So, here we are, the Quarter-Finals of the FA Cup and Norwich City are right in the mix as one of the last eight teams in the competition.
It’s been a very long time since Norwich made it this far, 1992 in fact, when they beat Southampton after a replay. That was the second time in four seasons that City had made the semi-finals. Arguably our best chance of an FA Cup final appearance ever, came in 1992 and we blew it when second division Sunderland beat City 1-0 in the semi-final. In the build up to that game, Robert Fleck famously spent time in an oxygen chamber to get fit enough to play – it didn’t work and Flecky was still clearly unfit on the day.
🔰 2-1 AET
🆚 Southampton (H)
🏆 FA Cup Quarter Final Replay
📼 1991/92 pic.twitter.com/rpZD6lJxd2
— Rewind Norwich City (@RewindNorwich) June 26, 2020
Back in the present, one of my best away days in football came in the last round of this year’s competition in early March at the Tottenham Stadium when Norwich beat Spurs in that penalty shootout. Tim Krul’s heroics, aided by his water bottle and roared on by a 9,000 strong yellow and green army ensured that tonight’s game would be taking place, despite the long, Covid-19 sponsored wait.
It will, of course, be disappointing for the supporters like you and me, unable to be there, as Daniel Farke mentioned when he spoke to the media via video conference on Friday. Prior to lockdown, I bought my tickets, even though it looked highly likely at that point that there wouldn’t be any football in the near future and so it proved. I had my refund about a month ago but I still can’t help but think about what this match would’ve been like to witness with my own eyes.
You can’t beat the sights and sounds of a packed Carrow Road. The smell of hot dogs and fried onions outside the ground, the swathes of yellow and green and long standing friends meeting up before heading in together, talking team news and talking up our chances.
What we have come to regard as normal is no longer that, as we are reduced to watching such a huge game from our sofas – at least the beer from my fridge is plentiful and reasonably priced.
I have little doubt that there will be some team rotation for this match and it will be a great chance for those who have not featured so much since the re-start of football, to stake a claim for a starting berth at Arsenal next Wednesday.
Josip Drmic seems to be the only real doubt, with Farke saying that the Swiss international will be a late call due to a knock picked up against Everton. Other than Josip and long standing absentees, Byram, Hanley and Zimmermann, Farke says he has a virtually fully-fit squad to choose from.
I really hope that he opts to give a start to either Moritz Leitner or Mario Vrancic for this game, alongside Alex Tettey, whose presence against Everton added some much needed protection for the back four. Put a playmaker alongside Tettey, like Farke did for the majority of the Championship season last year, and we’ve got the makings of something, I’d say.
The reality of this match though, despite it’s importance on paper, is that it feels like something of a non-event to me, because I can’t be there. It’s likely to be a warm, balmy evening assuming the rain that is currently falling moves off, and watching my team in such a game at Carrow Road is really where I’d like to be today.
The world is full of tension and we all have, I’m sure, anxieties about how things are going to pan out both personally and on a global scale. Having to watch Norwich City vs Manchester United on TV in an empty, soulless stadium isn’t going to change much and it just doesn’t cut it for me, I’m afraid.
I will still be watching though and cheering on our boys. Fingers crossed that Manchester United have an off day though because without it, from what I’ve seen so far over the previous two matches, I’m not too optimistic. It would though be a typical Norwich City moment if we suddenly pull a rabbit out of the hat and turn it on and win.
Enjoy the game.