Ever since the Championship fixtures were published in June I’ve been thinking about that drive back from Swansea. 

Not because of the distance, if you can’t stand clocking up the motorway miles Norwich City is not the team for you. 

This was always going to be an unusual season with the white elephant in the room that is a World Cup in Qatar slap bang in the middle of it. During those long summer months, some two Prime Ministers ago, everything in a football sense seemed possible. I cast a wistful eye over the Canaries fixture list and opened up the World Cup draw in another tab. 

Norwich City’s return, at Swansea, would be during the World Cup Quarter Finals. Plotting England’s route through the draw it became clear that they could be playing in the last eight on the very same day, Saturday December 10th. 

We had the potential of possibly the most stressful footballing day that most Norwich City supporters have ever experienced. It should be acknowledged that the Canaries have a fan base that is spread far and wide with supporters all over the world. It can’t be too controversial to suggest that most City fans are English and will be of a nervous disposition on Saturday. 

It’s bad enough being put through the mill of a vital Championship match for Norwich City. A reunion with Russell Martin after having stewed on losing to Middlesbrough for a month. Add to that the uncertainty as to how teams will be impacted by this unusual winter wilderness in their season. It already feels like a step into unchartered yellow and green territory. 

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Regular listeners to BBC Radio Norfolk’s ‘Canary Call’ phone-in will know that many supporters haven’t got that day’s win, lose or draw, out of their system by 6 o’clock on a Saturday evening. 

When we pull the plug on ‘Canary Call’ live from Swansea on Saturday there will be just an hour before England play. It’s not just any old England game either. It’s a World Cup Quarter Final against France. It’s the sort of match that would usually justify a least a full day or two of nervous anticipation. 

Now, as if Gareth Southgate wasn’t under enough pressure, he will have the added task of either cheering Norwich fans up or making sure he doesn’t take the gloss off three points in The Championship. 

The Pink Un: Norwich City fans will be on their travels this weekendNorwich City fans will be on their travels this weekend (Image: Focus Images)

Those who follow Norwich City away from home are a determined bunch. I doubt that even the tantalising prospect of watching a World Cup Quarter Final will put them off travelling to Swansea. They have missed their club football in recent weeks and the tickets for a Saturday in South Wales will have been purchased with full knowledge of the potential of a heavyweight fixture clash. 

My radio colleague Rob Butler and I have been discussing our plans. We will of course be at Swansea on Saturday and are seeing the England game as a great opportunity to have something good to listen to on the way home. After all, football coverage is much better on the radio isn’t it? We’ll certainly never forget it, whatever happens. 

The other challenge we’re facing is to not get too excited about the France game during the afternoon. We’ll be in Wales where the Qatar World Cup ended a week ago as far as they are concerned. I like to think I am not particularly prone to Basil Fawlty style hissy fits but “Don’t mention The World Cup” may well be my mantra at Swansea out of respect for those around us. 


Back to reality


Josh Sargent’s involvement in The World Cup was ended by a combination of injury and an impressive Dutch team. The moment the United States were knocked out, Norwich City supporters turned their attention to wondering whether Sargent will be at Swansea on Saturday. 

His fitness is by no means certain. It would also be interesting to know how much time he’ll get to acclimatize back to Championship conditions. Doha in December is a far cry from Swansea. Some of our BBC Wales counterparts may also find their teeth chattering more than usual. I imagine those who were covering that long-awaited World Cup campaign for the Welsh media may also be making their returns to domestic action next weekend. 

So it’s back to the commentary boxes and studios to find Canary interest in Qatar. Last week I wrote about the wealth of former Norwich City players whose expertise is being sought by various broadcasters. The second week of the tournament has thrown up even more. 

Andy Townsend and Efan Ekoku are both working for the host broadcaster. This basically means their commentaries are provided alongside the coverage that goes around the world to countries who haven’t sent their own reporters. 

The latest former Carrow Road favourite to pop-up during the tournament has been Sebastien Bassong. The Barry Butler Trophy winner from 2013 is in Qatar for BBC Radio 5 Live and the World Service. 

I heard Bassong helping with the build-up to the crunch final group game between Uruguay and Ghana. It was a match that many Norwich City supporters ended up rather enjoying. Football fans always take great joy from the downfall of a rival. There wasn’t much sympathy in these parts for a tearful Luis Suarez who seemed to take Uruguay’s exit particularly personally. 

The Canaries famously found out on several occasions how good he actually could be. In fact Bassong was one of those on the wrong end of perhaps the finest individual performance ever seen against Norwich City. The four goals Suarez got at Anfield in a 5-1 hammering dished out by Liverpool nine years ago this week was a truly astonishing display. 

Playing alongside Bassong that night in the City defence was a certain Russell Martin. He is due to manage a team against the Canaries for the first time on Saturday at Swansea. He could even select one of the Liverpool team from that game at Anfield. Don’t panic, Suarez hasn’t signed for Swansea, I’m talking about Joe Allen. 

Having waited a month for any Norwich City action let’s hope Canary fans aren’t all blubbing like Luis Suarez at full-time on Saturday.