This is a story of being overtaken by life. Last Monday I started writing about football, as I’m unlikely to be doing so for the foreseeable future I might as well publish it anyway:
Black and white, night and day, matter and anti-matter. Pick the antonym of your choice but they could all be applied to Norwich City and Sheffield United currently.
City for the last two seasons have been easy on the eye, earning widespread respect from neutrals, and absolutely thrilling when in full attacking flow, yet always offering a soft underbelly to any team good enough to exploit it.
United, on the other hand, have been gritty, direct and happy to grind out ugly wins by getting the ball into the box as often as possible, while giving little away at the back.
While it’s obvious which approach is currently more effective, I don’t want to appear to be criticising what Chris Wilder has achieved at Bramall Lane. Yes, from a Norwich perspective, United’s football may lack flair, based as it is on organisation and hard work, yet I’m sure that Blades fans aren’t complaining.
Ultimately they have three things that City lack; a formidable defence, a burning desire to win every 50/50 challenge and a willingness to get the ball into the opponent’s net by any means possible, even if it doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing.
The conundrum for Daniel Farke going forward will be how to find a way to keep City’s fluid attacking style while making a defence, that has been leaky since he arrived, more secure. That’s ironic when you consider that when he arrived at City the concern, based on the statistics of his Dortmund II side, was that he produced teams that were strong defensively but didn’t score many goals.
I believe the key is to find players who have the steel that Grant Hanley and Alex Tettey bring to the pitch but also better ball carrying and passing abilities. That will be no easy task, particularly on a limited budget, although in fairness had Timm Klose stayed fit and Ibrahim Amadou had the impact expected of him, things might have turned out differently.
And at this point, life threw a great big virus-shaped turd at me and, suddenly, football became less important than before.
I think we all knew that that the suspension of games was coming, and I suspect that most of us felt that it was overdue, and also that few if any of us really think that professional football will return on April 4th.
With players and club staff testing positive in increasing numbers around the country, it is impossible to believe that in three weeks’ time every squad will be virus-free.
Some things really are bigger than the game and we are now in a very strange limbo. “Unchartered territory” is a bit of a cliché, but in this case, it’s pretty apposite, and to be honest none of us really have any idea where this is all going to end.
Will the season be written off? Will it be treated as if it ends here and now? How far can it reasonably be extended without a knock-on effect to other competitions (not least next season!).
Whichever of these, or any other solution, is applied there are going to be a lot of legal firms out there rubbing their hands together.
Unfortunately, the effect on the Canaries Trust has been immediate and drastic.
On Thursday, we took the decision to cancel our AGM on the 18th March, at which Tim Krul was to have been our main guest, because we felt that it would be inappropriate to stage a large gathering that would inevitably include people in the “at-risk” categories at a time when increasingly drastic action was being taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus throughout the world.
However, the biggest disappointment for us was the fact that the cancellation of the Southampton game meant the last-minute cancellation of our second Foodbank collection in partnership with Norwich Foodbank.
When we first floated the idea of a Foodbank to the Club nearly two years ago their response was naturally reserved. They had legitimate concerns about security and the potential of drop-off points obstructing other pre-match activities, but they listened to what we had to say, and we were given the opportunity on the evening of the Swansea match last March. Despite some absolutely awful weather, over 700 kilos of food was collected along with more than £800 of cash donations.
Having seen how things went, the Club has been hugely supportive of this year’s plan and, with Aviva also putting their name to the project, a lot of planning had gone into giving City fans another opportunity to show just how generous they can be.
Alas, not only has coronavirus put paid to that for now but the fact that people are stockpiling the very items that foodbanks need most, like dried pasta and tinned foods, will hit those in greatest need. So if you can spare a few things for your local foodbank it would be even more valuable than in normal circumstances.
These are difficult times and I’ll leave you with a few words from The Doors that seem remarkably appropriate:
“Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They’re going to destroy
Our casual joys.”
Stay safe everyone.