Chris Goreham: The 'what ifs' that ensure Norwich City fans are keeping the faith

PUBLISHED: 12:38 14 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:04 14 October 2019

Both Kyle Lafferty and James Maddison got better in the eyes of many fans by not being played at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Both Kyle Lafferty and James Maddison got better in the eyes of many fans by not being played at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Growing up, the dream was always to be a professional footballer.

It turns out the true path to never ending adulation is to be an injured professional footballer or at least one that doesn't play very often.

If Norwich City's recent injury crisis has been good for anything it has been to back up the theory that many players only get better when they are out of the team.

The Carrow Road crowd knew that Tim Krul, Christoph Zimmermann and Alex Tettey, to name but three, were all important first team players but it's only since they have been in the treatment room that their many strengths on the pitch have been conspicuous by their absence.

It's an open and shut case that the Canaries would be better off in terms of Premier League points if more of last season's Championship winners had been available but a spell on the sidelines even enhances the reputation of those without any silverware or medals on their mantelpiece.

Norwich City's last Premier League season was punctuated by regular calls for Kyle Lafferty to be given the chance to lead the line up front. A return of two league goals in the 32 appearances he did make was soon forgotten as the Canaries floundered against relegation and the Northern Ireland international was loaned to Birmingham City.

There were games when he would get a rousing reception just for getting up off the bench to have a jog along the touchline on his way to completing another afternoon as an unused sub.

MORE: Southgate's warning to ex-City ace

It seems unlikely but perhaps Lafferty would have been a roaring success in the top flight that season. The fact he only made one substitute appearance during that campaign means he is in the enviable position of being able to claim that we never will know what he could have done.

The same is true of another former Canary. As England lurched from 1-0 up to 2-1 down in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Czech Republic on Friday night so the calls for James Maddison to be given a chance by Gareth Southgate became louder.

Unscarred by that result he grew in stature as an international footballer over the weekend without having to go to the trouble of actually kicking a ball. There were similar calls for Maddison to be given more of a go when he wasn't getting a look-in at Norwich under Alex Neil.

We can safely say that was one situation in which supporters were proved correct in prematurely taking someone to their hearts.

Perhaps the greatest example of this phenomenon in Norwich City's history is Dean Windass. The fact he didn't join from Hull City in late 1995 is widely considered to be the final straw for manager Martin O'Neill and his relationship with chairman Robert Chase.

As O'Neill led Leicester City to relative success over the next few years so Windass became, for a while, the greatest player that Norwich City never had.

It also meant he never got to tarnish his reputation by missing an open goal, getting sent off or struggling to settle at Carrow Road.

It's very difficult to quantify things that never happen and these little 'what ifs' are what keep fans going. That's why we can steadfastly stick to the reassuring theory that Daniel Farke's team will be ok when they get back to full strength.

Joni Mitchell was right when, in 1970, she penned those insightful lyrics about not knowing what you've got 'til it's gone. Had she have lived in Norfolk 24 years later and written about Big Yellow Canaries rather than taxis she might have surmised that instead of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot they sold Chris Sutton and tried to replace him with Mike Sheron.

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