Chris Goreham: Who needs VAR when you’ve got Marc Libbra and a rerun of Chelsea v Barcelona?
PUBLISHED: 13:22 30 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:22 30 March 2020
The withdrawal symptoms are wearing off.
Three weeks without any Norwich City action and suddenly I’m not really missing football anymore.
As the new social distancing routines have taken hold there has been a gradual realisation there has been more than enough football over the years to keep us talking about it for however long it takes for what used to pass for ‘normal’ life to return.
Supporters, it turns out, are a resourceful bunch when they don’t have the distraction of any new matches to become emotionally involved with.
Instead, the nervous energy that usually bubbles up on a Saturday afternoon is being converted into something far more creative. With personal contact being kept to a minimum, social media has been awash with various games, challenges and pictures aimed at filling the football-shaped hole in so many lives.
The end result has been cathartic. Twitter and Facebook had become battlegrounds for arguing about VAR, team selections or whether the 9,000 Norwich City supporters who went to the FA Cup tie at Tottenham are ‘real’ fans.
Suddenly, the conversations are more upbeat. Pictures of great Norwich City teams, golden moments and cult heroes of the past have become the currency.
When the football season is in full flight it can be relentless. Without the weekly worries as to where the Canaries’ next win is going to come from and the traditional pre-match knot in the stomach there has been some proper space to sit back and reconsider the relationship we all have with our team.
So much water has gone under Carrow Bridge since Marc Libbra’s stunning debut goal just seconds after coming on as a substitute against Manchester City in 2001 that seeing it again after all these years was like watching it for the first time.
We have been treated to so much drama in recent years that this unexpected opportunity to flick through the photo albums and the video collections has meant a chance to take stock and savour all of those moments that often get forgotten about in the pursuit of the next three points.
The other unexpected bonus has been that some TV channels have filled gaping holes in their schedules by playing out highlights of memorable matches from the past. This has been a joy because, having watched too much football over the years, my ability to recall one season from another has disappeared into a blur.
There was a really good Champions League game from about 2004 between Chelsea and Barcelona on the other night. I am sure I must have watched it at the time but had absolutely no recollection of it so watching Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Damien Duff tangle with Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and a young Andres Iniesta was just like seeing a live game with the extra reassurance that it must have been decent to deserve being dug out of the archives at a time like this. A guaranteed good game with a mystery result was more fun than staying up to see Bournemouth play Burnley last on Match of the Day.
Perhaps we’ll cherish football a bit more when it does come back now that we have had so much time to be reminded why we love it. It’s more likely that the first stray pass or dubious refereeing decision will prove that old habits die hard.
While supporters are all in such an agreeable state of mind perhaps we should come together and keep this new appreciation for the sport to ourselves. If it ever got out that there had already been enough football without the need for any more we really would all be in trouble.
My cup overfloweth...
The enforced break from football has encouraged me to share some of the stories from the BBC Radio Norfolk road trips of the past with you.
Over the next few weeks you’ll realise that covering Norwich City for a local radio station is even less glamorous than you thought.
This week I give you ‘Cranky Karanka and the Hot Chocolate Machine’.
This one is set in the press room at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on the night of Tuesday, November 4, 2014. Norwich City had just been thrashed 4-0 by a Middlesbrough team who were looking a good bet for automatic promotion from the Championship.
It’s a score that has an even more bizarre look about it now when you see that Boro’s romp was bookended by goals from Patrick Bamford and Yanic Wildschut who would both go on to whizz through the revolving transfer window at Carrow Road without much success. The former Ipswich Town player Grant Leadbitter scored the other two.
All in all it was a pretty miserable night to be a Norwich City supporter, and a long journey too, so who could blame me for attempting to drown my sorrows in some sweet chocolatey goodness?
After interviewing the City boss Neil Adams I retired to the press room and selected a hot chocolate from the vending machine. It filled the plastic cup right to the top and then kept pouring. I desperately searched for more cups. By now the contraption was making a loud grinding noise and hot chocolate was spraying out of it. Everyone was looking at me.
Eventually, an exasperated steward ended the flood by pulling the machine’s plug out of the wall. It was at this point that I noticed Middlesbrough’s manager Aitor Karanka had entered the room with the hope of starting his own triumphant post-match press conference. He had watched the chocolatey mess unfold and wasn’t looking very happy that his words had been interrupted by the villainous vending machine. The look in his eyes said that he thought it was probably down to operator error so I left the room in search of paper towels.
This was the season that ended with City beating Karanka’s Middlesbrough in the play-off final at Wembley. To my relief it was champagne that was spraying around during the interviews that day.