The peculiar pleasures of mid-table mediocrity

The peculiar pleasures of mid-table mediocrity

13th...... 11th...... 9th...... 13th. No, this is not an article about our friends down the A140 (more on them later). These are the finishing places of Norwich City in Division Two (aka The Championship) during the second half of the 1960s: the final season of Ron Ashman’s management and three years under the oft-forgotten leadership of one, Lawrence ‘Lol’ Morgan. (For younger readers I should explain that ‘Lol’ was a contraction of Mr Morgan’s first name; the current social media usage had yet to be coined).

In the generally accepted meaning of the term, they were not vintage years. And yet, they were achieved in the Promised Land.

For 30 of the 35 seasons before 1960, Norwich City and their supporters had experienced third-tier football, the brief interlude at a higher level (1935-39) being an aberration rather than a platform for further upward movement.

13th...... 11th...... 9th...... 13th. Surely, it was for that consistent competence in Division One that 34,905 had clicked through the turnstiles in late April 1960 to witness a mesmerising 4-3 victory over Southend which secured second-level status. For some it was not. The attendance (real people in those days) for the final game of the 1968-69 season - a week after ‘Lol’ Morgan was sacked – was 7,861.

On two occasions that season, ’respectable’ supporters - who paid 6d (2.5p) to hire a cushion to compensate for the firm wooden benches in the main stand - hurled their posterior comforters onto the pitch to express displeasure. Moreover, stern letters – many of them well-constructed examples of controlled fury – found their way into the Eastern Evening News and the Pink ‘Un. (That’s the proper Saturday evening Pink ‘Un, by the way).

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And yet, this was the era of Ron Davies (his final year), Hugh Curran and an emerging Kevin Keelan. Manchester United - Best, Charlton, Law et al – were despatched 2-1 at Old Trafford only a year before they won the European Cup and amidst defeats to Rotherham, Carlisle and nine-man Middlesbrough where a hat-trick by a striker on his debut (imagine that!) and a 4-2 League Cup win at Portman Road (another hat-trick).

The diamonds were there, just as they have been this season. The cup games against Arsenal and Chelsea will live long in the memory and, if this is to be the James Maddison’s only Canary season, then the chance to watch the development of a player of exceptional ability has to be enjoyed.

13th...... 11th...... 9th...... 13th. That could be us over the next four seasons, so credit the 12,000ish who continue to rattle around a 31,000 stadium, 45 miles down the road. And let’s not get too cocky; in 14 years time we too could be receiving a round of applause.

Or will we? Next month, I will consider some parallels to the first season of Farke life and whether mid-table mediocrity has to be embraced.

J.H. Norvic

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