June 20 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Two years ago this week I was at the JPT second round tie at Gillingham, possibly the least significant away game to date in Paul Lambert’s time as manager – the attendance was 2,814, including 600-odd City fans.
Gemma and I arrived at Euston at 9.15am, plenty of time to get the 10am departure to Manchester. We couldn’t afford to be late as we had 30 pairs of train tickets for those in the Capital Canaries lucky enough to be going to the game.
Thanks to Sky TV, and I promise that’s a phrase you will only read once from me, we had managed to secure another great deal on the travel. And the reason for my thanks? The date that Sky chewed up and spat out the TV fixture list was on the same day as the cheap advance fares to Manchester became available.
Predictably the train from Euston was packed with London-accented football supporters wearing red, and all supporters of the Evil Empire. The first stop was Stoke and even more fans of their local team boarded the train.
The train arrived a few minutes late into Piccadilly and we made the decision to support the local champions and go for a pre-match livener or two at Old Trafford.
No, not that Old Trafford – we went to the cricket ground, enjoyed some beers and burgers in the sun and watched another referee attempt to ruin what could have been a potentially decent game of football.
On to the ground, ignoring the ticket touts, the scallies selling half and half scarves and other Evil Empire tat, we took our seats at around 2.15pm to watch the team warm up.
Not that they needed warming up. The temperature was tropical and rising fast, and I can’t help thinking the heat helped shape some of our tactics for the day.
At 2.30pm we were introduced to the Lancashire cricket team who had won the County Championship for the first time in 77 years; they were given generous applause from the crowd.
Mischievously I thought the Middlesex team should have been invited along for winning the Division Two title; surely they would have been given an ecstatic reception.
On to the game. But before we kicked off our ears were assaulted with the nauseous announcement for the fans to welcome “the greatest football team in the world”. I complied by cheering the boys in the yellow and green.
The heat was now at stifling level and when not in possession City sat back as a unit, didn’t chase around up front and looked secure at the back.
There was plenty of movement from the Evil Empire forwards, but our new-found centre-back pairing dealt admirably with everything thrown at them.
City broke well and had a couple of opportunities, but it was a quiet half only livened up by Nani’s command performance as the theatre pantomime dame.
After half-time City continued to perform magnificently and had some great chances. With a bit more luck, composure or had the ball fallen on the right side of the post we could have gained at least a point, and perhaps all three.
Marc Tierney put in another majestic shift, but I’d give my man of the match award to Russell Martin, who looks to be exactly the centre-back we need and the ideal partner for Leon Barnett.
The City fans were vocal, loud, and passionate – in complete contrast to the 70,000-plus waxwork-like supporters of the Evil Empire who dutifully cheered three times during the game, once for each goal and the final whistle.
The ones next to us were finally woken from their slumber when Anthony Pilkington’s shot rolled agonisingly past the post and then stunned into silence when On the Ball, City was defiantly sung during their celebrations for the first goal.
The journey back to the capital was a lively affair with a guest appearance from Simeon Jackson, who was very patient with us – especially when one of our party mentioned it was him that caused Fraser Forster to be sent off in the 1-1 draw at Gillingham.
Some fans, eh?
And two years on from the JPT game at Gillingham, City could well have come away from the Premier League champions with the points.
The last couple of years have truly been an amazing journey – and Gemma and I have been privileged to be part of it.
• If you would like the chance to report on a Norwich City game this season - home or away - please contact Peter Raven on firstname.lastname@example.org