Chris Lakey: If Norwich City's player of the season voting opened now, who would be your choice?
When someone says around this time, take your pick, the big decision is usually whether to go straight to the fudge supreme or the chocolate log... whilst disposing of the coconut ones ASAP.
It’s a trait of the season - nuts or dates; sprouts or parsnips; socks or pants (just a hint, mum, I don’t need either).
Sneaking in, nice and early, though, is what is becoming a vexing question, one for which it is not at all easy to find an answer. One that will cause lock-ins at pubs the county over…possibly.
The question... who’s going to be Norwich City player of the season?
Sometimes it is pretty straightforward, but this season is far from easy.
It’s rare that there are so many candidates: I reckon I can name, now, half a dozen for whom the award would not be misplaced.
Unlike the BBC Sports Personality of the Year which, like the biscuit box, does not do what it says on the tin nowadays (more on that later), the Norwich City Player of the Season awards just that – the player of the season.
To win it is an honour which should not be taken lightly.
For that reason, it needs stressing that the following names are not just thrown into the mix for fun: they are genuine candidates, based on what they have done this season.
I give you: Timm Klose, Max Aarons, Alex Tettey, Mo Leitner, Emi Buendia, Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki.
There are others bubbling under, but I think the gist of the question is clear… if things remain as they are at the moment it is going to be one hell of a competition.
I genuinely don’t think any of the above can be discounted: and those you write off as winners are big shouts for a podium position.
There is no need for a Carlo Nash-style intervention of 2014, where the former City keeper was apparently top of the fans’ poll as part of a protest vote – the award eventually went to Robert Snodgrass.
Snodgrass, of course, is one of those who won the award – and swiftly moved on. There have been quite a few: Snodgrass went off to West Ham; James Maddison (2018) to Leicester; Bradley Johnson (2015) to Derby; Lee Croft (2009) to Derby; Dion Dubl in the previous year retired; 2001, Andy Marshall, hopped off to Ipswich.
Hopefully, that won’t happen this time – but don’t get against it. The problem with all this success is the cost of it... prying eyes with cheque books.
Anyway, as promised/threatened, a bit of the BBC SPOTY: it seems to have crept up this year. Suddenly, it is tomorrow – and we won’t discover the candidates until the programme begins.
I guess that saves the sort of controversy that surrounded Tyson Fury’s nomination in 2015, following comments on women and gay people. Fury’s fightback from two knockdowns to draw against Deontay Wilder at the beginning of the month is nominated for Greatest Sporting Moment - a category which has been open to a public vote.
But will he be in the SPOTY list?
The criteria for the selection panel are interesting:
(.)◾Reflects UK sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage – that’s a tick then
(.)◾Represents the breadth and depth of UK sports – not at all sure what that means
(.)◾Takes into account ‘impact’ of the person’s sporting achievement beyond the sport in question - another tick I’d say, given the inspiration Fury has given to those suffering with mental illness.
About as straightforward as Norwich City’s task then ... but for very different reasons.
There were times when 3pm on a Saturday afternoon was completely and utterly sacred.
Nothing, but nothing, interrupted the football match experience, which, having begun at varying times in the preceding 24 hours, exploded into life when the clock struck three.
Today, football is eating itself at such a rapid rate, that the sacred time is no more. The best example I can give is the FA Cup, a competition which was once the glittering prize, but which is now dragged out of the back of the cupboard and fitted in where the money tree grows.
Where once third round day occupied our thoughts, it is now a dragged out and bedraggled affair. On Saturday, January 5, only 10 of the 32 fixtures have a 3pm kick-off. One is the night before, seven start at 12.30pm, five at 5.30pm, with eight more games the following day and one on the Monday night.
Norwich play Portsmouth at 5.30pm on Saturday – a fixture change caused by TV, which will be screening it to an overseas audience, but not a domestic one. It means Portsmouth fans, in the middle of winter, have to start their journey home when they should be almost there already.
By half seven they will be looking at the forecast, hoping it doesn’t say snow or ice, then make their way through the post-match traffic and on to the A11 with a 200-mile, three and a half hour journey home... which means they should be there by, what 11pm? Just in time to catch the highlights on the telly box, if they are lucky.
When I saw the draw I thought it was a good one: two teams doing very well in their respective divisions and Portsmouth with a traditionally good away following. Good tie (even though some of the doom-mongers were out early).
Moving kick-off time inconveniences many – but as the match is only on overseas TV, it leaves some visiting fans with a dilemma: if they opt out of a trip to Norfolk they won’t even get to see the match on TV.
The tarnishing of the FA Cup is nothing new, but it is being kicked around the streets like an old football.
How long before it disappears to be replaced by two other competitions – one for the super rich and involving trips into Europe, and one for the Football League and the lower half of the Premier League?