'This was about more than football': A fan's view on an emotional day at Carrow Road
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
It was an afternoon of high emotion and drama as 2,000 fans headed back at Carrow Road for the first time in months to see the Canaries beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1. David Powles was amongst them.
In a year when thousands have lost loved ones due to the coronavirus, missing a bit of live football pales into insignificance compared to the devastation 2020 has caused so many.
However, when every single one of us has been robbed of many of our great pleasures in life, if live football is one of those, being able to attend again does still matter.
It was clear in the days leading up to Saturday's game, as people told of their joy on social media at securing tickets, this was about more than just a football match.
Of course being able to wear the yellow and green again, chant On The Ball, City once more, celebrate a goal and berate the referee for a poor decision are all things every Norwich City supporter will have desperately missed.
However, for many I think this was also about wrestling back a bit of freedom. Freedom to be able to just go and do something you love. A freedom we have all lost this year.
There are still many who do not feel confident enough being back at games yet. That is completely fine and understandable. We all have to find the right path through covid and not be pushed into things we feel uncomfortable about.
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No doubt that will hurt, but I'm sure, eventually, those apprehensions will pass. Those glorious days at a full Carrow Road (or wherever it is you sustain great pleasure from being at) will return.
For me, having the opportunity to return to live football didn't just matter personally, it was a pleasure I had longed to share again with my family.
Like many I'm sure, Norwich City has become a passion all four of us share (my wife and two sons, aged seven and four) and we've felt the pressure of being cooped up inside trying to find ways to keep entertained and unable to do so much of what we would previously.
Having seen how well the Preston game was handled by the club, I felt confident they would step up once again and make sure Carrow Road felt as safe as possible, so quickly snapped up tickets for myself and my eldest son.
Walking from the city centre towards the ground prior to the match, it was noticeable just how unlike a normal matchday this was. The usual hustle and bustle of the crowds was missing.
Many had predicted it might be like attending a friendly or old-fashioned reserve game and for a little while I feared this was not going to be the cathartic experience for which we had longed. I wondered whether it would feel flat and like a poor substitute for the usual match-day.
But that didn't last long. Children don't notice that sort of thing and Freddie was already excitedly discussing the game, where we would be sitting and whether I'd brought enough sweets to last the whole match.
Very little beats the pleasure of seeing Norwich City matchdays through the eyes of a child.
And once we'd stepped off the Novi Sad bridge and turned towards Carrow Road those remaining apprehensions quickly disappeared.
There were, of course, larger crowds closer to the ground, but at no point did it feel unsafe. Friendly (despite facemasks, the eyes tell you when people are smiling) stewards ushered us towards the entrance where temperatures were quickly taken, hands were sanitised and we showed tickets and ID before being let in.
Once inside, regular messages over the tannoy reminded us of various safety procedures and the importance of always remembering to adhere to the 'Hands, Space, Face' recommendations.
There was no getting away from the fact it felt different. Imagine a year ago if someone had told you we'd be at Carrow Road in December 2020 wearing facemasks. We wouldn't have believed them.
But it still felt good. And not just to us supporters.
Dan, the stadium announcer, welcomed back, berating the fact he'd spent the last nine months 'talking to myself'.
Each player came out of the tunnel and headed straight to the South Stand to show their appreciation. The fans responded with chants and cheers. Boy, did that feel good.
And then out came our owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones. Delia, who of course has had to deal with her own tragedy in the last few weeks, looked particularly moved by the sight and sound of returning supporters. They may be the owners, but we mustn't forget that's only because they are also fans.
And once the game began it was wonderful just how quickly it all felt normal again.
Within 30 seconds no less, a fan slated the defence for failing to pass the ball quick enough. After nine months I think that bloke really needed to get that out of his system.
The goalkeeper took his first kick to be met with chants not repeatable for a family brand. My son's cheeky, grinning face told me he's now old enough to know what was said.
And, of course, the ref and his two assistants got stick. Plenty of it.
The only thing that hadn't kept to the script was the game itself and it was looking increasingly like the win we all so desired would not come.
As the game drifted away from Norwich City, I started to think about how I would write that the result didn't matter and that just being back here was enough. And at that time, I really meant it.
But you know what happened next. Two magical goals, wild celebrations, humorous chants of "you're not singing any more" to the missing away fans and the Daniel Farke wave.
And it was then I realised it did in fact matter. It mattered a lot to be back here at Carrow Road, doing the thing I love with like-minded people.
I just hope we can all do it together again soon.