The wait goes on.
The carrot dangled in the form of 1000 of our brethren being allowed into Carrow Road to watch City’s home game with Preston has been unceremoniously whipped away.
A return to our second home, whether it be in the form of 1000 or 27000 guinea pigs, seems as far away now as ever.
This week’s confirmation by the club that they’ll no longer be issuing season ticket rebates on a game-by-game basis, but will instead allow the monthly direct debits to accrue in order, if wanted, to go towards the 2021/22 season’s ticket, was another sign.
Just to rub salt into the wounds, those lucky football fans in countries whose governments have carefully and professionally managed the pandemic – Germany for example – are being allowed back in small numbers. For them, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
There were also a limited number of fans in Sarajevo on Thursday night when Northern Ireland played Bosnia and Herzegovina and again yesterday in Luxembourg when our own Danel Sinani scored twice in their win over Cyprus.
Both games, however underwhelming, were enhanced by the sight and, more importantly, sound of real supporters. It felt like football.
While the artificial crowd noise pumped into our living rooms by the wizardry of Sky’s and BT Sport’s sound geeks initially had a small novelty value, now, for me at least, it’s maddening. It epitomises everything that’s grim about football right now.
Fair play for the idea in the first place and well done to the geeks who have honed it into something sophisticated enough to differentiate a goalscoring opportunity from a late tackle on the halfway line, but the fact it’s even there in the first place has played its part in ripping the soul out of the game we loved.
Like many, never have I felt so detached from my team.
Relegation didn’t really feel like relegation. Not really. It was miserable and we had a proper moan about it but it didn’t come with the blow to the solar plexus that have accompanied relegations of the past.
It should have because it was probably the most grim and pitiful relegation this club has ever suffered, but it didn’t. It was diluted.
The same applies to the successes, or in our case, success. The win at Huddersfield was, of course, very welcome but with no City fans there to salute their heroes’ first win since February, it felt hollow.
It was great obviously. A win is a win. It was still worth three points. But the elation that normally accompanies a City victory was, for me at least, tempered. Not the same. Nothing like.
I wouldn’t have been at the John Smith’s Stadium, but to hear the Yellow Army roaring on those in yellow draws you in. Brings it close. Those 1000+ voices represent us all, in the same way 26000 voices on a Carrow Road matchday represent City fans watching from afar.
Right now, Norwich City Football Club feels more remote than ever.
There are, of course, calls for this to be rectified and the petition to allow football fans to attend matches at all levels has, to date, collected over 194,000 signatures and will therefore be considered for debate in Parliament.
And I get it, totally. I’d give anything for a chance, for all the reasons above, to make that walk down King Street into Carrow Road and then filter into the stadium and mingle with my fellow RiverEndian moaners.
Oh how we need a good one.
But it’s the ‘at all levels’ part of the petition that really hits the mark. Those clubs that rely solely on folk paying at the gate to function; whose very existence is threatened by COVID-19 and it’s refusal to not only go away but come back for a second time, bigger and stronger.
Yet, with the UK infection rate doubling every 7-10 days and our hospitals warning of a turbulent winter ahead, in that regard now doesn’t feel like the right time to be part-filling stadia with people.
A complete no-win. How do you square a circle?
Yet, as if oblivious to the noise occurring outside their own expensively-decorated bubble, the Premier League continues to blunder on with the finesse and sensitivity of Sean Dyche.
Their refusal to offer help to those clubs outside the elite 20 continues apace, and few will forget their refusal to allow Fulham’s superfluous parachute payment to be fed back down the footballing food chain but instead be returned to their bulging coffers.
Yet, unbowed, the Premier League’s lack of awareness continues apace with their latest pocket-lining scheme being to launch a pay-per-view service for matches not included in the designated televised schedule. The lucky viewer will be charged £14.95 for the pleasure – a service that during Project Restart was provided gratis.
Aren’t they great?
There’s little to love about our game right now, most of it – but not all – out of football’s gift.
Quite how and/or when it will return to something resembling normal is a complete unknown. So too is what football will look like when it comes out the other side; the big fear being that 92 league clubs won’t emerge.
So, forgive me my little, self-indulgent whinge around missing being part of a Carrow Road crowd. We’ll get there, eventually, and barring another unforeseen catastrophe, there’ll be a football club there for us to support.
Others may not be so lucky.