Lee Payne: Why I want to be a better Norwich City fan
We all have different experiences of a matchday at Carrow Road.
Maybe you start early and meet friends in the same place for lunch every time. Perhaps you come from a long way away and always travel to Norfolk with the same people. Or you might have a pre-match pint in the same pub.
Matchdays are a bit different for me.
When I first had a season ticket a decade ago, going to the football was the main thing I did with my dad. We would walk from his flat in Tuckswood to Carrow Road, watch the game, and then get chips on the way back.
But since I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s five years ago, matchdays have been a rather lonely experience.
I have kept my season ticket in the Barclay, in the same seat, because I love football and I love Norwich City, but I only go to watch the game.
I am introverted - to say the least – so I don’t talk to the people around me in the stand.
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I have to say, at times when Norwich have been less than inspiring and sat in mid-table, going to Carrow Road has felt like a bit of a chore rather than a pleasure.
Compare my experience to my mum’s.
In the second half of last season, she and her partner took the opportunity to buy a couple of season tickets from people they knew who were giving them up. They sit in the lower Barclay, and in the space of a year have got themselves in with a group of colourful characters who they now meet up with and proceed to scream and shout their way through the 90 minutes alongside. They absolutely love it.
When Norwich’s game against Swansea was on a recent Friday night, I decided not to go.
I had work early the next morning and opted to stay at home and watch it on the TV. This was never an option for mum though. She didn’t want to miss out on the atmosphere, so they were there. They even got picked out by the Sky cameras, waving their scarves in the air in the pouring rain.
Talking of TV appearances – a few weeks ago I was having a break in the work canteen. The television was on, showing Look East, but I was looking down at my phone. I was vaguely aware of a report about the previous day’s East Anglian Derby. Suddenly, I heard a voice that I instantly recognised.
There was my mum, beaming from ear to ear, telling the BBC reporter that City were ‘top of the league’ and that ‘we’re going up, they’re going down’. Her friends in the lower Barclay have since been asking for her autograph.
It’s been fascinating to see how much going to Carrow Road has given my mum and her man a spring in their steps. It does, of course, help that their first full season as season ticket holders has coincided with the most exciting Norwich team in a decade but I don’t think it would make too much of a difference.
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Several of my visits to mum’s house in the last few months have featured evenings being made to watch Norwich’s late goals against Millwall, Bolton and Nottingham Forest for the hundredth time.
They diligently watch Daniel Farke’s interviews and follow news about the club from The Pink Un.
They are proper City fans, and I’ve wondered at times how good I am at being one.
I’ve resolved to take inspiration from the enthusiasm of my mum and her partner and be a better Norwich fan as the season comes towards its conclusion.
I want to say thank you, too, to the squad.
Whatever happens between now and May, this campaign has been an incredible success and it has had a positive impact in ways they won’t have even thought of.