Robin Scott-Elliot: We may love it when we’re winning but all good things come to an end

Winning lots of gold at London 2012 went down well but was a happy one-off

My career began as a cub reporter out in East Anglia – it’s an out there sort of a place as Truman Capote might have put it – reporting on sea angling and women’s bowls. I travelled with the bowls team and once won the raffle on the way home after a stirring victory over Bedfordshire. The prize was a bottle of non-alcoholic sweet white wine. Ah, the sweet taste of success, as Alan Partridge might have put it.

Occasionally, as a treat, I was sent to watch Norwich City in the days when they sported the worst strip in Premier League history, an Andy Warhol does cheese and celery design. It is a fine club, one of those impossible not to have a soft spot for, and it fits into a theory suggested by a former colleague. If you gather four football fans together they will be able to gallop through the entire four divisions of English league football and between them advance a reason to like or dislike strongly every single club. Try it – he swears by it, and swears a lot during it.

Most of the reasons will seem trivial but that is another thing about football supporters; ever ready to take lasting offence at the trivial, any minimal offence to your club, and if it leads to a bit of anger all the better – and if it leads to a bit of righteous anger all the better still: witness Chelsea’s fans rising up in high dudgeon to collect donations to pay the very wealthy Jose Mourinho’s £8,000 pocket-money fine for objecting to Chris Foy’s officiating.

This week I criticised Norwich’s decision to dismiss Chris Hughton. It smacks of panic. It was a suggestion huffily rejected by a number of Norwich supporters, accompanied by the accusation of being a “serial bandwagon jumper”. This weekend, which hosts Norwich’s key game with Fulham, will prove me wrong, I’ve been told.

They are probably right, because when I jump on a bandwagon it tends to grind to a halt. Last summer I followed up Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon by writing that we were enjoying a golden age of British sport. I did suggest we should enjoy it while we could and since then we have lost the Ashes, Murray’s barely won a match, English clubs have been whipped in Europe, with the doughty exception of Chelsea, and even British Cycling’s looking a bit ropey. And, to tell the truth, it is all much more fun to watch.

This winter’s Ashes was compelling for what happened on the field, what happened off it and what is still going on now. England’s failure has given new life to the county game. Suddenly everyone believes they have a chance, even the admirably chipper Kevin Pietersen, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s bogeyman. When England are winning it is a closed shop; when it goes this badly wrong then the doors are flung open. The Sunday morning squad announcement before a Test becomes a moment of interest, although we are not yet back to the unforgettable level of 1988 when England had four captains in five Tests against West Indies. For the fourth Test Peter May, the chairman of selectors, picked his godson Chris Cowdrey to lead the side. I’m not sure if James Whitaker, the current chairman, has a godson playing first-class cricket.

Watching teams lose, eras draw to a painful close and everything go tits up is gripping, and as a nation there are times when we seem more comfortable with it. Winning lots of gold at London 2012 went down well but probably deserves an asterisk in the history of British sport. It was a happy one-off. Since then UK Sport has had no end of flak for continuing its “no compromise” approach to funding potential medal winners at the cost of helping those of lesser abilities just to take part. A similar about-face happened in Australia after their success in Sydney 2000 and culminated in their disastrous showing at London 2012.

The cyclical nature of sport helps keep us watching and entertained. It is reassuring that what goes up does come down. There is so much to take in when slowing down to rubberneck a sporting car crash: Jean van de Velde in the Open; England at the last World Cup; or England’s cricketers throughout this winter. There are two possibles this afternoon alone – any loser from Norwich against Fulham or even more so an Arsenal defeat at Wembley.

This may be a time of year when days lengthen and the weather brightens but it is also the angriest time of year for the football fan. Spring gives birth to the reality that the season is going to be a failure. Manchester United fans had it confirmed on Wednesday, even Barcelona’s have some pretty hard realities to face. Eras are ending quicker than you can say Dave Brailsford was fond of a marginal gain or Arsène Wenger daren’t go another season without a trophy and it is captivating.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkClue: You'll either love them or you'll hate them
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
News
newsIf you're India's Narendra Modi, it seems the answer is a pinstripe suit emblazoned with your own name
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project