Regular readers of this column probably know more about my dad than they do me. I’ll spare you the details, but in a nutshell, he’s a massive City fan, he’s my hero and this was to have been his last season as a season ticket holder.
He also lives alone (unless you count Ben the Lhasa Apso – named of course after Ben Godfrey), so the lockdown has been a challenge for someone with impaired vision and COPD but who still loves the great outdoors.
It’s been tough… he admits it’s been tough.
Then, at 9:30 on Good Friday morning his phone rang. A familiar voice.
“Morning. Is that Derek Gowers? This is Stuart Webber from Norwich City Football Club. How are you doing?”
Imagine the shot in the arm that gave him.
Stuart, of course, was afforded the Canary Call ‘my first game was in 1946’ treatment, but was, in Dad’s words, an ‘absolute gentleman’.
Also in Dad’s words: “We’re so lucky to have this bloke in charge”.
And we are.
I’m sure other clubs are doing similar things – despite criticism for all corners, the players and officials within clubs have more than played their part during this pandemic – but at half 9 on the morning of a Bank Holiday? A club’s sporting director?
I may be turning into an old softie, but seeing the lift that small act gave my dad, meant a lot.
In the unlikely event you’re reading this, Stuart – thank you. And I’m sorry about the “I’ve been going since 1946 and …” 🙂
I’d intended to use this piece to get stuck into the Premier League and its paymasters over their seeming heartless and cynical obsession over getting the season concluded.
Never has their need to appease shareholders and the billionaire purse holders been laid barer, as they frantically search for a solution that has lives and public health as not top priority.
But Robin Sainty, also of this parish, absolutely nailed it in his EDP column yesterday. It’s here. He also cites writer extraordinaire, John Nicholson, whose book “Can we have our football back?” sets the scene perfectly for what is now unfolding.
Between the pair, there is little left to add, other than to say we can hope the recalibration of the game, which appears inevitable when the dust has settled on this human tragedy, will result in a sport that is not there merely to tip-toe around the Big Six. A game that values clubs equally all way down the chain would be nice.
I know… but I’ve always been a dreamer.
I guess it could be perceived as a little odd that City announced the signing of Danel Sinani in the midst of a period where non-playing staff at the club have been furloughed, but looking at even the tiniest bit of detail would have revealed why it was an announcement that had to be made.
For starters, it was a deal that almost happened in January but was, in the end, deferred until the end of the season. Secondly, it’s a free transfer with his wages not kicking until he officially joins the club, And thirdly, it was only when Master Sinani decided to prematurely spill the beans to the Luxembourg press that the club was left with no option but to announce it officially.
But the club has taken potshots aplenty, the latest being Rob Draper from the Daily Mail, who couldn’t resist a City/Sinani reference in his piece on a potential deal between the Premier League and the TV companies.
I can see why the words ‘furloughing’ and ‘new signing’ in the same sentence may induce a reaction, but before castigating the club a modicum of research wouldn’t go amiss. I guess that doesn’t make a story.
At this unbelievably difficult time, small nuggets of good news are priceless and to be treasured, but there’s no escaping the bottom line: those around us are dying from a disease for which there is no cure and for which we were clearly ill-prepared.
We crave for normality to return but when it eventually does I fear we’ll barely recognise it. Carrow Road will never be the same, some seats will be empty in the same way there’ll be gaps in our lives.
This is brutal and football seems so insignificant. But I still can’t wait to have it back.
Hang in there people. We will meet again.