Terri Westgate: It's been a rough year so thank you, Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The last year has been a rough ride.
A year so unprecedented the word unprecedented had been used an unprecedented number of times.
When the first lockdown hit in March 2020 and fans were shut out of stadiums, Norwich were mounting a credible fight against relegation. When football returned in June without us, its heart and soul was missing. Our team looked dazed and uninspired as we slumped back into the Championship with barely a whimper.
None of us knew back then how long this pandemic was going to rule our lives. That after tentative steps back to normality we would be plunged back into lockdown not once, but twice.
The news at Christmas that everything once more would be shut down, and we were to spend those long dark nights stuck at home and separated from our friends and family was devastating.
Personally, I live on my own, and quite contently so in normal times. But this last winter, like many I felt isolated. Stuck at home, the days were monotonous with no end in sight. One of the beacons that saw me through the malaise was Norwich City Football Club.
When there wasn’t much else to look forward to, the only date marked in my calendar was our next fixture, like a lighthouse guiding me through each week.
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To be so reliant on your football team in such times could backfire if results don’t go your way. But Daniel Farke and every single player seemed to understand the responsibility placed upon them. They stepped onto the pitch with a steely determination to succeed. Resolute in defence, efficient in midfield and gloriously entertaining up front. Not only were they relentlessly accumulating points, but they played beautiful football along the way.
Norwich appear to have achieved promotion so effortlessly. It’s easy to overlook all the hard work that made it happen. The backroom diplomacy to build this squad and keep it together whilst balancing the books. The man management to keep everyone motivated and fighting for the cause. The gruelling training and gym sessions to ensure every player was at peak performance for each match. It’s easy to forget the time we had so many players out that Christoph Zimmermann was on the subs bench with a raft of academy players.
Watching the post-match promotion celebrations from Saturday evening, the close-up view was reminiscent of those scenes two years ago. But the alternative perspective taken from the South Stand gantry saw a bubbling island of yellow on the green expanse of the Carrow Road pitch, with the jubilations sounding rather hollow as they echoed around the empty stands. It was like spying on a private party.
A key ingredient was missing, as it has mostly been since the last time the ground was full on February 28, 2020 - the supporters. For the majority, the last time they attended a match Norwich City were a Premier League team. And now whenever we all return to our seats, the Canaries will be once more.
Those Norwich fans include NHS staff, frontline workers, furloughed employees. Business owners who’ve had to close, freelancers whose income has disappeared. People have had to cancel weddings or trips of a lifetime. Others have battled cancer or been unable to visit loved ones suffering. Funerals have been virtual, communities separated. It’s been a tough year.
But giving us a distraction and bringing us joy through it all has been the Canaries. Football isn’t a matter of life and death, as Bill Shankly once said, but that’s exactly why it’s so important. When every day is a challenge, you need an escape. Football enriches the lives of fans, it gives us friends and creates great memories. During our darkest days it brings light.
So to everyone at Norwich City Football Club, for this season and for giving us joy when we needed it most - thank you.