It’s been more than eight months since we last had a full house at Carrow Road for a 1-0 win at home to Leicester City.
But time hasn’t made playing football behind closed doors any more normal, Jordan Hugill recently told canaries.co.uk.
“I don’t think you can get used to it,” he said. “Football without fans isn’t the best, to be honest. We’re grateful to be playing football and doing what we do for a living, but without the fans there… I like taking in everything that’s going on around me, so I’m not one of these players who, as soon as I get in the changing room, will put my headphones on. I like knowing what’s going on, hearing noise and hearing people talk.
“It’s the same when I step on the pitch. I like hearing noises and listening to what’s going on around me. Without that, it’s a bit strange. The sooner fans come back into football, the better.”
Whenever the Canaries have scored dramatic, late goals this season, beyond the initial rush of excitement and joy, we’re left imagining ‘what if?’ What if 27,000 had witnessed Mario Vrancic’s last-minute winner against Wycombe Wanderers?
“It would have been mad,” Hugill said. “Getting the fans in is important if only for mental health. I have people close to me who have been struggling with mental health and life revolves around football for them, so if they can’t go, they struggle.”
Fortunately for Jordan, his surroundings off the pitch couldn’t be better, with the summer signing now comfortably settled into Norfolk life.
“I think I’ve settled in really well and am getting on with everyone in the changing room and everyone here at the club,” he said. More importantly, getting the family down, we’ve settled in lovely and have got a nice little house now, so nothing could be better off the pitch. I’ve got my head down and am working hard.
“The most important thing when you’re moving to a club is getting a foundation set and then hopefully going from there, taking the happiness off the pitch onto the pitch. I’m happy in all aspects of my life at the moment, so hopefully it shows on the pitch.”
With the UK again in lockdown and Hugill not travelling around the world for international duty, the simple pleasures will suffice during time off.
“I’ll be at home with the dogs and the missus,” he said. “I’ve just ordered the new Xbox, so I’ll be on that for a while! Usually, I like to unwind with a bit of golf as well. Other than that, I just like relaxing with my family.
“You need that time to switch off. Sometimes, just going home and sitting on the sofa with my missus and the dogs and just chilling out watching the TV, you need that time to come down and put your feet up because it’s an intense schedule up until Christmas.
“For the boys playing, when the games come so fast, you just need that time to recharge the batteries. Gibbo hasn’t played for two years but has played every minute of every game since the last international break.”
Speaking of Ben Gibson, who Hugill met at Middlesbrough, the striker was full of praise for how his close friend has started his Norwich career.
“It’s massive for his confidence,” Hugill said, discussing Gibson’s minutes. “He hasn’t played regularly for two years but you look at him playing now and he doesn’t look out of place at all. It’s brilliant for him and brilliant for the club to have a player of his calibre here.
“For me personally, being a Middlesbrough lad, having someone else from Middlesbrough here is brilliant to help settle, so I can’t speak highly enough of it.”
The Northerners have certainly brought character to the dressing room, often seen putting smiles on team-mates faces, but only when the time is right.
“The characters that we brought look like they can have a bit of craic, but when it comes down to work, we work, and that’s how I was raised and how Ben was as well,” Hugill said. “When there’s time to have fun, we have fun, but when it’s time to get down to work, we do that.
“You’d have to ask the other people in the changing room what they think, but I like to think we’ve helped give it a lift.”
Teemu Pukki and Adam Idah are among the forwards honing how to compliment each other’s style of play, and Hugill insists he couldn’t ask for a better pair of strikers to cooperate with.
“I knew coming to the club the quality that it had - that’s why I came here - because I wanted to be involved in it,” he said. “I knew exactly what Teemu was about from his time in the Championship scoring 30-odd goals, which doesn’t come lightly.
“Scoring goals in the Championship is a hard thing to do, scoring that many is even harder. I’d like to think we compliment each other well because we’re two different styles of striker.
“He’s off the shoulder and I’m more of a link, but it works well, as you’ve seen on the pitch when we play together.
“Seeing Adam come through and improving every day, although what happened the other week wasn’t ideal, it will be a learning curve especially being that young and he probably won’t make that mistake again.
“We’ve got good, healthy competition, but it’s not competition in the sense that if I’m not playing then I don’t want anything to do with them. It’s a competition in the way that Teemu is playing and scoring goals, which is brilliant because I want this team to win.
“You look at all three of us and we’re three different strikers. Having the options, if something isn’t working, to bring a completely different option on, is good to have.
“Adam is a talented boy who will grow up to be a very powerful striker. Some days, you can’t get near him on the training pitch. The more he plays, the more confidence he’ll have getting used to the level, so I think he can do really well.”
Beyond the international break, City face a relentless run to 2021 of 11 games in the space of five and a half weeks, and Championship veteran Hugill wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love having games all the time because it doesn’t give you time to dwell on anything,” he added. “If something bad happens, you don’t have time to think about it, you’re straight on with the next game to try to make it right.
“It’s what I’ve been used to, having been in the Championship most of my career now. I relish the chance of playing games, so the more games that come thick and fast, the better.”