Chris Goreham: A message to Norwich City fans - you are sorely missed

Emi Buendia's brilliant display against Bristol City had to be savoured from a distance for Norwich

Emi Buendia's brilliant display against Bristol City had to be savoured from a distance for Norwich City's fans. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The soundtrack on the way back from Bristol was rather different. The usual Saturday night soundbites of “take each game as it comes” were replaced by “next slide please”.

Saturday is football day. For us genuine junkies it’s not simply enough to watch your team play, you have to be across all of the other results. Those long journeys back to Norfolk are always completed to the tune of managers, former players and angry fans discussing the day’s big talking points on the radio. The aim is to get back in time for Match of the Day. It’s less the icing on the cake than it is another extra Gary Lineker-shaped slice to complete the feast of football.

Marco Stiepermann played well for Norwich City on Saturday but it was someone else in the Number Ten role who commanded the focus. Boris Johnson’s announcement that another national lockdown was imminent put our favourite sport firmly back into perspective once more.

Only 24 hours earlier the Canaries had put out a strongly worded statement urging the government to think again about allowing fans back in to watch games. It’s a prospect that feels as distant now as Liverpool were from Norwich in the final Premier League standings last season.

It means that whatever routine you have settled into for following City games is here to stay.

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I am fortunate enough to still be allowed in to commentate on matches. It is a privilege that I will never lose sight of.

It’s become fashionable for some national football reporters to talk about how hard they are having to work on social media. I find it difficult to fathom how anyone could ever lose their sense of wonder about being allowed to go to matches and call it ‘work’.

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Perhaps my perspective is out of kilter because I have been spending a lot of time on my own recently. That’s probably not a shock to you. Most people see commentators as loners anyway with their fascination for facts, stats and multi-coloured pens. It’s one of the few jobs you can do as an adult that requires ownership of a pencil case.

Away trips are now a solo mission. My long-time radio colleague and friend, Rob Butler, isn’t hosting Canary Call from away grounds at the moment. This is partly because it’s difficult for us to share a car and fit in with the latest guidelines. We like each other but not enough to move in together. A ‘bubble’ with Butler is a terrifying thought.

It’s also because social distancing means fewer reporters can fit inside press boxes. By the time a commentator and summariser have settled in, two metres apart, there isn’t much room for anyone else. It would be unfair to get Rob to share the driving to a place like Ashton Gate and then make him sit out in the car park like a coach driver at Alton Towers.

It all means that while covering the Canaries on the radio is perfectly possible it all feels a bit empty.

Under normal circumstances a 3-1 away victory would have led to a giddy journey home and perhaps even justified an extra bag of sweets to share from the services. These days it’s just me and my packed lunch.

While it’s great to watch Norwich City win games and gradually return to something like their best form in The Championship, football behind a facemask isn’t the same without that sense of community.

The top leagues will do their best to push on through the lockdown but all those watching on and listening in from home need to know that it isn’t the same without them. It’s hard not to long for the day that the next slide at Downing Street finally declares it safe enough for supporters to return.

For now though I have to contemplate being a grown man who does homework, owns a pencil case and carries a packed lunch. It won’t be long before I officially qualify as a Junior Canary again.

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