My MFW absence over the past few weeks can be justified. Despite the advent of notable transfer activity and the arrival of significant, youthful promise among the City ranks, footballing notions have been regrettably subordinated owing to hectic foreign odysseys and dissertation proposal deadlines.
Following the conclusion of my second year exams, the depths of my student overdraft have been exploited in order to fund overseas trips to Berlin, Dublin and Montenegro, while more domestic excursions to Manchester and Ascot have left me as cashless as I am sunburnt.
Having just arrived back in Nelson’s county, football and cricket can finally remerge to manifest themselves at the forefront of my mind as the ubiquitously-coined ‘Webber-lution’ hopefully continues.
It’s not been a case of apathy. Far from it. My arrival back at the hotel from a day on a Budva beach was greeted with the welcome news of City recruiting the services of a young, hungry-looking centre-back in the form of Christoph Zimmerman, while my return from Germany was a journey characterised by idealistic thoughts of Mario Vrancic dominating Championship midfield battles.
As the summer progresses, the hope will never die.
But it’s not been all about signings. Yes, City are clearly aware of the acute necessity of addressing their so-frequently palpable defensive vulnerabilities – the homecoming of Angus Gunn filled me with joy – and yes, the arrival of Vrancic and the combative-looking Marley Watkins has also delineated Stuart Webber’s awareness of our lack of midfield dynamism, but this summer’s early stages have also been characterised by a more general sense of pondering my own Norwich City journey.
I have Mick Dennis to thank. I’ve been in possession of his edited work Tales from the City for multiple months now, with opportunity to scan its compelling pages being forestalled by an undesirable combination of revision and exams. That little yellow and green text had been there, sitting proudly on my desk for weeks, but the evocative tales of Grant Holt, Iwan Roberts, Chris Goreham and co could not be consumed. Pity.
But the end of exams not only marked the arrival of football tours, group holidays and festivals. My flight to beautiful Budva was spent empathetically considering the luckless tenure of Bryan Gunn as City manager during 2009, while my return from Dublin a few days ago reminded me why Paul McVeigh – a talisman at the very beginning of my days supporting the club – developed such a considerable connection with fans.
Meanwhile, Mick’s own experiences, that saw him partying in the Fratton Park toilets on one magical Monday night and sat at the Nou Camp covering a Champions League semi-final the next, reminded me that being a football reporter must be one of life’s great privileges. Elated fan one moment, gripped spectator and writer the next. Not bad.
With Simon Thomas’ psychological dilemma concerning his professionalism in presenting the 2015 play-off final on another magical Monday and Chris Goreham’s memories of interviewing a despondent Peter Grant in 2007 still lingering in my mind, I too began to reflect on the nature of my City journey and its axiomatically turbulent progression.
Despite its lack of longevity, the memories remain as vivid as that iconic Proton Cars kit that adorned the figure of goal scorer Mathias Svensson on my Carrow Road debut thirteen years ago.
The intricacies and inherent complexities are futile to disseminate. They remain a form of personal happiness, an individualised source of joy, ecstasy yet so often misery that continually reminds you what supporting a local team is all about.
Victories at Coventry in the snow, Sheffield United on a chilly South Yorkshire afternoon and White Hart Lane on Easter Monday will remain memories I indelibly cherish, while more dejected departures from grounds such as the Britannia on a cold Wednesday night, Ewood Park in 2012 and more recently the John Smith’s Stadium last April are thoughts I would rather eradicate from my yellow-tinted memories.
Win some, lose some.
But notions of my canary past possess an unequivocally more contemporary pertinence. Dwelling on those magical away days, those days at Portman Road in 2011, at Loftus Road the following year, at The Hawthorns in 2016, only served to fuel and further intensify my fervent desire for this year’s trip to Craven Cottage at the beginning of August to arrive.
Our squad already looks stronger. The replacement of the error-prone John Ruddy and the bumbling Ryan Bennett with Gunn and Zimmerman has appeared to resolve some of our severe shortcomings from last term, while reports from Germany suggest that Vrancic will be capable of adding a much-required sense of dynamism to our midfield from a holding position.
And Watkins’ increasingly arrival will seemingly add to the depth we already have in attacking areas. Kyle Lafferty has finally departed.
But the building needs to continue. The Webber-Farke duo must invest in at least one more centre-back, providing Zimmerman with an adept partner and jettisoning Russell Martin to the role of a largely dependable understudy.
With Graham Dorrans set to depart north of the border, additional midfield reinforcement is likely to be required, while Cameron Jerome and Nelson Oliviera must be presented with some form of genuine competition in the shape of a quick, sharp and clinical forward. And we still need a left-back.
August 5 beckons. With the correct recruitment, adequate pre-season training, and tactical astuteness from Farke and his new continental coaching team, City fans are surely entitled to optimistically dream of a season of away victories, late winners and an unbounded sense of spirit and joy.
The foundations are being laid. A month of training, gelling and recruiting still remains. The job is far from complete. What is uncertain, however, is where my tumultuous City journey will take me next.