As the end of one of the most successful seasons in the club’s history draws to a close, each member of the MFW team was asked to name one moment that, for them, will forever be etched in the memory and which will always scream “Norwich City 2020-21”.
As ever, they didn’t let me down. Here’s part one…
Martin Penney: It would have to be that Saturday afternoon not so very long ago when both Swansea and Brentford blew up big style and acknowledged our superiority by providing us with the gift of a well-deserved early promotion. Dancing madly around the garden with both our howling terriers did very little for the neighbours I am sure but, for me, it was both a release of tension and a realisation of what we had achieved. The many messages exchanged with my friends that day perfectly reflected our collective joy.
Dave Cole: As Todd swept that first time cross to the forehead of Jordan Hugill and the ball nestled in the far corner, shrieks of joy from the home contingent were the only sounds we heard. But there, alone, with arms aloft in mute ecstasy was a single figure behind the River End goal. A member of staff employed to chase stray balls in an empty stand. That could have been us I thought; one of us would have been hugging and dancing with him and sharing the joy. Instead, here we are, living our football lives vicariously through those who are there. Thousands of silent voices hidden away behind our screen of choice. (From his guest blog “Absent Minds…”).
Tim Gough: This season where “Self-Funded Club” became a philosophy to truly believe in, and furthermore, be extremely proud of. In the same week City confirmed their return to the footballing elite, the uber-wealthy elites announced their intentions to pursue even more riches in a European Super League. For all the noise that the usual suspects were starting to make, yet again, about Norwich never being prepared to “give it a go” in the Premier League and spend big, suddenly their words rang hollow as accusations of it being “all about money” were levelled at the ESL rebels. There are no guarantees in football, but you don’t have to throw endless pots of cash into a bottomless pit in order to enjoy relative success. Norwich City have proved that over the past decade, and so provides other clubs without rich benefactors to be inspired and motivated to copy our model. OTBC.
Andy Head: My highlight was the home game against Birmingham and Mario Vrancic effortlessly stroking home that late winner. We’d just beaten Rotherham with Hugill’s 95th-minute penalty after a poor start, and this was the momentum-builder and a reminder of Mario’s late goals of two years ago. It was history repeating itself and was wonderful. (Fast-forward to 7 mins 25 secs below).
Gary Field: Trying to pick a single NCFC moment from 2020-21 is easy for me. Preston at home, back on the 19th September and also a pilot test event. At approximately 14.25, the players emerged from the tunnel opposite for their usual pre-match warm-up. There’s absolutely nothing unusual about that, but this WAS different. It was the first game back with fans since February. Never, ever, in over 40 years supporting NCFC, has the spontaneous outbreak of, ‘Yellows’, from just 1,000 been so moving – hairs on the back of the neck raised. Simply wonderful.
Ed Couzens-Lake: What has struck me more than anything this season is the togetherness of the squad. We’ve all heard how important it is to any team of people who, through circumstances, find themselves working together to achieve a common goal. It’s a concept that looks good defined as a catchy slogan, one of those you find painted onto a piece of driftwood and sold in one of the artisan shops of Holt, Blakeney or Wells-next-Sea for £99. Great in practice, not so easy to achieve in reality, because there will always be little cliques within big groups, discontented members stood muttering dark thoughts to one another in a corner and certain individuals who are always the last to arrive and first to depart, whatever the scenario. But we seem a City that is United, which is worth a lot, a strength that, when your backs are up against the wall, can help you, make you want to dig in deep and find points where lesser teams might not have bothered. Signing someone for £10-£15 million is all very well. But genuine team spirit is a quality that you can’t put a price on.
Allan Kemp: I’m going for one particular game, which for me was full of key moments and that’s Stoke away. It was one of the few I got to watch in full and was, for City, a show of character, the type of gutsy performance which differentiates promotion favourites from also-rans. There was Pukki’s excellent goal from Buendia’s equally excellent assist, something that would come to define our success this season, followed by Krul’s injury and its potential to derail our whole season and a red for Emi. Those last 15 minutes were a tough watch – Stoke away, cold midweek fixture, relentless pressure and a demoralising injury list escalating – but we held on for a massive three points. For symmetry I would argue Stoke at home was another moment. City were caught up in media hype which, for me, was over exaggerating our perceived slump with many an article dedicated to our goal drought and three without victory. On the contrary, Brentford and Swansea could do no wrong – the media darlings. That convincing 4.1 win at home to Stoke was a statement made. We went back top and never looked back!
Martin MacBlain: Norwich 7 Huddersfield 0. For me, this was the moment when the last four seasons all came together in perfect synchronicity and harmony. We’ve known for many a season that someone was going to take a pasting and that was it! Every time we shot it looked like we would score – and we almost always did. Balletic poise, grace, power, and pace – Farkeball at his finest.
Robin Sainty: Late in the game at Stoke, City are under siege. Tim Krul has limped off to be replaced by a painfully rusty Michael McGovern before Emi Buendia has been sent off and a 3-0 lead has been whittled back to a single goal after an all-out aerial assault from the hosts. Yet another cross comes in and is headed high into the air. McGovern, under pressure from Scott Hogan, spills it into the net only to reprieved by a very, very generous freekick, but from a moment that could have utterly destroyed his fragile confidence he grows into a keeper who makes crucial saves game after game until Big Tim returns. Fine margins.
Stewart Lewis: A personal, and I suspect unique, choice: Boxing Day, Watford 1 Norwich 0. Lockdown has been kind with me, in particular bringing a new relationship. Just one problem: every time she watches City, they lose. We put the theory to the test on Boxing Day and… you know the rest. At least it gave us a clear decision: she’d follow games, but wouldn’t actually watch again until City’s fate was determined. So we waited until promotion was sealed before watching another game together: Bournemouth (h). Hmmm. Her sacrifice has clearly helped City. It’s a dilemma we’ll have to address next season, though…
Malcolm Robertson: Having not seen him since February. it was a real joy to bump into Mel – the guy I sit next to at Carrow Road – as we queued to have our temperatures taken before the Cardiff game in December. So strange that we couldn’t shake hands and could only communicate through masks. Thankfully, things were more normal on the pitch and excellent strikes from Buendia and Cantwell convinced me we’d be promoted.
Samuel Seaman: I think I’ll go for Mario Vrancic’s last-minute free-kick to beat Wycombe. It wasn’t a great performance, but it was a classic football moment, a late winner when it would’ve been a disaster to draw. Mario looking likely to leave also adds a bit of sentiment to it. That was one of many great moments in an incredible season, the like of which is rarely seen and should be cherished for as long as possible. (Fast-forward to 6 mins 38 secs…)