Was it goodbye? How the final moments of Norwich City’s season unfolded
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It was the last sight Norwich City supporters needed as they tried to make sense of the implosion they had just witnessed: James Maddison limping towards them on crutches.
Like a tub of salt being rubbed into a raw wound, the Canaries’ star player was determined to thank around 1,500 travelling supporters after a nightmare afternoon.
The playmaker had limped off in just the 11th minute with the score still 0-0 against Sheffield Wednesday. By the time he returned to the pitch to hobble towards the away end his team-mates had been thrashed 5-1.
Ahead of the game it looked likely that Maddison would be one of a handful of players who could be saying their goodbyes to the City supporters after the final whistle.
Loanees Angus Gunn, Harrison Reed and Moritz Leitner were the obvious contenders but the futures of Timm Klose, Ivo Pinto and Nelson Oliveira are also uncertain.
Judging the levels of emotion behind those farewells was rather more difficult in the aftermath of such a comprehensive defeat which saw a disappointing campaign finish on a low note.
Gunn’s efforts were certainly recognised by Canaries fans, the on-loan Manchester City goalkeeper being beckoned closer as his chant rang out, walking over to pass his gloves to supporters at the front of the stand.
The England Under-21 stopper started and finished all 46 games of the Championship season, 51 in all competitions, keeping 17 clean sheets and largely impressing.
Reed, Pinto and Oliveira were all among the last players to leave the pitch as the long journey home to Norfolk beckoned for fans and team, eventually joined by Maddison.
With his left leg heavily strapped and crutches needed to make it half the distance, the 21-year-old certainly made sure he was able to thank his supporters, after a fine individual season of 15 goals and 11 assists from 49 games.
Whether his appreciative waves were ahead of a big-money summer move will now be dictated by the results of scans on a knee injury which could not only scupper City’s financial future – but that of a highly talented young man who looked ready for the Premier League.