As we prepare to launch into a new season there are a couple of topics I considered writing about for MFW. I thought I’d try and condense them into two mini-rambles instead.
Topic One – Is this the season nobody sees live?
The current plans are that the club will look to try and get a percentage of socially-distanced fans in to Carrow Road where they can, while the government are looking to get stadiums opened in October if possible.
Obviously this is all a moveable feast, and balanced against the backdrop of children returning to school.
Anybody who has had small children will confirm two things:
1) They pass on germs more efficiently than any device the maddest scientist could dream up, and never more so than in the first few weeks back at school after summer.
2) If you’ve done the awkward Parents Evening sitting on the way-too-tiny chairs, you’ll realise how claustrophobically-small those classrooms feel when you have just two or three adults in them, let alone 30 children, and that any hopes of social-distancing are a nonsense, no matter how well the schools and teachers try to prepare.
Add in to this a return to colder, more bug-friendly weather, and you have a perfect storm for a potential second-wave of COVID in the coming weeks and months. The latest scientific expectations are that the wave will be longer but hopefully less severe than the first, although we’ve seen this virus defy expectations before.
What this likely means for football fans is that we won’t be going back to packed stadiums any time soon.
Whatever your political leaning, I think we all understand and agree that keeping children in school and adults in work has to be the priority we aim for, and as such if the trade-off as a society is that public events such as concerts, festivals and even, damn-it-all football matches cannot be attended, that’s something we know we have to take on the chin.
So, if and when the R-number increases we know which activities will be curtailed first.
The EFL have now taken the pioneering step of making a decision that everyone agrees with, (mark that one in your diaries), and provided fans with the opportunity to watch their team’s games via iFollow. Regardless of how you feel about pricing, comparison to season-tickets etc, it does give fans what they crave: access.
They’ve also gone one better and given it a suitable and well-thought-out rationale, stating that it will be available until stadiums are at least 50% full.
I think only the most mask-dodging, COVID-hoax-spreading zealot thinks that these levels of attendance will come any time soon.
How long we will be forced to rely on iFollow for is anyone’s guess, but there’s definitely the potential for it to be a part of our lives into the new year and maybe beyond.
Could this be the season we watch solely from the sofa?
Topic Two – Preparation and Luck
As I’m writing this, the mass of humanity that is Ben Gibson is hoving into view, ready to become the last piece in the transfer puzzle of what has, so far, been an incredible summer of acquisitions by Stuart Webber.
The squad that looked threadbare and bereft of options last season has been infused with a plethora of new faces and, just as importantly, new styles. Only the most hardened-pessimist could fail to be impressed with how we’ve filled the squad out.
In this oddest of off-seasons, we still have several weeks of anxiety remaining. We were all expecting a stampede to the door to grab our prized young potents, and barring Liverpool tossing a shilling out of the window for Jamal Lewis and expecting us to rush off like a subservient urchin should, and fetch them a goose on Christmas Day, there has been nothing.
Traditionally the bigger clubs tend to leave their business until late in the window. That leaves us biting our finger nails awaiting our fate until Jim White’s jamboree of overblown bullsh#t finally “slams shut”™.
Murmurs from Colney suggest that Webber and Farke are happy with our squad the way it is and that if any players are sold they will be replaced. As such, I don’t think we can be any better prepared for this season. We have three viable options in every position, and an Under 23 squad bursting with the potential to add to the subs bench if required.
Unlike last season Farke can have no complaints that he does not have enough weapons in his arsenal.
However well you prepare, luck plays a massive part. We are as well-prepared to survive an injury crisis as it’s possible to be, but if the injuries strike forensically, as they did at the heart of the defence last season, they can still wreck your season.
With an influx of new players, they will need a settling-in period to adjust. The likes of Sorenson, Quintilla, Sinani and Placheta are in an entirely new country and culture. Remember how long it took Vrancic to adapt? We can’t expect them all to hit the ground-running and make a difference.
While we are celebrating the lack of departures thus far, and undeniably it helps to maintain the framework of the side and makes it easier for the new lads to fit in to our pattern of play, we are also running the risk of relying too heavily upon a group that is coming off ten defeats in a row.
Will it result in the continuation of the PL hangover?
So many questions. You just never know what your Championship experience will provide. And that’s the beauty of it.
Webber has given us an incredible shot at this league. There are things that could derail us but I’m not nervous about what I know. I’m nervous about what’s unforeseeable at this juncture. And for a long-term Norwich fan, that’s as close to outright optimism as it’s sensible to be.