Connor Southwell: Mixed emotions surround City’s first FA Cup quarter-final in my lifetime
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This is a day that is supposed to be one to savour for Norwich City supporters - yet the reality leaves you feeling slightly empty.
For the first time in 28 years, my lifetime, City will play an FA Cup quarter-final, against Manchester United at Carrow Road.
In the aftermath of victory against Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round there was much to digest and sink in.
The proposition of NR1 playing host to such a significant fixture was enough to draw excitement from everyone - even those who cast a more objective eye over their fortunes.
Under the lights, Carrow Road would have been an intimidating cauldron of noise. Yellow and green would have spilled into the surrounding areas - the whole city would have been bubbling with anticipation.
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The coronavirus pandemic has robbed us of so much, but for it to take the first FA Cup quarter-final for the Canaries will be devastating for some.
Of course, it doesn’t compare to the large scale loss of life and suffering, but football is a major part of our country’s culture. It provides a sense of belonging, an involvement and an association that can elevate, deflate and anger in equal measure.
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The FA Cup is the vehicle of fairytales. It creates magical moments and fuels the fires created by those who dream of seeing City lifting the trophy aloft at Wembley Stadium.
The restart, from a City perspective, has been deflating, frustrating and disappointing. Whether opinions would differ had Daniel Farke’s side won their opening two games remains to be seen.
To an extent, the Canaries action in the Premier League leaves less of a sour taste in the mouth - that has always been a competition that steered itself more in the direction of financial gain over supporter experience.
But not the FA Cup.
It is still wrapped with that magic which sets it apart from other competitions - albeit the shine isn’t as prominent as it once was.
City’s success under Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber has been predicated on the idea of a fairytale. Winning the FA Cup would be just that.
For City’s players, it is an opportunity to win some major domestic silverware and achieve something never seen before at this football club.
That squad, after everything they’ve achieved, deserve a chance at completing another miracle - but there is a tinge of sadness underpinning the tie.
In my 20-year existence, City have never made it to this stage of the competition. Naturally, everybody of a City persuasion will want them to progress to Wembley.
But it would be bittersweet. It would be strange seeing the famous stadium standing naked without fans to bring the spirit and the atmosphere.
It would also work against the Canaries. A massive weapon in their arsenal has been removed from them - the vocal Carrow Road support.
On the Ball, City would have contained more gusto - the supporters would have helped form a protective shield around Tim Krul’s goal and would have helped to suck the ball into the net.
The cards would have been stacked against Farke’s side anyhow, but it does feel like those disadvantages are increasing by the second.
Manchester United possess an abundance of multi-million pound superstars, this is David versus Goliath stuff, and City will need to put in a performance worthy of champions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hoping a cup victory can provide a springboard for his baby-faced United side to develop from doubters to believers. Their quality enhanced when you consider the changes available through the new substitution rule.
City, on the other hand, will be reliant on luck and a under-par United performance. Football behind closed doors isn’t designed to suit the underdog, as we’ve seen since the resumption.
Manchester United is a name that evokes a lot feelings. The prestige and fame that follows it is clear for all to see.
Solskjaer will be determined to add to their vast trophy collection and really kick-start his era at Old Trafford.
City will want to upset the apple cart, but they will be forced to do it without their supporters.
Fans will take their positions on sofas and garden chairs across the county willing for a positive performance but will be left feeling rather passive - with their chants unheard by the players.