With a poor Liverpool side coming to Carrow Road, some Norwich fans are expecting three points on Saturday. But Dan Brigham says that sense of entitlement is creating an unhealthy footballing culture of pampered fans
Watching Manchester United stutter to a 1-0 win at Liverpool on Sunday was jarring. Instead of two heavyweights in the prime of their fighting life, we had two retired wrestlers arguing over the remote control in a retirement home. Young people see them and whisper, “Didn't these two used to be somebody?”
With the score 0-0 at half-time and both teams flat-lining, we all thought it: these two teams looked pretty, well, beatable. No reason why Norwich can't take three points off them at home. Strip that game of context, of history, and these were two sides who looked like they were settling into mid-table mediocrity; testing out the comfy armchair for size – the beige one with that lever thing were you can extend it – and just plonking themselves down and having a snooze while the rest of the division battles for titles and against relegation.
Here were Manchester United, a good team with a poor plan, and here were Liverpool, a poor team with a good plan. Neither are great sides. They do not strike fear into anyone. You wouldn't cross the street to avoid them late at night. You might see them and think, there's old Bruiser Barry. Remember when he used to be a hard bastard? Soft as shite now.
On Saturday, Liverpool come to Carrow Road. United turn up for our last home game. And we can beat them. Both of them. Hell, we've already got four points off them this season in the north-west. So it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that Norwich can using them as stepping-stones to safety.
And this is where things get dangerous: when that sense of entitlement kicks in.
It's always been there, this sense of entitlement, this expectation from fans that things must always conform to their predictions. But it’s got worse. Social media has made it worse, old media have made it worse, Sky have made it worse, you've made it worse, I’ve made it worse. It was once a haze, this sense of entitlement, but now it's descended like the fog in the film The Mist – the one with all the hellish monsters and mutant creatures in – and suddenly it’s ok to demand money back after crap performances. To call Gary O'Neil a c*nt because he made a mistake. To boo when players don’t play like you think they should. To call for the manager to be sacked because you've lost two games in a row. To bellow for the chief executive to be kicked out because he hasn't signed a 30-goal-a-season striker for less than £15m. To just be really, joylessly full of incontinent rage when something you want doesn't happen.
We saw it after the Bournemouth game. There was an expectation among some fans – a minority, definitely, but a vocal, increasingly significant minority – that we would win, that anything less than three points would be scandalous. This failed to take into consideration that we were away, that Bournemouth are decent, that there are only two teams involved in each football match, and that it's pretty rare that one of the sides actually want to lose. There would have been Bournemouth fans thinking the same thing: that there was no way they shouldn’t not win a home match against a fellow promoted side.
Two sets of fans, both expecting to win. So something has to give. Someone always has to be wrong.
But it doesn't have to be this way. In a season where West Ham have won at Arsenal and Liverpool, where Chelsea have lost at home to Crystal Palace, Southampton and Bournemouth, Manchester United have been beaten by Swansea, Bournemouth and Norwich, where Spurs and Liverpool have beaten Manchester City 4-1 and where Arsenal have lost 4-0 to Southampton, no match can be taken for granted. There should be no sense of entitlement – winning should not be an expectation, and losing should not be an unmitigated disaster were managers need to be sacked, players banished and the team booed at like a lame pantomime horse. Contempt breeds more contempt, good players lose their confidence and good managers lose their jobs. It’s unhealthy, and increasingly it's the fans who are pampered, not the players.
To a neutral, absolutely no Norwich defeat would be a surprise this season. Nor is it a surprise if, occasionally, we play horrendously. No one will have been shocked when we lost at Bournemouth, or when we lost at home to West Brom. They were just run-of-the-mill results for a newly promoted side, barely worthy of acknowledgement to the outside world. Contrast that with the reaction of some Norwich fans after those defeats: like they'd been stabbed in the back by the club, that the results were a personal insult which confounded expectation and logic.
Expecting points against a poor Liverpool side on Saturday isn't unreasonable. But it shouldn't be an assumption. And it certainly shouldn't be viewed as the end of the world if Liverpool turn up, play to their potential and give us a hammering. It would be like getting mad about the Earth going around the Sun.
You can follow Dan Brigham on Twitter at @dan_brigham
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