Cold and dreary Saturdays in November are meant for following your favourite football team.  

It begs the question as to whether the Championship really needed to stop for the first few weeks of the World Cup. 

There are many reasons why hosting what should be the biggest festival of football in Qatar was a terrible idea. It’s here and happening regardless of what anyone outside of FIFA thinks. The fact it has left many of the game’s most ardent fans feeling so cold is a sad reflection of the priorities of those at the top. 

A winter World Cup is strange but if it was being held somewhere with a genuine football heritage and this happened to be the most suitable time of year for it that would have been fine.  

Since 1930 every single World Cup has fitted in neatly with the European domestic game so we couldn’t really have complained if our traditions were upended for one year in almost a century. 

Any claims that the World Cup leaves a magic legacy of transformation in a country have been undermined by the fact that in 2018 it was in Russia. Even former FIFA president Sepp Blatter now admits that choosing Qatar as host was a “mistake” and a “bad choice”. 

Norwich City only have one player going to the tournament. From a yellow and green point of view the Canaries are having a month without a game just because Josh Sargent can’t play. 

The American has become a crucial player this season. He’s the club’s top scorer so perhaps Dean Smith is relieved that he’s not being forced to put his team out without such an important figure. 

Would it not have been the best possible response to this controversial World Cup if our club football had just carried on regardless? It wouldn’t have stopped what’s happening in Qatar but the tournament could have just carried on in the background while we all concentrated on what really matters to supporters. There is only ever one winner in the club v country discussion for most fans. 

There are just 25 players from the Championship participating in The World Cup. The division could have continued largely unaffected. It’s not often during a season that clubs can put out a full-strength side anyway so a player or two missing here and there would probably not have made much difference. Without this hiatus there would not have been any need to cram in eight matches during October or the nine that Norwich played between July 30 and August 30. 

That compressed schedule must have added to the injury woes across the division.  

In a rush to get games in so that the division can take a break for the sake of 25 players many more have probably either picked up injuries or been forced to battle on through the pain barrier. Swansea and Reading are the only two Championship clubs with three players on duty at the World Cup. Sunderland, Birmingham, Cardiff, Luton, QPR and Sheffield United have two. The Canaries are one of seven sides who will be avidly following the fortunes of just one of their players during the group stages. 

The Pink Un: Dean Smith has been counting on the form of Josh Sargent this seasonDean Smith has been counting on the form of Josh Sargent this season (Image: Focus Images)

It’s interesting to note that top flight rugby and county cricket both continue domestically without their international stars as a matter of course. Leicester Tigers, for example, had five players in the England squad for the Twickenham clash with the All Blacks on Saturday. These included Norfolk boys Ben Youngs, Freddie Steward and Jack van Poortvliet. The Tigers still managed to win 45-8 at Sale Sharks on the same day as England’s thrilling 25-25 draw with New Zealand. 

I’ve seen some Championship fans online discussing the fact that they are pleased the club game is stopping as they were worried about not being able to watch World Cup matches. 

The only group game that clashes with a traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon kick-off sees France play Denmark. On December 3 there is the potential of a second round tie featuring England or Wales. I notice that non-league clubs have already been proactive around allowing clubs to agree to different kick-off times for that day. 

A week later, on December 10, it’s the quarter finals. But the Championship returns anyway that day. England or Wales could feature in a quarter final that evening which will make Norwich City’s trip to Swansea interesting. I wonder whether Josh Sargent will be back by then? 


Welcome back Captain! 

For most Norwich City supporters the lasting memory of their final trip to Carrow Road before the World Cup will be Middlesbrough’s stoppage time winner. 

What many might not have fully appreciated was the return of a Norfolk hero. I’m not talking about Jonny Howson, who had an excellent game in the Boro midfield. 

In recent weeks a couple of Norwich fans had contacted us at BBC Radio Norfolk to ask what had happened to the club’s mascot Captain Canary. He had been conspicuous by his absence in the opening weeks of the season. We had aired these comments on the radio in the hope of getting an answer. 

During the build-up to the game against Middlesbrough my phone started buzzing with activity.  

The Pink Un: Captain Canary was back against MiddlesbroughCaptain Canary was back against Middlesbrough (Image: Archant)

This is not usually a good sign. It tends to mean that I have either completely missed something or got something wrong. I waited for our presenter Phil Daley to address a question to our special guest Jeremy Goss so that I could click on some of the messages. 

It turned out there was excitement in one corner of the ground that needed to be shared. Captain Canary was back and he has a new look. 

So, along with my Radio Norfolk co-host Rob Butler, I set-off in pursuit of the giant yellow bird. Any attempt to solve the mystery of his whereabouts were scuppered by the fact that Captain Canary doesn’t talk. This makes him a less-than-ideal guest for a radio interview. Rob and I had to settle instead for a photo opportunity with the most popular captain at Carrow Road since Russell Martin. 

When two 40-something year old broadcasters are posing for pictures with a fluffy mascot less than half an hour before kick-off you do have to wonder whether these frantic few months have had an impact. Perhaps it’s a good thing that we have a month of cold turkey from the Canaries.