Something strange was in the air on Wednesday night. Despite relegation, and despite the season’s mistakes, Jon Rogers says the atmosphere against Watford made him even more passionate for Norwich City’s future
Ever been to a wedding where everything has gone tits up?
Bucketing down like Noah’s been invited, the food tastes like a 12 year old has cobbled it together using beans and jam roly-poly, the bride’s hair looks like Rod Stewart in a wind tunnel, and Auntie Sue decides to grab the microphone to announce she has never really loved Uncle Geoff, before starting up the first few lines of I Will Survive before breaking down in sobs.
Yet, at 11.30pm, there are arms around necks, cavernous laughing, pints in the air, wistful smiles, selfies while crying and everyone agrees that the wedding was the finest day of the year.
That was the Watford game.
The atmosphere had the potential to be like a guest on Jeremy Kyle – pitiful with a hint of aggressive anger when the truth sunk in – but instead it was like a rebellious knees-up, announcing to the world that ‘we’ll be back’ better than any crappy Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator ever could.
We had some wonderful football, crazy and hilarious own goals, waves from Alex Neil, the crowd asking John Ruddy to take an attacking free-kick, and even the bloody Jarrold sung!
All of this on the very night we were relegated from the Premier League.
I do like to get carried away sometimes, I’m aware of that… but, my god you have no idea how invigorated Wednesday night made me. Just 24 hours after West Ham were trashing their place and disgracing themselves and football for a celebration – I repeat, a CELEBRATION – of leaving their beloved Boleyn, we twisted the phrase “Oh, football fans shouldn’t behave like that” by showing a level of class which couldn’t be overlooked by the broadsheet writers.
The Watford fans tried their best to bask in the glory of party poopers, and rightly so, but I honestly think they had given up by the 60th minute and enjoyed being in contact with the rare and lesser spotted ‘NUFS’ or, Non Ungrateful Football Supporter.
I have rarely felt more passionate about my club and its future than I did on Wednesday. I felt part of a community again. Felt all Ipswich Play off Semi-Final. Felt part of a yellow and green family who clubbed together every tiny bit of positivity we each had left inside and fucking rocked the place.
The whole season’s failure was made up by a few simple reasons that have been discussed by us all. In-depth by good writers, rants on the radio and internet and casually, as we nattered, ambling from the ground.
Over the last four weeks especially, we’ve played some pretty poor football and, as a result, the crowds have performed just as feebly. We’ve been in a downward spiral since that Liverpool game and there was only ever going to be one outcome. Driving in on Wednesday, I was thinking – especially with the David McNally narrative – 'tonight is going to be nasty.’
But, that darkness never came. We looked forward to the next challenge. Tackling the ever-growing league of the battered big boys and how we can get out of it.
This summer, I would look to spend all the money we have in the transfer budget, not on loads of new players but on securing Robbie Brady, Timmy Klose and Nathan Redmond in a new wage structure that would make them reconsider the lure of a higher wage packet – with the promise of a January exit if it looks like we’ve got as much chance of promotion as the girl who is known to steal toilet rolls from work.
But that is then, this is now, and when the wave of realisation that hit the crowd, roughly when everyone stopped fruitless refreshing their Sky Sports App every eight seconds, my mind briefly fell to other teams.
The Newcastle fans – probably painfully pointing fingers and insults before their 90 minutes were up; Villa fans who had been protesting since January as their players go out fighting, smoking and 200k car-buying, even that Wolves fan, holding up a sign saying You’ve let us down again.
Then I looked round. Others were lamenting, but not us. Not round these parts.
But let’s be clear – the Norwich players and management from the top down have let us down this season. No arguments I’m afraid.
But Wednesday night wasn’t the time to draw attention to their failures. We weren’t going to show that we were hurting just as much as they were. Our disappointment, concern and confusion about where the club is heading with no money and no man in charge grows, but we didn’t let it show.
As the players and managers, including a waddling Jonny Howson on crutches, sauntered around the pitch, we stayed, we stood and we stared the players in the eyes, and made our position very clear – we’ll be back next year.
We’re City Til We Die.
Jon Rogers tweets at @BigGrantHolt
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