Lulu was famous for a song that made the world feel different about how they communicate. But. Boom Bang a Bang has nothing to do with this piece as Zoë Whitford explains it's good to talk. And scream. And shout. Lots. Holla.
At work, I have been told I should make more of a nuisance of myself. That I should speak more in meetings, that I have to make myself heard if I want to get ahead. This kind of behaviour doesn’t come naturally. I work mostly with men. In a team of maybe thirty people only four of us are women, so obviously outnumbered, but bantered down if we even mention the imbalance.
I can get lost in a swirl of deep voices, I feel it is only necessary to contribute when I believe there is something meaningful to say. I’m well aware that my silence can be confused for stupidity. Sometimes I have nothing more to add because I’m fed up with hearing nothing words, corporate nonsense I have no time for. Sometimes I don’t have the confidence because other people have it in abundance, and there they are, beating their chests like roaring silverbacks while I appear passive, absorbing it all.
When I take a moment to think about it, these noisy colleagues have no more right to be heard than I do. The words they use aren’t exactly going to trouble the works of Hawking or Einstein. They’re not always right, but they are listened to, because they are confident, sometimes brash, sometimes annoying. I don’t believe I have to be one of those people to get my job done. But I know that filling a team with Zoës would be impractical because I do not make enough noise, that I am not enough of a nuisance to force change.
Steven Naismith makes a nuisance of himself. He is a constant annoyance, to the opposition, to the match officials, probably to his own teammates. One of the benefits of the relative quiet Carrow Road during recent matches has been the chance to listen to the players communicating with each other. Naismith is never quiet. He is brash, coarse, and incessant, always there, always loud, driving change. He wants the ball, he wriggles around, he won’t back down.
As I watched the team lose at Barnsley, the players were quiet. They weren’t communicating, they were passive. Norwich’s lack of leadership has been much-discussed, but for me it is the lack of noise that has been an issue. The players have rested on their laurels. They have belief in their own talent, but they do not shout about it. Cameron Jerome apologises profusely every time he knocks over an opponent. Jonny Howson saves birds. Timm Klose daydreams, doe-eyed, about the North Norfolk coast. Ivo Pinto just wants everyone to have a good time. All admirable qualities, but are they enough to force success?
The Championship is not a place to hide your light under a bushel, whatever a bushel is. Teams do not get promoted through talent alone, or by accident. They learn how to fight, how to get the best out of each other, how to win when a win seems impossible. And they have players who thrive on getting right on the opposition’s wick. They have Grant Holt laughing at Ipswich, they have Bradley Johnson defying all expectations and from nowhere having the season of his life. They have players that no one else can stand. They have nuisances.
As form has improved recently, so has the communication between the team. The defeat at Rotherham was so different to Barnsley because the players talked to each other throughout, desperately trying to figure out a way to turn around the match situation. Naismith and Klose were constantly in discussion. It may not have worked, but no one can say they didn’t try and fix it.
Jonny Howson’s return has been important not just because of the balance and poise he offers the side. He is a communicator. Not a nuisance like Naismith, but an organiser, an encourager. Russell Martin pushes the team along too - it is vital to have someone in the team who’s been there before, who understands the fans, who gets what it means. John Ruddy knows the value of his bellowing roar. And there is Klose, so gifted but having to learn a new craft in the second tier. Despite his own challenges, Klose knows his value in the side and he talks constantly to his defence, often just checking they’re all OK.
With this mix of communicators, Norwich do have the potential to force change as we move ever closer to May, and the end of the season. Naismith’s nagging and Jonny’s organisation could be the difference between the team capitalising on their talent or falling away, disappointingly. They will ensure the team’s voice is heard, they will pave the way for Wes to run the show, for Ivo to thrive because everyone’s enjoying themselves, for Cameron to be too nice for a striker really but it doesn’t matter because we’re winning.
If you work in an office with a Steven Naismith, I bet they drive you up the wall. Always in the boss’s face, getting the attention, never bloody shutting up. But I bet they can back it up, and I bet they get things done. Norwich cannot rely on passive retrospection and the hope their talent will eventually shine through during the rest of the season. They cannot be a team of Zoës. They need to make a nuisance of themselves, and refuse to shut up.