Chris Goreham: A new experience providing coverage of Norwich City...
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
At some point over the last 10 months we have all found ourselves behaving differently.
Zoom used to be the word best associated with Darren Huckerby’s impact at Carrow Road, it’s now the way we talk to our colleagues. Face masks were reserved for a bit of Halloween fun, they are now mandatory in the supermarket. Social distancing meant thinking of an excuse to turn down an invitation to a party you didn’t want to go to, now it’s a rule we must all live our lives by.
On Saturday COVID-19 was the cause of another first for me. Having to wrap up warm to watch a game on television was the latest in a series of ‘how did we get here?’ moments.
Shortly before Christmas the BBC introduced a policy which prevented Local Radio commentators from travelling to away games. The intention was to help control the virus and keep us safe but it presented a new challenge for us. How to commentate on the Canaries when they are playing hundreds of miles away from home?
There is the option of using the ‘home’ station’s commentary. This gets us live inside the ground but can sometimes lack expertise when it comes to Norwich knowledge. This works both ways. QPR and Barnsley supporters who had our coverage of their recent trips to Carrow Road shared on their respective local stations would understand the frustration.
So for Saturday’s game at Cardiff we decided to try a BBC Radio Norfolk first, a commentary done ‘off tube’. That’s the posh industry way of saying the commentator is watching the TV rather than being physically at the game.
The first challenge was accessing pictures for a game that wasn’t being screened on any of the sports channels. BBC Television doesn’t currently have the broadcast rights for EFL games so we don’t get them beamed directly into our building. There was the option of the iFollow service but any Norfolk person willing to rely on the county’s broadband network is braver than me.
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We discovered that Norwich City get the matches beamed into their broadcast compound at the back of The South Stand. This has allowed them to start their own wrap around show online in recent seasons. Darren Eadie presents NR1 Live from the ground. The pictures also arrive several seconds quicker than on iFollow. It was our best hope of being as up to date with the action as possible.
The club’s media team was very helpful and allowed us access to the Carrow Road gantry. We were kindly provided with a monitor by White Label, the local production company behind NR1 Live, and crucially the sound effects from The Cardiff City Stadium. We plugged into the broadcast point we use on home match days and managed to cover a game that was being played over 250 miles away.
Overlooking a Carrow Road playing surface that was partially covered in snow made it all feel surreal to say the least.
Would an afternoon in a nice warm studio have been preferable? In some ways, yes, but commentators are meant to be out in the fresh air getting cold in January so it was more authentic. It wasn’t quite as easy to identify the players during some of the Canaries crisp passing moves and the substitutions came as a bit of a surprise because there was no way of knowing anyone was ready to come on until the camera cut to them on the side of the pitch. My greatest fear never materialised but the risk of commentating on a scintillating spell of play before releasing it was an action replay was always at the front of my mind.
Nothing beats being at a game and I look forward to heading off on away travel adventures again in the future. If the last year has taught us anything it is to embrace the positives when they arrive. A Norwich City win and being home from an away game in Cardiff within two hours of the final whistle will do me nicely.
The January transfer window is in full swing and I have an idea as to who Norwich City should sign.
Stuart Webber and his team have a decent enough record to suggest they don’t need my help with recruitment but hear me out.
Todd Cantwell is such a good player that it’s surprising he’s only scored three Championship goals. It must be remembered that he wasn’t a regular starter in the 18/19 title winning season and that he missed a fair chunk of the opening half of this term. It was in the Premier League that the Dereham boy’s talents really shone. Goals against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United helped establish him as one of the country’s hottest prospects.
All of his Championship goals have something in common. Will Vaulks has been on the pitch. The midfielder has watched on as Cantwell scored home and away against his Cardiff team this season. Vaulks was also in the Rotherham side when Todd’s first ever senior goal hit the back of the net at The Barclay End in a 3-1 win in December 2018.
The obvious conclusion here is that Norwich must sign Will Vaulks this month in a bid to guarantee promotion back to the Premier League. It would seem harsh on Oliver Skipp and Kenny McLean who have been excellent in recent weeks but the stats speak for themselves. With Vaulks on the pitch there would be no stopping Cantwell.
He also has the added bonus of possessing a long throw. That’s something I can’t remember Norwich City ever having available to them on a regular basis. Grant Hanley also scored on Saturday so with a few more high balls into the box the big centre back might be able to add to his own goal tally.
It’s also right to say that Vaulks has been on the pitch for all of Hanley’s league goals in the past two years.