Chris Goreham: What does the next chapter hold for Norwich City?
PUBLISHED: 16:26 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:26 18 June 2020
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It’s going to be like a high school reunion at Carrow Road on Friday evening. The bricks and mortar will inspire an emotional reaction because of all the experiences those four walls have contained over the years, but there will be a gradual realisation that the old place isn’t quite the same without all the fun stuff that used to go on.
Football minus fans or any kind of atmosphere is not an appealing prospect, but it’s time to try and see beyond that because the next few weeks are really important for anyone who cares about Norwich City Football Club.
The enforced hiatus has allowed us to cling to the idea that avoiding relegation from the Premier League might be possible for an extra three months. The prospect of Daniel Farke pulling off the ‘little miracle’ that he likes to talk about will become clear over the next nine days.
After having no football at all at Carrow Road for three and a half months we have three matches between now and next Saturday evening. If the Canaries can take to behind closed doors football well they could end that spell as FA Cup semi-finalists with a genuine chance of staying in the top flight and adding another exciting chapter or two to the remarkable story that Farke and his players wrote when they were promoted in such style last year.
If the Canaries can’t beat Southampton, Everton or Manchester United we’ll have to start talking in terms of at least a middle-sized miracle and probably even a gigantic one needing to happen to stay up and any idea that football’s return could be seen as some sort of morale boost for a nation still coming out of lockdown would be quickly dismissed in the yellow and green households of Norfolk.
This is my main concern for Norwich City.
The talent and potential of this squad and the people that put it all together has never been in doubt. There has been much to admire about the way they have gone about their business, but they resume a season in surreal circumstances with absolutely no margin for error.
The six points between City and safety has already been written off as a bridge too far by most outsiders, but with home games against Southampton, Everton, West Ham, Brighton and Burnley to come there was always something to cling on to.
Anyone who had been at Carrow Road to see Norwich beat Manchester City and Leicester and take points off Arsenal and Spurs would agree that the so-called ‘best bottom of the table team ever’ had one last potential escape route up their sleeves. Whether the removal of a bouncing Barclay, a singing Snake Pit and even a rapturous River End crowd blunts any sort of advantage we might have been banking on remains to be seen.
Relegation still feels like the most likely outcome. We have to face facts and admit that when your head coach has been talking about needing a miracle to stay up all season that this position shouldn’t come as a massive surprise, but the whole point of getting the season going again is that you just never know.
Football is wonderful because it provides the unexpected just often enough to keep the hope alive in all of us. Any points per game formula or computer simulation would have Norwich City already in the Championship, but that’s not how it works and, while there is still a chance, there’s no easing into it. These games really matter, in a football sense, from the off.
If you’re still not convinced let me put it this way: if I ever did go to a high school reunion I would be hoping that after all these years I might finally be one of the cool kids and yet all Norwich City need is a ‘little’ miracle.
Can City survive?
Yes they can, but if they don’t it won’t be as heart breaking as usual. Football has been put firmly into perspective.
Who will be relegated?
I’ll say Norwich because I’m often wrong ... along with Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
Who is the most important person or player?
To stay up Norwich City are going to need Tim Krul at his best. We might even be able to win the FA Cup on penalties from here.