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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Five hundred and 17 miles. Five hundred and 17 miles via a night in Corby, bad Peak District roads, derelict Merseyside housing estates and the finest hostel Liverpool has to offer. It was worth every second.
I set off for my weekend in Liverpool on Friday afternoon with the words of a Liverpool supporting colleague ringing in my ears: “Grant Holt isn’t good enough for the Premier League.”
We’ll get back to that later.
I arrived at a friend’s in Corby, Northamptonshire, for an overnight stop to break up the journey. He is an Anfield regular and had laid out his Liverpool towel in the spare room for me to use. It was rejected immediately.
On Saturday morning I woke up and the first thing I saw was a framed Steven Gerrard on the wall lifting the Champions League trophy, reminding me what a tough game City were in for, despite the Reds’ recent lack of success.
After picking up my brother in Chesterfield, we made the journey to Liverpool, checked into our accommodation and before we knew it were on a bus packed with scousers dressed in red.
There was a weak smile from one tracksuit-wearing Liverpool fan, probably feeling sorry for me having travelled all that way just to see newly-promoted Norwich get hammered.
The home fans seemed to think they’d turn up, swipe little old Norwich aside, collect three points and get home in time for the X-Factor.
Like so many before them, they assumed wrongly and underestimated us and our own man in a tracksuit, Paul Lambert.
West Brom v Villa in the rammed Arkles pub didn’t do it for me, so after a couple of pints we headed next door to the Anfield Cafe, for a surprisingly good burger and chips. After one more beer it was time to wander over to the iconic stadium.
In a week where the relatives of the Hillsborough victims were victorious in Parliament, it was only right to pay a visit to the memorial outside the ground. For anyone who’s not seen it, the Hillsborough memorial is a shrine that is hard not to be moved by. It was covered in flowers, scarves and photos, and every few seconds a passing Liverpool supporter would touch it in tribute.
Inside the famous ground, after one rousing sing-along to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the home fans put their feet up and let their team do the talking.
For 20 minutes we were battered, but the boys held firm and kept Liverpool at bay. After 20 minutes the City fans in the Anfield Road End decided to make their own fun, cheering every pass as the Canaries began to get a foothold in the game. The away end was superb throughout and taunted Liverpool with ‘Where’s your famous atmosphere?’ There was no response.
Craig Bellamy’s goal on the stroke of half-time deflated everyone, and neutrals watching at home probably thought it was game over.
Lambert didn’t leave it long to bring the club’s talisman into the fray, and what an impact Grant Holt made. The man deemed by many not good enough for the Premier League rose high and bravely to bury his header and stun Anfield.
City were strong, brave and resilient. And yes, lucky too. But this was an excellent away performance by the team again and this time with no hard luck story to take home.
Leon Barnett got skinned by Suarez a couple of times, but who wouldn’t? He was colossal. Russell Martin likewise.
Bradley Johnson picked up the pieces in front of the back four. Holt scored and gave us more options up front. John Ruddy denied Liverpool the points with two fantastic saves.
There was a grudging respect from the home supporters afterwards and even some compliments from Messrs Hansen and Lawrenson.
Norwich City are here to stay.
• If you would like the chance to report on a Norwich City game this season - home or away - please contact Peter Raven on email@example.com