Chris Goreham: Norwich City away days are fine – if you can stomach them
PUBLISHED: 13:20 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 13:20 20 August 2018
There was plenty of disappointment for Norwich City’s travelling supporters to cope with at the weekend.
That terrible feeling in the pit of the stomach that can only be caused by seeing your team concede a late winner was made worse by the fact that there wasn’t as much greasy food in those same stomachs to help cushion the blow.
When the distinctive bright orange Sanders coaches that carry some Canaries fans to away games rolled into Bramall Lane, news started to spread of a break with tradition for this season. There are to be no stops for food on the way to matches that are deemed as ‘short’ trips. The decision was jointly made during the summer by the club, the coach company and some of the fans who are permanent fixtures on these colourful wagons of hope.
The first thing to note is that it underlines the lengths Norwich fans are prepared to go in the name of their favourite team. There are not many people who would consider Norwich to Sheffield a ‘short’ trip, but when you have just been drawn away to Cardiff City in a midweek cup fixture, south Yorkshire is a simple sojourn.
This may seem like a trivial matter, but unless you are used to travelling the length and breadth of Britain in pursuit of The Canaries you may not realise that stops for fuel are as vital to fans as vehicles. Saturday’s result means that Norwich City haven’t won away since January. No matter the distance, anyone undertaking one of these adventures must do so with the knowledge that victory is far from certain and seeing as the football accounts for only 90 minutes of these long days, finding somewhere decent to eat and drink can help to make or break the day.
Anyone on a diet can easily argue that they had to have that fry-up, massive burger or colonel’s fried chicken (and in some cases all three, I’ve seen it done) because that’s all there is to choose from at motorway service stations.
Not stopping for food on Saturday was particularly significant because it meant driving past one of the iconic venues for Norwich City supporters. If you have never been to The Farm Café at Fleet Hargate on the A17 in Lincolnshire then you have never really done an away trip. I can only imagine the drooling faces at the window of the coaches as the huge bright yellow signs which entice hungry travellers with promises like ‘Burger and Chips with Garnish - £2.60’ went past at high speed. If you think I am overplaying the significance of this venue which wouldn’t be appropriate for a first date, in case you were wondering, then have a look at its official website which includes a picture of Norwich City fans floating down the steps of the aforementioned bright orange buses like characters in Loony Tunes cartoons used to whenever a neighbour put a pie out to cool on the windowsill.
I don’t want to give the impression that City fans are being forced to starve. The Farm is actually only 63 miles from Carrow Road and not stopping means that supporters will arrive at grounds sooner and so be able to find a greater choice for their pre-match meal than what may be on offer at the roadside.
But what about the BBC Radio Norfolk team? Are we modifying our diets on ‘short’ away trips in the name of our health? It is possible to go three and a half hours without food, after all. I don’t want to give too much away, but when you have to commentate on a team that can fail to score from an opportunity which features three players clean through on goal at the same time, that wonderful garnish can often be the highlight of a day on the road.
We should have known that Norwich City’s League Cup odyssey would take them to Cardiff City this season from the moment that they let them take Josh Murphy to Wales in that reported £11m deal in the summer.
I am resisting the temptation to ask for sympathy about the prospect of a midweek trip to the principality, even though it is amusing that Norwich City have managed to land a team that plays in a different country in a draw that is regionalised.
The ‘Southern’ section of the Football League still leaves those of us out on its eastern limb at a geographical disadvantage.
But we really can’t complain as cup draws don’t always work against the Canaries. Before pulling Cardiff out of the hat, Norwich were on a run of five home draws from their last seven cup ties. The two exceptions saw City go to Brentford and Arsenal in the League Cup last season and I certainly didn’t hear too many people complaining about the prospect of a night under the floodlights at The Emirates.
Those two cup ties had something else in common – Josh Murphy scored in both of them. He also netted the last time Norwich knocked a Premier League team out of a cup competition with a brilliant effort at Everton in the same competition two seasons ago.
Murphy made the League Cup his own while with the Canaries. Of the 20 goals he scored for the club, eight were in that tournament and he played in it only 11 times. His other 12 strikes for City were spread across 90 league games. So the League Cup brought only around 10pc of his appearances for the Canaries but 40pc of his goals. He has played one other League Cup game in his career while on loan at MK Dons. He did, naturally, score in 2-1 win in August 2015 against, you guessed it, Cardiff City.
I am not a betting man but the odds on me using the phrase “scores against his former club” in commentary next Tuesday must be fairly short.
Still, the transfer fee the club pocketed for Murphy will more than cover the cost of getting the team bus over the Severn Bridge for what we must embrace as a European away trip.