Chris Goreham: What Emi Buendia did after his red card against Middlesbrough
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The final whistle at Carrow Road is also my starting pistol.
Our commentary position is high up on the gantry at the top of the South Stand. It’s a tremendous view but there is a pay-off for enjoying the best seats in the house. The post-match interviews all take place on the opposite side of the ground where the dressing rooms are.
This means that as soon as each Norwich City home game finishes I must run down several flights of stairs and round to the far side of the pitch. As a sporting spectacle it’s more ‘It’s A Knockout’ than ‘London 2012’ but I have been able to clock-up some impressive times in recent months.
This is the one positive of behind closed doors football. The quickest way to get from commentary box to touchline involves a dash through the part of the stand where away supporters usually sit. Attempting to swim upstream towards the pitch while a couple of thousand Leeds United or Ipswich Town fans are coming the other way is some experience. It’s the closest I will ever get to taking part in anything close to an extreme sport.
With supporters locked out I have been able to save several seconds on that crucial part of the course.
On Saturday I was slightly surprised to meet a hooded figure coming towards me as I rounded the last bit of the concourse. Had a solitary Middlesbrough supporter managed to sneak into the away end?
This chap had the subdued gait of someone who had watched a lot of goalless draws. As the figure drew nearer I realised it was actually Emi Buendia, all by himself, heading for the main car park.
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His latest red card had meant first use of the showers and plenty of time to think about what he’d done. He was changed and on his way home before the questions about his dismissal could be posed to Daniel Farke. I opted not to engage him in conversation. What could I have said that would have been of more value than his own thoughts? Plus I was already out of breath.
Buendia is a fabulous talent and doesn’t do anything by halves. As pointed out by Opta on Saturday his tally of four red cards since the start of the 2018/19 season is more than any other player in the Football League.
Norwich City supporters spent the whole of the transfer window nervously anticipating updates about his future. It turns out they will have to start February without Emi Buendia after all. The Canaries did lose him to the Reds but it wasn’t Arsenal they should have been worried about.
It must be a horrible feeling, getting sent off. It’s one of the great examples of a team sport suddenly being all about an individual. That trudge from the field is only really matched by the plod of an out-of-form opening batsman who has edged to slip in the first over once again. The game can’t start again until you are off the field so everyone is looking at you, judging you for what you’ve done.
The true cost of Buendia’s dismissal will only become clear after he’s and watched the games at Millwall and Swansea on television. With the sound down and the radio commentary on hopefully.
Every sporting setback is only ever part of the story. Each suspension opens up the possibility of a storming comeback. Last week it was the 26th anniversary of Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace. On his return from an eight-month ban King Eric found redemption by scoring a penalty against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Getting two bookings against Middlesbrough isn’t in the same league as what Cantona did. There is no need for Buendia to evoke seagulls following trawlers on his social media no matter how much time he has to think.
It would be no surprise if Buendia comes roaring back into action like a man possessed when he is allowed to play again. That’s due to be against Stoke City on February 13. So they had better watch out, he scored against them back in November in a pleasing 3-2 away win. Hang on, I’ve just remembered he got sent off in that game as well.
It certainly won’t be boring when Buendia’s back. I just hope I don’t have to jog past him on the way to the interviews again.
(Not) into the Lion's Den
Tonight’s match at Millwall provides another opportunity for me to hone my ‘off tube’ commentary skills.
The current restrictions mean I’ll be watching on a TV at Carrow Road and pining for one of my favourite away trips of any season.
Life on the road with Norwich City is about so much more than football. No trip to The Den is complete without a pre-match lunch in The Millwall Café. It’s located conveniently between the car park and the entrance to the ground and delivers everything you’d expect from an establishment of that name.
All day breakfasts that look big enough to feed Grant Hanley for a week, portions of chips even more generous than Marcus Evans has been to Paul Lambert and cups of tea strong enough to withstand a tackle from Alex Tettey. It may not count as fine dining but it’s exactly what you need to set yourself up for a Championship fixture.
This is the aspect of football culture that I dare say supporters are really missing. The games continue but without the mouth-watering smell of fried onions from the burger kiosks outside. Who else misses the weekly challenge of hitting the precise point that your cup of tea drops below volcanic temperature but remains hot enough to warm-up a chilly half-time break?
It’s the pubs, stalls and cafes that are a crucial part of the match day routine for all of us. No-one thinks about those establishments when they are deciding whether football should continue during a global pandemic. There aren’t many things that bring thousands of people together in the same place at the same time as often as football does. It means that several other businesses and entire industries are propped up by the 20-odd home matches a year that bring these customers out.
Is it bad to admit that I’ve already got my order planned for the next visit to The Millwall Café?