Blackburn the ‘finishing’ line after Norwich City’s marathon effort
14:39 25 April 2012
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After months of hard work, all those miles and the huge time commitment involved it was impossible not to feel a sense of admiration for those who completed the marathon at the weekend.
Yes, Norwich City’s travelling supporters have once again done the club proud this season. When those who had been all the way from Norfolk to Ewood Park crossed the finish line marked by their front doors late on Saturday night they would have been well within their rights to head straight for he kitchen drawer, get out the roll of tin foil and wrap themselves in it. Getting back from Blackburn marked the end of all those long, long away trips for another year.
I know there’s still one more trip on the fixture list, but Arsenal away can be reached in not much more than two hours if you’re lucky so, by our standards, we’ll put that down as a local derby. Whatever the distance, it will be Norwich City’s first ever game at the marvellous Emirates Stadium the Gunners now call home. With a bumper following for the game as guaranteed as Norwich’s Premier League future for next season, that one is bound to have something of a party feel to it.
Blackburn on Saturday felt like the final ‘proper’ away game for 2011/12 and although a 2-0 defeat meant it was something of an anti-climax, those who have been regular travellers with Norwich City over the years will admit that the return to the top flight has brought some happier homeward journeys than many in previous years.
Before Paul Lambert took over, the Canaries had been a side which never seemed to do well on the road. Away games tended to mean travelling in hope more than expectation and often moody, silent bus or car journeys home. This is underlined by the fact that City’s five Premier League away wins during this season is precisely five more than in their last season in the top flight. As well as those victories, precious points have been won at Anfield and Goodison Park while even in defeat, yellow and green replica shirts were worn on top of puffed out chests coming out of Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford.
With ticket prices getting ever more expensive, not to mention the cost of fuel and the imaginative pricing when it comes to eating at motorway service stations, deciding to take on even one of these mammoth trips is a decision that cannot be taken lightly by any fan.
There’s plenty of time to evaluate the exact cost of a Norwich City away game during the first hour on the road at the end of which many fans are still in Norfolk. It’s our own fault for living in that bit of the country which sticks out on the right hand side when you look at the map, as if it’s desperately trying not to associate with the rest of England. Perhaps that explains some aspects of the wonderful Norfolk mentality.
Geography is a favourite subject for City fans at this time of the year as they scour the league tables to assess the potential ups and downs.
Wolves, or ‘Wolves (just over three hours)’ as a Norwich fan sees it when he or she looks at the Premier League relegation zone, is one trip we won’t be making next season.
A few miles could be saved if two from Blackburn (four and half hours), Bolton (about the same) or Wigan (another long old poke) also drop out of the division.
Reading have won the Championship, Southampton and West Ham are scrapping to join them in the top flight next season. All three of those clubs have the added attraction of being in the ’should be home in time for Match of the Day’ category of away trips.
As someone who is lucky enough to follow Norwich City around the country for a living the time commitments aren’t lost on me and I never cease to be amazed by the number of fans who are prepared to dig deep, in all sorts of ways, to be wherever and whenever the Canaries are playing.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that so many people steeped in Norwich City completed the London Marathon.
Former players Iwan Roberts and Paul McVeigh and the club’s own chief executive David McNally are among those who deserve a sweaty handshake for completing the 26 miles, not to mention the team running to raise money for the Norwich City Community Sport Foundation.
Anyone who has ever had anything to do with our particular club and the away trips involved knows the adage about football being a marathon and not a sprint is spot on.
• STAYING A SAFE DISTANCE FROM SARTORIAL ELEGANCE
I found myself on the catwalk last week. I hope those who have ever met me, or seen the way I dress, were sitting down when they read that last sentence. You only need to look at the picture they use at the top of this page to understand why I am not the type of person who is necessarily at home with the world’s fashion icons.
There I was though, standing with six fit young men, on a stage in front of those eagerly awaiting next season’s hot new look.
I would really like to leave it there, but my street cred in London, New York, Paris and Milan will diminish immediately when I reveal that I wasn’t actually doing any modelling, just holding the microphone, the fit young men had the surnames Holt, Hoolahan, Morison, Pilkington, Bennett and Martin and the event was actually the Carrow Road launch of Norwich City’s new strip.
Norfolk’s fashion event of the year did, however, feature a video which I think Jeff Banks would have approved of in his days on TV’s ‘The Clothes Show’.
The fact that I use a programme which hasn’t been on the box for several years as my go to fashion reference probably doesn’t help my cause to be taken more seriously as a snappy dresser.
Under the slogan ‘Pass it On’ the video has Norwich players, fans and assorted others, including Stephen Fry, in disparate locations passing a football to each other.
So that is how I came to be captured on film apparently catching a ball from a Subbuteo player before turning it on to Dean Ashton.
Being involved in a passing move with a toy and a former England striker was one of the few things even less likely to feature on my CV than the phrase ’some catwalk experience’ this time last week.