Terri Westgate: Will fans return to a Premier League stadium again?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It has been just four weeks since I last submitted my Fan Zone column and it has been an amazing month for the Canaries.
Last time out was just after the defeat to Swansea and Norwich had slipped down to second spot.
As always, I was optimistic, and was sure that we’d soon return to winning ways. In fact, the wobble only lasted three games, consisting of two draws and one loss, and we’ve not dropped a single point since the Swansea match. Seven straight wins places us back at the top of the table, with not just daylight between us and our rivals but a chasm.
This spectacular turnaround has left exasperated opposition managers throwing all kinds of compliments our way, with the latest being Luton Town’s Nathan Jones referring to us as the Man City of the Championship.
We have developed a new efficient form of Farkeball, fewer goals, less thrills and spills. Yet we are relentlessly turning over teams and picking up those precious points.
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With the exception of matches against our closest rivals, such as Brentford midweek, I barely even get nervous before our games these days. The stubbornness of our defence extinguishes attacking threats, and the ability of our creative players to conjure up a goal no matter the opposition or their tactics, make everything rather predictable.
However, has this ruthless efficiency made us less enjoyable to watch? We will never forget those last-minute winners and equalisers two seasons ago, and the celebrations that followed them. Is the combination of empty seats and more straightforward victories making this season less memorable?
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I would argue that this last year has been more than eventful enough outside of football, without needing any drama on the pitch. Daniel Farke and the players are saving us any additional stress by ensuring they deliver so many decisive wins. Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson are providing a level of security missing in most of our lives at the moment, and Tim Krul is the safest of hands to calm our anxiety.
There have still been moments of beautiful football from our attacking stars to keep us watching from home. Emi Buendía’s passing has been slicing through defences, Todd Cantwell has players chasing shadows, whilst Teemu Pukki is making goal scoring look like the easiest thing in the world. Although I wish Pukki had got his hat-trick with that sublime back heel flick, how much better would it have been with 27,000 fans reacting in person?
The team are playing with confidence and assurance, and show little sign of tiring despite often playing two games a week. They are prepared and unfazed by what is thrown at them – be it a side parking the proverbial bus or changing in a makeshift away dressing room. Even the new recruit Dimitris Giannoulis only took a couple of games to get his Championship bearings, and has played his part in the latest string of consecutive wins.
Farke may have admitted to getting nervous in his recent online chat with Junior Canaries, but he exudes calmness. Living up to the mantra of “never too high, never too low”, Daniel barely reacts when we score.
We know that he won’t let anyone get complacent in the remaining 11 games, and the focus will be on getting to the target of 90 points as quickly as possible. His steady, measured approach and relaxed demeanour soothes away any pre-match tension, allowing us to trust in his methods.
Of course, watching or listening from home makes you feel a degree of distance from events on the pitch and no doubt it would be more nerve wracking if I was back in the stands. Yet right now it feels that the title, and not just promotion, is ours for the taking.
We could all be returning to Carrow Road as many of us left it – a Premier League stadium.