An unhappy anniversary for this Norwich City fan
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This week I'm coming up to an anniversary - and I can't say it is a happy one in any way, shape or form.
Sunday will mark exactly one year since I last sat in my favourite seat in Norwich - at the top of a stairwell in the upper River End.
February 28, 2020, was the last time I watched a game inside Carrow Road and the last time the stadium was full to the brim.
Technically, I have been in the stadium while a match has been on - I was in the Gunn Lounge for the Wycombe game early this season, but that just wasn't the same.
I've also been in the ground for a few functions in my normal day job as a news reporter, but the last time I was about to leap out of my seat with 27,000 others was when Jamal Lewis seal a win for City in the James Maddison Derby.
And unless City are able to lead the way in any of the pilots - and why shouldn't we? - it will also mean a whole season will pass before I get to go to another game.
As I write this I am well aware that I'm getting a little bit on the glum side, when really I have no reason to be. Partly because I obviously understand the gravitas of the situation and why keeping us away is very much a case of short-term pain for long-term gain, but also because of how rosy things are looking on the pitch.
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I also appreciate that I will in no way be alone in celebrating this unhappy anniversary on Sunday, far from it.
But, however well City are doing - and by the time you read this we sit an absolute minimum of seven points clear at the top - I can't help but feel there is something a little bit bittersweet about it all.
So much has happened since that sumptuous strike from the now-Newcastle man, both good and bad. It's impossible, of course, to say whether it would have all happened in the same way if the crowd was there, so that's by the by really.
At the same time though, it's really interesting to hypothesise.
On one hand, would Daniel Farke's boys have gone down were we all there to cheer them on? Probably, but with such a whimper? I'm not so sure.
But equally, would we have been so quick to rediscover our winning ways if Carrow Road had been packed for the relatively slow start and the boo-boys showed their colours?
Obviously, this is all hypothetical, but the way fortunes have turned around and the date have got me thinking about all the things I have missed - even though I've taken up the iFollow option for every home game.
Todd Cantwell is a prime example of this.
I've never really been one of his critics, but equally there have been times when he's frustrated me - very occasionally.
However, this season, since his little wobble he has advanced to a whole new level. Dare I say it, but he looks like he's evolving into a natural successor for the man he inherited the number 14 shirt from.
Some of his touches this season have been extraordinary and he's just grown and grown in confidence.
Obviously watching him on the screen is a joy, but I can't help but think how much more of a joy it would have been to see it in person.
Watching a game on the screen, you can only really follow where the action goes. In person, you can analyse so much more.
Seeing the evolution of Todd Cantwell unfold before my eyes would have been so much more enjoyable than watching it through a screen.
And then there's Ollie Skipp. From what I've seen on the screen, he looks every bit a future England captain.
He just seems to pop up everywhere and it speaks volumes that he is the only holding midfielder in a decade that has been able to keep Alex Tettey out of the team.
It therefore fills me with such sadness to know that there's a very good chance I will never actually see him play in the flesh for Norwich City.
And, of course, there's that deep setting dread that accompanies the realisation that there's probably just as much chance that I won't ever see Emi Buendia or Max Aarons in yellow and green again either.
I base this on no inside information whatsoever - I have none - but I've almost accepted the fact that whatever happens between now and May, these two crown jewels will likely move on to new challenges next season.
I wouldn't begrudge either of them a big move. They both deserve it and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for sticking around and trying to undo last season's relegation heartache.
However, this doesn't make it any less of a shame that unless we finish the job and they fancy another crack at the Premier League in NR1, neither will get the Carrow Road goodbye they deserve.
In a way, it's as sad as when Darren Huckerby left the building without the chance to receive the fanfare he so greatly deserved - although without the same level of injustice. I'm still stewing about that, as I am sure so many other City fans are.
Following the PM's announcement earlier this week, my boss David Powles made a joke about wanting City to fade away and make a run at the play-offs instead. At least I assume he was joking...
And while I would much rather we stay where we are, if fans are to be allowed in Wembley for the final, if ever there was a year to do it that way, perhaps this is it!
Todd in the empty stadium era
A mentioned a lot about Todd Cantwell in the main part of this page and how far he's come in the past season - but I thought this thought deserved to be a little separated.
And that is this - has Todd actually benefited from crowds not being present?
He's a confident lad - and rightfully so - but who is to say whether this confidence would have grown so much in front of crowds if things didn't go his way.
Maybe, just maybe, knowing he can attempt more audacious things without fear of being on the wrong end of groans from certain sections has helped him?
It takes a lot of courage to play the time of game he does and he's really started to flourish.
Only he'd be able to tell you whether that's possibly a factor, but one thing we can say for sure is the player we will see next time he runs out in front of a full house will be something to behold.
And don't forget, he's one of our own!
You call that a wobble?
You'd have thought from some of the comments in the past week or so, that our three-game winless run in the league was a disaster.
Two goalless draws and a defeat to a follow promotion chaser admittedly didn't feel too great at the time.
But what a difference a week and a bit can make? Particularly if you are Brentford.
If our small barren run was a wobble, what the Bees have endured since claiming top spot from us must be a capitulation.
I will put on the record now, by the way, I really like Brentford as a team and they're a team I would love to see in the Premier League next season.
But it just shows how quickly things can change - particularly with games coming as rapidly as they are in this disjointed season.
We probably will have another sticky spell, but if all they produce are a couple of draws and a defeat, I can deal with that.