Different view out of yellow and green tinted glasses
- Credit: PA
I’m worried that I might be turning into one of those people. You know the sort. The ones that refuse to get carried away by a Norwich City promotion and claim they prefer the Championship to the Premier League.
It’s a theory that has always caused my eyes to roll. How can any true Canaries fan not want to see their team play at the highest possible level?
After the past few months, I get it.
My relationship with football has changed since the pandemic took it behind closed doors. Project Restart was such a slog, and not just because Norwich City were getting beaten twice a week. In many ways I was fortunate. I still had regular trips to Carrow Road and the chance to commentate on my favourite team.
I had football being played in front of me, but the defeats didn’t hurt as much as they should. It turns out that the match itself is only a tiny part of what makes being at a game such an addictive experience.
Robbed of the opportunity to mix with familiar faces and indulge in the usual pre-match routines, it was all rather soulless. The lack of coffees with colleagues or banter behind The Barclay brought home the fact that football needs its community more than the TV companies with their fake crowd sound effects would like to let on.
There was talk of Newcastle United being bought by a Saudi consortium during the height of the pandemic. Without getting into the politics of that takeover, it served to highlight that cash really is king in the Premier League whatever is going on in the world.
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It is hard to be holier than thou about the ethics of football now. We have all allowed our passion for the sport to mask some dubious practices over the years. However, I certainly have a much clearer idea now of what it is that I actually enjoy about going to Norwich City matches.
That’s why I’m embracing the Championship. Feeling sorry for ourselves about relegation won’t get us anywhere. The division is full of clubs who believe they ‘belong’ in the Premier League so let’s not get bogged down by any of that sort of talk about the Canaries. This division is like quicksand – the more you struggle against accepting that you’re in it the harder it is to escape.
All being well, Norwich City will win a few more games this season and score a lot more goals than the 26 they managed in the Premier League. That will automatically up the enjoyment levels. It wasn’t fun to see a squad of such undoubted promise get reduced to a shadow of their former selves by the demands of top-flight football.
We can also enjoy the goals properly without having to wait and see whether a man watching the telly near Heathrow is happy with it. VAR in the Premier League is the ultimate ‘be careful what you wish for’. Managers, fans and reporters have spent so many years moaning at referees that its introduction was inevitable. It does nothing for the raw experience of being inside a football ground.
Hopefully fans will be able to gradually return this season and we’ll get to feel that unique swell of joy and frustration again.
The Championship is everything that football should be. Chaotic, unpredictable, and competitive. Having spent just a season outside it, I’m already playing catch-up on who is the manager of which clubs. You realise quite how all-conquering the Premier League is in media terms when your team drops back down.
Football League clubs genuinely need fans back as soon as possible and will appreciate them all the more when they return.
I’ve made the decision to embrace the Championship and all of its craziness and imperfections this year in the hope it will help me fall in love with football properly again.
After all, the one thing that makes it really exciting is that a good season can lead to a place in the Premier League. That’s where we all want to be, isn’t it?