Norwich's second-team syndrome

Everyone loves Norwich City, don’t they? We’re inoffensive, come from the middle of nowhere, have bright kits and usually play good football. But Zoë Morgan wonders if this is holding the club back

"No one likes us, we don’t care"
Millwall fans

"Everyone’s fairly positive about us, should this be an issue?"
Norwich fans

Football fans are an evolving breed. The ‘FIFA generation’, the ‘second-screen generation’, whatever you might call them, are consuming football from across the world 24 hours a day. People no longer support just one team by necessity, they follow multiple clubs across multiple leagues and are often interested in the fortunes of a favourite player rather than the team they play for. I bet most of you have a ‘German team’, and I bet it’s Borussia Dortmund. Bloody hipsters.

Norwich were everyone’s second team before it got cool.

It is easy to become complacent as a Norwich City fan. Tell a new acquaintance who you support and, unless you’re in Ipswich, nine times out of 10 you will be greeted with some sort of positive statement. That statement can include any of the following words: ‘Jeremy Goss’, ‘Delia’, ‘those kits’ and (if, like me, you are an exile,) ‘long way away’. This is all in contrast to the reaction someone might get if they admitted they supported Leeds, for example. Just imagine having to tell people that.

Having lived outside Norfolk for more than half my life, I have a fairly decent idea about how Norwich are perceived by other football fans. There’s really not much to dislike: our owners, bright colours, full stadium, plucky Premier League strugglers, Stephen Fry, Bayern Munich. There’s not enough of us outside East Anglia to ever represent a threat, so we become the oddballs, the quirky folk, and suddenly people we barely know are saying they saw the Norwich result on Saturday and immediately thought of us.

There are two contrasting ways of looking at these attitudes. The first is to puff one’s little yellow feathery chest out and be proud that the club is – on the whole – inoffensive to most people. Surely it’s a good thing that the fans and players have never done anything so bad that it has made people cross enough to have passed their anti-Norwich sentiment down through generations.

In this new era when commercial jobs at the club include increasing the fan base in ‘key markets’ worldwide, being a bright and breezy, likeable side is surely in Norwich’s favour

It must surely be in our favour that Alan Hansen is friends with Delia and that Gary Lineker’s mum, who sadly passed away this week, was a Norwich fan and that national media coverage, when it happens at all, is generally positive (if not always entirely well-researched)?

On the other hand, is the positivity something the club should be trying to suppress? Are other fans on our side because we represent little threat, little challenge, little out of the ordinary?

This leads us to the second way of approaching the ‘second team’ mentality. It is what I like to call the ‘David McNally Disregard.’ In the early days of his tenure as chief executive he claimed it would be no-more-little-nice-Norwich, and certainly the club has been bolder and meaner under him than it ever has been before. McNally nicks managers from tiny Scottish teams in the middle of the season, charges away fans 50 quid and steadfastly refuses to sell players we don’t want to sell.

In fact I’m not even sure if McNally would be bothered if Norwich fans started to like the club less (as long as we carried on buying season tickets). Ticket prices, car parking and food have all increased significantly in recent years, telling fans: if they want the club to continue to exist, it cannot remain a pushover. The club is financially stable because of McNally’s ‘I don’t care if anybody likes us’ attitude. Can you be nice and run a successful business?

In this new era when commercial jobs at the club include increasing the fan base in “key markets” worldwide, being a bright and breezy, likeable side is surely in Norwich’s favour. Who wouldn't want to support us? But to give us a bit of an edge, so people can actually have an opinion one way or another, it is probably McNally’s plan to have a bit of a scrap every now and then, on and off the pitch.

There is probably already enough moaning to do about our Match of the Day coverage or if Cameron Jerome misses too often without adding in some sort of personality crisis as well. As long as Norwich don’t turn into the new Millwall in the near (or distant) future, there’s probably not too much need to panic.

You can follow Zoë Morgan on twitter: @zvfm2