Glorious People’s Webberlution or Farkeing Disaster?
Rich: 100 years on from The Russian Revolution (who says we’re behind the times in Norfolk?), comes the Webberlution of 2017. Both brought about swingeing cultural and economic changes, let's hope ours doesn’t lead to civil war. The Tsarist Autocracy of our recruitment team has been Siberia’d off. We now have a plan, recruiting early and removing unwanted/disinterested/want-away/too wagey players.
Webber, like Lenin, has been the mastermind of the Revolution with Farke the Trotsky figure, the man on the ground. There’s a system and style we’re recruiting for. The new coaching structure is a good thing, it makes total sense for us.
I like the cut of the head coach’s jib, he knows what he wants and makes it clear. In short, ‘Ich bin ein Farker’.
This being us though and me being a natural pessimist I have a nagging fear it’ll go titten auf.
Clare: I am genuinely unsure. I’m sitting on a very wobbly fence at the moment and keep swaying in different directions. The new regime has become incredibly hyped, with t-shirts galore, new phrases coined and fans almost giddy with excitement, yet the main event has not even started. Yes, our pre-season games have gone well, but it is PRE-season. Not THE-season.
Aside from being a Wary Clarey, I am very much in favour of what has been going on behind the scenes; the last time we had a big clear out and started again it worked out peachily. I really like Daniel Farke and his ideals. I love that he has a plan ‘A,B, C and D’. I’m just not *certain*, purely because the Championship can be a heartless beast. So I am going to stay on this wobbly fence, though it is leaning towards Webberlution. I hope someone fixes it before it gets windy and blows the other way.
New player you are moist with anticipation to see?
Rich: Amid the exotic arrivals and their diacritical marks and glyphs, the player I shall be most excited to see is Angus Gunn.
There are many reasons for this:
He’s one of our own, he’s one of our o-o-own, Angus Gunn, he’s one of our own.
He’s coming home, he’s coming home, he’s coming, Angus’ coming home.
He’s a very highly rated young ‘keeper.
He’s a big lad.
He’s his Dad’s son.
The last reason is the main one. It’ll be amazing to see the son of a Gunn between the sticks for the Norwich. I shall have a pang of nostalgia for the old days when I see that name on the team sheet.
Will he pick his bum like his Dad did?
Will he head the crossbar like his Dad did?
Will he tell us ‘what’s the score’ like his Dad did?
Can’t wait to find out.
Clare: I have every faith that Mario will, indeed, be super; a rip-roaring, all- action, goal scoring, ‘Jonny Who?’ hero. He has shone pre-season, with goals, well-taken set pieces and rave reviews. There were a few concerns voiced about how good he could be given that he played in a relegated team in Germany.
Well, Wes has been relegated 3 times.
I will leave it there.
Zoë: The Zimmermann, Zimmbo, Zimmbabwe, RumplestiltsZimm, Zimm card, ZimmFast. The man with half a first name and twice a surname. The reasons for my anticipation are manifold, but mainly I’m excited we have a new defender. No more RyBen, no more Seb, no more Whitts. The Norwich defence had become a bit of an institution in recent years, and not in a good way. Finally, the opportunity has arrived for new heroes, and the sort of stability at the back that’s seemed like a pipe dream for at least 4 seasons.
Also, the prospect of Timm & Zimm is so mouthwatering I can hardly contain myself. All the M’s. Mmmm. Timmy K didn’t have quite the year he - or any of us - were expecting last season, but it’s great that he’s still with us and hopefully he rediscovers his long-lost mojo very soon. Maybe Zimm The Night Garden will help him look.
Which departed player will you have a little heart pang for?
Won't you come on home
Won't you come on.
What was wrong, in your life
That you moved up North, with your wife?
Won't you come on home?
Clare: It’s the battle of Jonny H, Johnny R and Jakey M. I’ve gone JR. Jonny H ruined his chances right at the death; although it did make parting easier to bear. And Jake...he seems to have gallivanted off to his new/old love without so much as a cursory glance back at us. It hurts so I've shut down the emotions on that one.
With JR, parting was not so easy. Here was a man who was always proud to play for Norwich, embraced life in the fine City and took his release from the club with incredible grace. And dwelling in the middle of the Upper Barclay, as I do, you form an emotional attachment with the goalie. You spend so much time looking at them. Or, rather, their backs.
I can’t help but envy Wolves a little. They have a good man. With a good back.
Who'll be this season's scapegoat?
Seb: Scapegoating isn’t just a by-product of frustration, it’s a way of life. If a fan isn’t allowed to tell Steven Whittaker that he’s ‘a useless lanky donkey’ every two minutes, is this really football? Has political correctness gone too far? Do we even know what’s real anymore? AM I GOING INSANE?
You see, I’m struggling from P.S.S.D. That’s Post Scapegoat Stress Disorder, for those who don’t know. With Whittaker, Bassong and Ruddy having left I no longer know who to turn to. I feel unstable. A part of me is left vacant. Give me Canary Call, my drug, my precious! Give it to me now! I must unburden my anger.
I look to Lafferty, and he does not look back. Ryan, I shout, twisting and turning at night, restless, scared, alone. Come back Ryan, please! Let me tell you how pathetic you are, like old times. I promise, it’ll be different this season. And when I say different I mean exactly the same. But we can make things work. Just so long as you know: it’s not me – it’s definitely you.
The scapegoat is more akin to a battered, featherless phoenix. And as one dies or departs another emerges from the ashes ready to continue the struggle.
Who will be my victim this season you ask? Well, Vrancic has that v.Wolfswinkel sexy name, sexy face combination making him immune from criticism. I fancy that Yanic kid. Yes, he’ll do just fine.
What will you consider a successful season?
Seb: Consider the North-South divide debate that I have so often at Uni. Some Northerners will draw you a line explaining exactly where North is and exactly where the rest is. Southerners will do the same, albeit shifted 100 miles down the country. All too often, neither Northerner nor Southerner has any concept of the Midlands. Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent: mythical lands, passed into legend, consigned to the history books — and, er, maps. It is the same black-and-white analysis, this time of success and failure, that dictates our football consumption.
Many fans will consider a top six finish to be crucial. When the prize is the Premier League, there are no Birminghams and there is no Stoke-on-Trent. You’re either in the playoffs – the gates to heaven – or you’re outside asking a tout for a ticket. No one wants to be on the outside.
But the so-called Webberlution may not be an instant success – or at least a success defined purely in promotion. This tree may need time for its roots to bed in. We may need to rediscover Stafford. We may need to go and explore Warwick and Worcester. Because a finish between 6th and 10th this season would not necessarily be a failure if it foreshadows a better future. It may just be the Midlands.
Zoë: It’s all about finding that happy medium between expectation and reality. Expectation: we’re massive; last season was just a blip; we’re going to be just like Huddersfield except better because we were better to begin with and also Delia. Reality: there has been a huge turnover of playing staff; there is a new manager and a new structure; Pritch is injured and also Jonny’s gone.
There doesn’t seem to have been enough time since Farke arrived for the players - whether old or new - to have assimilated all the new information that must have been lobbed their way. For that reason, surely a slow start is to be anticipated with the promise of greater things to come.
Success to me will comprise better away performances (learning how to be competitive outside the Norfolk bubble would be excellent progress) and solidity at the back without compromising our attacking fluidity. Is that too much to ask for? Perhaps I need a dose of reality.
Crucial stage of the season?
Rich: The start. We’re all, well most of us, enthused and intoxicated by the new regime and we need to stay that way. To that end we need to hit the ground running in order to keep everyone in line behind the changes. Otherwise the Canary Callers, told you soers and negatweeters will be out in force involuntarily shouting ‘fire sale’, ‘bring back Jonno’ and ‘where’s the money gone?’ like they’re suffering from idiot tourettes.
That aside, look at Huddersfield last season, they were there or thereabouts all season from the start and as we’re now Huddersfield Zwei, that’s what we need to do. Not sure about the blue and white kit though.
With that in mind, what better fixture than Fulham (A) to kick us off? Oh!
Zoë: The beginning, the middle and the end. The Championship is an unrelenting bastard of a mistress. Even the prospect of it makes me nervous.
What will be the biggest change this season compared to last?
Zoë: Probably it’s going to be coming to terms with no longer being Farkeing loaded. We’re spent-up, cash-poor, crossing our fingers for some sort of winter fuel allowance. The money’s all gone lads, don’t ask where - it’s best not to know. So while Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday and whoever else has been bought by someone filthy rich start splashing the cash, we have to remember we’re not shopping at Waitrose anymore.
Of course we can still be promoted with less cash, and it might even feel like we’ve earned it more because we’ve had to be smarter, thriftier.
Rich: Lower expectation. The pressure’s off compared to last year. We won’t be anyone's favourites for promotion this season, which should work in our favour. We will also be a little about this should be that the fans stop turning up expecting to see us win easily each week while being entertained, and really properly support the team again. It’s been a while.
Vrancic's bleached locks. Discuss.
Rich: Super Mario Vrančić is an exciting signing, a German under-age international (winning the U19 European Championship with them), a full international for the country of his birth and top level experience in the Bundesliga. At the time of writing, he’s hit the ground running with a couple of goals and some tidy play in some pre-season friendlies.
So, there’s a lot to like about him. Apart from his hair. We have a proud history of dyed hair at Norwich; from Curo to Hucks, we’ve seen it before. But Mario, put that blonde back in the bottle, return to your wonderful dark hair and let’s not mention this again.
Clare: I’m not going to lie, I was excited when I first googled Mario Vrancic. All action on the pitch, all handsome with his raven hair. Could there finally be someone to replace Bradley in my heart? So when he turned up at Colney resembling someone out of a 90s boy band, I was a little disappointed. I remember that craze the first time round. It wasn’t good then. And it’s still not now.
I suspect (and hope) that Mario might be a big success, which gives me grave concern that the ‘Vrancic’ could become a thing throughout Norfolk. Mario. Please get rid. Or things could, quite literally, get ugly.
Final league position?
Rich: Top 6. An improved defence, a settled side in a formation the players are used to and know their duties within, all allied to our attacking prowess should be enough to get us into the playoffs. Then who knows?
Zoë: My rose-tinted pre-season spectacles must be addling my mind - I’m beginning to think we can finish in the top two. Time is such a great healer. But sort out the defence and the away form and there’s no reason to think we couldn’t be a match for anyone, especially if we continue the rampant goal scoring form with which we finished last season.
I’d be over the moon with top 6 though, which would show real improvement from last year.
Seb: Play-offs, somewhere. Expecting a slow start as the team adapts to the new tactics, but one that will have gathered pace by Christmas. If all the ‘double sessions’ are to be trusted we should have the legs when the fixtures pile up and the season wears on.
Clare: It all hangs on the first game. If we beat Fulham at Craven Cottage then they might as well end the season there and then. Such a momentous win should be worth 95 points so that’s promotion sorted. If we don't win then we will just have to play the rest of the games, and after a tentative start I think we will surge into the play-offs in the latter half of the season, possibly just missing automatic. Hmmm. Wary Clarey seems to have disappeared already.