Down but not down

Hold on, you’re saying we’re not already relegated? This may have been a season of waste and misfortune, but it is far from over. Seb Ward looks back in order to look forward to the remaining nine games

I was at Swansea. I made the 10-hour round trip. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t pretty. The mist of relegation had descended over the Northern Canaries coach as we trundled out of South Wales. Glum faces. Sad eyes. Uncomfortable bottoms. There were very few words spoken. Rather an osmotic process of misery. Of sighs and groans. Of silence.

It’s been a season of many things. Things that are often not good things. Not a few of my favourite things.

A season of ups: From dispatching Sunderland and Bournemouth early on, to Alex Tettey’s toe-tally brilliant goal at Old Trafford, without forgetting Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s annual strike at Rotherham, to which the away end started wolf-howling.

A season of downs: humiliation on Tyneside, Kloppled at Carrow and the karma of Lewis Grabban. Not to mention the absolute state of our defending. And our goalscoring. Basically, the football.

A season of waste. Had Gary O’Neil not got himself mindlessly sent off at Stoke, we may well have won (as we were the better side on the night), which would have made it three wins on the bounce. As it is, we’ve accumulated just one point since and thrown away leads to Liverpool and West Ham.

A season of learning: Alex Neil has had to adapt. Adapt or die. His young shoulders have borne the heavy weight of expectation. Natural selection may yet prove his downfall as his own selection has rarely been consistent. He crawled back into his shell somewhat after the Newcastle loss. The conservative approach got results, until it stopped getting results, and we were crap again. But regularly he’s been proactive to solve our problems. Whether it’s worked is another issue.

A season of not learning: The same defensive mistakes. The same missed chances. The same perplexed post-match pressers. The same words uttered: ‘what if…'

A season of misfortune: Cameron Jerome’s goal that was a goal but wasn’t a goal, Diego Costa’s goal that wasn’t a goal but was a goal but wasn’t and Adam Lallana’s goal that unfortunately was a goal — the fifth goal in a 5-4.

And finally… drumroll please… a season of fortune. Fortune because despite how bad we’ve been, despite how many miserable away games we’ve been to, how many Russell Martin mistakes we’ve witnessed, how many Jerome chances we’ve watched whirl away, we’re not yet out of it.

It seems a good handful of people don’t realise there’s still nine games left of the season. Twenty-three percent of the campaign – nearly a quarter. There’s more points up for grabs than we currently have on the board.

So why then are people already resigning themselves to relegation?

It’s a defeatist attitude that’s neither productive nor based on solid reasoning. One, that if shared by our players, would warrant more moans and more groans and gain fewer points.

I’ve seen the stats — I’ve been to the games — I’ve suffered as you have too. One point from the previous nine games. It looks bleak. And generally, when Norwich look like they’re going to be relegated, they do the incredible: they get relegated. But as quickly and as unexpectedly as our season turned so very sour, it can turn sweet once more. Unlikely it may seem, but writing us off is the last thing to do.

All that Swansea game really did was make it a little bit harder. A psychological blow, yes, but they are professionals. And even if Mr Mole says the camp isn’t entirely happy, each one of those players is playing for a Premier League place.

We now have fewer games to get the points – but crucially, enough games. Unlike the season which brought Chris Hughton’s demise, our fate remains in our own hands.

So don’t be a ‘we’re down-er’. Be a ‘we’re staying up-er’, or at the very least a ‘we’re not down yet-er’ which is the category I find myself in. It’s not a question of optimism, pessimism or realism, but one of holding on tight, because this season is far from finished.

Down, but not out. Or rather, down, but not down.

You can follow Seb Ward on Twitter at @Seb_Ward

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