Chris Goreham: I look forward to the day Skipp can be properly hailed a fans’ favourite...
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There was a moment during Norwich City’s recent win over Swansea when Oliver Skipp won a tackle deep inside his own half and set off on a purposeful run forward.
It was typical of what the on-loan Tottenham midfielder has done in his opening couple of months as a Canary. His ability to break up opposition attacks just as they begin to look threatening by winning a challenge he appears to be second favourite for is a real asset.
What makes Skipp even more valuable is his ability to use the ball once he’s got it. Rampaging runs from midfield to spark a City counter attack have become a welcome feature of the opening 11 games of the Championship campaign.
When Skipp did that against Swansea my impulse was to describe him during commentary as a player who is fast becoming a “fan’s favourite”.
It was a sentence that I never completed because halfway through it struck me that, with no supporters in the ground, there was no way of knowing whether he has officially achieved that status.
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The 20-year old has started all of Norwich City’s league games so far this season. The only other players who have managed that are goalkeeper Tim Krul and right-back Max Aarons. Yet he’s never actually been watched by any City fans other than the lucky 1,000 who were allowed in for the first home game of the campaign against Preston.
Under normal circumstances Skipp would probably have his own chant by now, his name lends itself to some creative wordplay after all. Those are the kind of clues we need to be able to declare someone a crowd favourite. Praise on social media simply isn’t enough because if 2020 has taught us anything it is that you can always find a Tweet or Facebook post to back-up whatever opinion you have already formed.
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The lack of fans at games needs to be acknowledged as often as possible before it becomes accepted as the norm.
It’s been five months since Project Restart and for the professionals on the pitch it’s now business as usual. Goals are still being scored, points continue to be won and league tables change every week. For those of us with an investment in the sport that is emotional as much as it is professional the match day experience is sadly lacking.
In any other season Jordan Hugill’s 95th minute penalty to clinch a win at Rotherham would have been in front of the away end. Just as Tim Krul’s penalty save earlier in the game would have been. That’s a road trip that could have lived long in the memory for anyone who made it.
Mario Vrancic’s late winners to see off Birmingham City and Wycome Wanderers would have gone down as Carrow Road classics. That superbly taken Marco Stiepermann strike in the 85th minute to see off Swansea also had the hallmarks of a goal that would have inspired the most spine tangling of roars from the crowd.
Norwich City are well placed to challenge for Championship honours this season. Even if this squad does go on to achieve great things it will be without the colourful illustrations that accompany any great football story. All those tales from the terraces of difficult away games and wild celebrations inside The Barclay are conspicuous by their absence.
Those stories, that sense of community and the learning of new creative chants are what really keep us coming back every week. The action on the pitch is only a small part of the rich tapestry that is being a football supporter.
It’s not the players’ fault. There’s no doubt that every Championship victory has lifted the spirits of Norwich fans at a time when any sort of tonic is gratefully accepted.
It’s just a shame that Skipp can only be appreciated by Norwich City supporters in the way that a good signing on Football Manager or FIFA can be. Until supporters can return to games Skipp is just a figure on a screen to most fans and if his name is being chanted he definitely can’t hear it.