Ian Clarke: Is absence of football making your heart grow fonder?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There are three things I never thought I would hear Norwich City fans say.
‘I’m not missing watching football’, ‘I don’t want to win the FA Cup’ and ‘Ipswich are great.’
Ok, the final one is pure fantasy and I’ll run round Carrow Road in a blue and white shirt singing ‘Tractor Boys forever’ before that happens.
However, the first two statements are sentiments I’ve heard from more than a few Canary followers.
While fixtures have yet to be confirmed, it seems that in just over two weeks time, City will be back in Premier League action for the first time in more than 100 days.
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We assume the games will continue in the order that had been planned - so it will be Southampton at NR1 on the weekend of June 20/21.
Then a week later it will be the FA Cup quarter final against Manchester United - the first time City have been in the last eight for the best part of 30 years.
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There should be so much excitement among supporters about the period ahead.
While we have to face the fact that relegation back to the Championship looks more likely than not, Daniel
Farke still speaks passionately about “the little miracle” and we’ve seen in the three years he’s been here what he can achieve.
Man United are beatable and the prospect of being in the FA Cup semi final for only the fourth time in our 118-year history ought to be so mouth-watering.
Readers of a certain vintage will never forget 1959.
Those of us who are slightly younger have watched in awe the footage of Bly, Ashman and Co and what they did.
So many of us were at Villa Park and Hillsborough in 1989 and 1992 and just want to see City go one step further.
How ever long you have followed the Canaries and how ever many games you’ve seen, no-one has seen us in an FA Cup final.
It’s something we all dream of.
I love the FA Cup - and the last live action I saw was that phenomenal penalty shoot out win at Spurs along with 9000 other fans which seems so, so long ago.
So why is there so much apathy among so many supporters - and why are some even led to say they’d rather Daniel Farke’s men didn’t get to Wembley because we couldn’t be there to watch?
I’m sure none of us has ever had such strange emotions in all of our supporting careers.
By now in a build up to resumption of football we’d be in the midst of pre-season matches with all the excitement and anticipation.
There would be new signings to get a first glimpse of and counting down the days until we are all re-united at Carrow Road or on an away trip.
The pandemic has changed everything.
Several people have asked me when I think we’ll take our seats back at Carra.
I really haven’t got a clue - and I’m sure no-one has.
Could it be some time in 2020? I have to say I’d be surprised.
The tragedies around coronavirus have taken the attention of all us.
So many fans can’t even think about football and have been opposed to any re-start.
Feeling has grown that the return has been driven by money.
The fact is football will be back very soon.
It seems every game will be played at a different time, all on TV - and about a third of them on free to air.
In some ways the remainder of the season will have a World Cup/Euros feel about it - but then again will feel so, so different.
I can’t see how any venues are going to be able to open to show games and the mast majority of supporters will be watching alone or in very small groups with those in their households.
We’ve heard this week that clubs face being fined if fans gather at grounds on match days, so clearly will do all they can to make sure people stay away.
Farke opened up this week about how he hopes the players can put a smile on fans’ faces and the pride every one involved has for the club.
At the moment I can’t quite imagine what it’s going to be like when City kick off again.
I’m sure over the next fortnight my excitement will grow, because that’s the sort of supporter I am.
I’ll be glued to every second of our games - and no doubt social media interaction will be even more frenzied than normal to replace the usual ways we all meet up as fans.
And yes of course I so hope we stay up - and win the cup, even though we won’t be able to experience it.
Beyond anything else, we have to hope that everyone stays safe and well through all of this.
Very few things have taken coronavirus off the front pages and the news bulletins in the past three months - but the terrible scenes in America certainly have.
The death of George Floyd was unspeakably shocking and we’ve all watched in horror as the USA has been pulled apart by the aftermath.
The impact of his killing and the questions around racism and brutality have affected everyone.
This week many footballers and other sportsmen have spoken out and shared messages on social media to condemn discrimination.
I’ve seen many Twitter profiles replaced with a black screen to show solidarity.
Teams including Chelsea and Liverpool have posted pictures of all the players on one knee to back the Kick It Out campaign.
It is a simple gesture yet so powerful.
The influence of professional players is massive and I welcome their decision to be so visible.
Football must be united to tackle racism.
Support your local club
While so much of the attention around football has concentrated on Project Restart, the issues facing local clubs has largely gone under the radar for many people.
This week a colleague did an in-depth piece on the situation at Dereham Town.
The club - which was sitting in a decent position in the Isthmian North Division league table when the season was ended - has seen its income reduced to nothing.
Revenue from match days and the money the club gets from room hire, meetings and events all disappeared.
Some outgoings remained and while the club has used the furlough scheme and got some grants, the pandemic has been a massive blow.
The Magpies are being hugely positive about the future but realistic about the long, tough road ahead.
What Dereham – and so many other clubs - will be desperate for is support from the community when football does resume and their facilities can be used again.
Your club needs you.