Chris Goreham: How to ‘finish’ the season and get a free lunch at Arsenal...
- Credit: PA
Arsenal away, that’s where we should have been on Saturday, just in case you have lost track.
It is poor form when football’s media luvvies talk about the food they get at matches given that we are in the fortunate position of being paid to go to games. The Gunners have a reputation for being among the Premier League’s more generous hosts and I’m afraid I was pining for the grub as much as the missed opportunity of seeing Norwich City continue their survival battle on Saturday afternoon. For now that missed meal can go alongside thoughts of the Canaries making a great escape in our yellow and green-tinted imaginations. With no actual results to undermine confidence we can convince ourselves that in a non-coronavirus world City would now be embarking on the run that would mean a remarkable escape from relegation after taking inspiration from a fine FA Cup win over Manchester United to bring a Wembley semi-final onto the horizon.
We are still no closer to knowing when, and even if, any of these matches will ever be played.
It was a relief to see a statement at the end of last week from the governing bodies of the English game saying that no matches would take place until “it is safe and appropriate to do so”. The growing rumours about imaginative ways to end the season suggested that some stakeholders were getting itchy about the prospect and the undoubted financial cost of this hiatus continuing for many more weeks and months.
None of the more popular suggestions doing the rounds is very satisfying. A campaign that is called null and void would be warmly welcomed in Norfolk, but if we’re really honest it would be harsh on Liverpool, who have one hand on a first league title for 30 years as well as Leeds and West Brom who looked dead certs for promotion.
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Making the current standings final would curtail any hopes of the sort of great escape Norwich City and many other clubs are dreaming of, while finishing the season behind closed doors really doesn’t feel very satisfying at all. If Teemu Pukki scores a last-minute winner and there’s no one in the ground to see it, does it really count? Imagine a moment like that without the frenzied atmosphere. There’s just no point.
The biggest problem is that this remains a great unknown. What if football starts again and then there’s another wave of Covid-19 and everything has to stop?
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Perhaps the fairest way forward is for the whole of football to do what it’s done for Euro 2020 and just wait a year. The season could resume from where it is now in about March 2021 at all levels. If the thought of an entire year without football fills you with dread, don’t worry, I’ve got that covered.
Teams would need a really good pre-season after such a long break so they would actually start playing well before the official resumption of all the competitions. If things go really well and organised professional sport is deemed definitely safe enough to resume before the end of the year, perhaps Premier League teams could arrange some special tournaments or exhibition matches to help support non-league clubs, charities and local businesses that have been hit harder than ever before.
Norwich City used to play in something called the Hospital Cup – how about bringing that back, but with more teams, and making it a fundraiser for the NHS?
These matches may lack the sustained interest of a full-blooded league campaign, but we will all have been without football for so long that fans and even the TV companies would probably lap it up and hopefully we’ll have emerged from this feeling much more charitable.
It would also mean that next year, when what would then be known as the 2019-21 season resumes, I would get that meal in the Arsenal press room, but that’s just an unintended consequence, I promise.
Remember when Gary Lineker celebrated Leicester City’s Premier League title win by presenting Match of the Day in his pants?
Well, we’ve never attempted that on BBC Radio Norfolk, but the closest we have come was in 2015, courtesy of the great Jamie Cureton.
While commentating on the Portman Road leg of the play-off semi-final that year, the former City striker proved that the fact he’s still playing despite being well into his 40s isn’t the only thing that makes him evergreen.
Cureton promised that if the Canaries made it to Wembley he would reprise one of the greatest hits from his playing days and dye his hair green for the occasion. If it was a cunning plot to make sure we booked him to commentate on the final it definitely worked.
So, on that sunny morning in May 2015, the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary team pulled into Birchanger Services on the M11 to pick up our match summariser. Much to the delight of the thousands of City fans who were nursing nerve-settling hot drinks, he was good to his word and resplendent with bright green locks.
I was reminded of that story this week when Jamie got in touch to see if it was possible to find out which player he’d swapped shirts with when he was on the bench for The tanaries against Inter Milan in 1993.
If you want to pass some time during the current lockdown see if you can name the City starting XI from the San Siro. Remember, Ian Butterworth, Ian Culverhouse and Ian Crook were all suspended so it was an eclectic mix on the pitch.
Jamie Cureton’s hair dye has made a lasting impression on us at BBC Radio Norfolk. N -one is meant to have green hair on a permanent basis and his emerald do sadly didn’t last the afternoon. In a certain light you can still see the green tinge on the headphones he wore to this very day.