Paddy Davitt: To renew or not to renew. A City fan’s personal story

PUBLISHED: 12:02 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:06 13 December 2018

Onel Hernandez is a player who gets Norwich City fans off their seats Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Onel Hernandez is a player who gets Norwich City fans off their seats Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

You really want to know how good it is at Norwich City? Just ask a supporter.

No names, no pack drills but I had a lengthy conversation with a season ticket holder of long standing, who watches from the Upper Barclay, prior to Bolton’s visit.

He was a supporter who had passed on that deep devotion to his grandson. The upcoming FA Cup tie against Portsmouth would be the next opportunity to bring him along to watch the green and yellow in the flesh, after an earlier League Cup trip.

This is not a fair-weather supporter; one who has known only good times, promotion successes or a heady, intoxicating trip to Wembley.

But even he revealed he thought long and hard about renewing his season ticket at the end of last season.

Marco Stiepermann has come to the fore at Norwich City 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdMarco Stiepermann has come to the fore at Norwich City Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Then he recounted the story of the entire family who sat near him in the Upper Barclay that sadly decided enough was enough after 20 years of loyal support.

That was a dilemma facing many as City limped over the line to a mid-table Championship finish.

The entertainment factor was at best sporadic, the lack of wins and goals a source of growing frustration. For some, like that family, the prospects of improvement anytime soon were seemingly outweighed by a crushing sense more of the same beckoned at Carrow Road on a voyage of discovery.

Yet this supporter thought differently.

He signed on for another campaign. And what was the tipping point for him? It was the promise contained in the signing of Onel Hernandez. A glimpse or two of genuine pace and direct thrust, the tantalising prospect of being brought off your seat not wedged in it by watching a footballer who stirred emotions.

He also liked the look of Moritz Leitner; the cultured passing, the quality to his movement, the sheer game intelligence. These were players who looked a cut above.

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Something a bit different; a hint to the way Daniel Farke was thinking beyond an uncomfortable, bumpy debut season in Norfolk.

There were no guarantees Leitner would return for a longer tour of duty. No body of evidence that Hernandez could add goals and assists to those pacy darts.

If you want to broaden the point out a touch further, there was even less evidence Marco Stiepermann could emerge as the attacking spearhead of a three-man midfield, in the same area of the pitch left vacant by James Maddison’s club record sale to Leicester City.

Yet that Norwich fan felt he had seen enough green shoots amidst the gloom from the bold, fresh, direction being shaped by Farke and Stuart Webber.

And now?

Well a few hours after our conversation the same fan would have been hailing Farke – along with the rest of his fellow supporters who stayed to the very end in the Barclay – as the German took the acclaim following another pulsating stoppage-time Championship win against Bolton; remarkably, a fifth in a row at Carrow Road.

Norwich have now won as many league games in front of their own supporters this season as they did in the entire campaign 12 months ago. That is another signal this is a club on the move again. Optimism has replaced the pessimism that swirled and prompted many to countenance not renewing their season ticket.

It is also a reward for those, like that loyal fan, who wavered and opted to give City’s ‘project’ another chance.

Farke’s squad may struggle to maintain this current high point on the turn for home, but there can be no dispute they have provided full value thus far. There is a vibrancy and an energy not solely on the pitch but on the terraces.

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The head coach and his players have put the fun back into following the Canaries. When Norwich fall behind or encounter adversity, home fans rush to pick them up and drive them on with a noise very rarely heard during Farke’s first tour of duty.

It was audible when Millwall struck back to lead in stoppage time and again when Bolton cancelled out a 2-0 lead on Saturday.

The din that greeted both last-gasp wins was perhaps only matched once last season, when Timm Klose crashed home that derby equaliser to deny Ipswich a long overdue victory.

It feels like a re-connection; a strengthening of the bond that will never die if Norwich City is in your blood but needs an outlet to sustain it and eventually to pass it on.

Like that granddad to his grandson. Ensuring the next generation grows up with the same attachment as the ones that came before.

It is less about winning. It is all about a feeling of pride and belonging and the belief you are part of something bigger and better.

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