Time for Norwich City fans to dream again as the ‘festival’ returns

PUBLISHED: 10:21 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:21 04 June 2020

The leader - and we should be able to hear what Grant Hanley is shouting now 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The leader - and we should be able to hear what Grant Hanley is shouting now Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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A festival of football – that’s how the government and the Premier League would portray it.

Football matches every night of the week, with Sky and the BBC showing just under a third of those on free to air television.

Those who sit inside Carrow Road of a regular occasion will be mixed on the return. An armchair fan’s dream. Put the laptop lid down after another day of working and schooling from home, open up a beer and your favourite snack and watch Teemu, Timmy and Tom plot the great escape.

Until, of course, you realise that tonight’s big match is the mid-table mediocrity of Burnley v Southampton in the fight for 13th place. Suddenly those re-runs of My Family and Vera seem a viable alternative.

Only that great escape is a slightly eerie version of what’s come before. The cauldron of noise that once engulfed Manchester City is replaced by loud Scottish barks from Grant Hanley at his fellow defenders; and a reversing Morrison’s truck in the nearby car park. The flags, the colour – gone. On the Ball City reserved for yours and my front room, rather than all four sides of a vibrant Carrow Road.

Who's Alex Tettey going to listen to when there's the possibility of a shot at goal? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdWho's Alex Tettey going to listen to when there's the possibility of a shot at goal? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I was at the new White Hart Lane for the penalties; not at Sheffield United. That day feels a lifetime ago. But why was it so good? Not just because of Tim Krul’s penalty heroics. Not just for the first visit to this magnificent new stadium. But because I celebrated with 9,000 of you. There. In the moment. The passion flowing.

It’s back, but inexplicably changed.

The pie and a pint at your local Norfolk establishment, the friends you only see every other week, that woman you hugged as Simeon Jackson or Onel Hernandez scored on that epic Carrow Road day. Gone, but nowhere near forgotten.

You wonder which and how many of these changes are temporary. The lower league clubs are struggling to come back in any way as strong, or indeed at all. The whole English pyramid is likely changed for ever, with clubs likely going out of business, reforming and perhaps the likes of B teams being introduced.

Television. They’ve got a taste for every game now. This season’s Amazon Prime taster broadcasting every tie in a game week perhaps will become more often, especially if fans aren’t allowed back in early 2020/21. It may indeed see the sacred 3pm Saturday black out removed more permanently; that or the Premier League moved away from that traditional football slot.

And for Norwich City? I can’t help think that the Great Escape is slightly more difficult now that the home advantage is surely lessened. Take some of those minor gains that have been worked so well in recent years – visiting teams not warming up in front of their own fans for instance.

Still I suppose no one will be shouting “shoot” when Alex Tettey is half way inside the visitors’ half.

We’ll all be back one day. I fear it won’t be at the start of whenever next season is, without, of course, signing a health warning. It makes turning up at the turnstiles on a Saturday cash in hand an even more historic concept.

Whether you like it or not, the football industry is ultimately too dependent upon television riches not to return with its now inferior product. The challenge for that product will be making itself as attractive again, in empty stadiums and in many ways with very little left to play for.

I for one will be happy to see it back. It’s a visible step forward back to something approaching normality; albeit with many steps still to take. It keeps our football club moving forwards, even if that may involve a downward step; rather than worrying at where the next pound is coming from.

And we can dream again of that Great Escape.

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