Spud Thornhill: My Dutch pal is right, Norwich City is a special football club

PUBLISHED: 07:30 10 February 2018

James Maddison with the mascots for the match against Middlesbrough, including Ethan Thomas, left.
 Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

James Maddison with the mascots for the match against Middlesbrough, including Ethan Thomas, left. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

I travelled to Stansted last night to collect my long-time Dutch friend Chris Diem, who has travelled over to the UK to take the opportunity to watch his English team, Norwich City, this weekend.

James Maddison - a credit to Norwich City on and off the pitch. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdJames Maddison - a credit to Norwich City on and off the pitch. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I first met Chris on a Friday night in August 1999 when, at the time, he was working alongside my brother. Chris is very similar to me and has a massive passion for football. I soon persuaded him to join me to watch my beloved Norwich City play at The Valley against Charlton Athletic.

I did warn him that we weren’t anything special and I was not expecting anything from the game. And I was right. We lost 1-0 in an uninspiring performance. While we didn’t win Chris’s heart on the pitch, we certainly did in the stands. Norwich had over 2,000 fans who, in Chris’s opinion, were very loud and proud. It was non-stop singing in the away end.

Since then Chris has been over on many occasions, watching Norwich either at Carrow Road or on the road with me, as he will today when we travel to Derby. Chris has met many of the people I have met because of Norwich City. At the same time Chris has seen the special bond the club has with us, the fans.

It was that special bond that was shown last week in our 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. It was quite an emotional day, given the tragic events that have occurred amongst our supporters recently.

The sadness I felt at the loss of Michelle Dack and Gemma Thomas was nothing compared to what their families have felt, but the support both of their loved ones received from the club and fellow supporters last weekend was shown in abundance.

There was great strength shown by young Ethan Thomas as he walked on to the pitch hand in hand with James Maddison. I imagine his daddy Simon was looking with both sadness and pride. Ethan definitely showed immense pride that his mum would’ve been proud of.

With the minute’s applause Michelle received in the 52nd minute, it showed what respect each supporter in the ground had as they stood and applauded for her – and that included the management team and some of the players.

The player who has really shown what a great individual he is, is James Maddison. It’s easy to talk, but the actions that Maddison showed building up to the day and on the day proved it’s not just on the pitch that he wins Canaries hearts but off it too. And I must thank James for that. It helped the club take an even bigger stride with its fans.

On a personal front, I was very saddened at the death of Michelle – I had known her for nearly 30 years, from my early days on Club Canary to away days earlier this season. In between we spent time before games in the old Kingsway pub on the corner of King Street, and at many supporters’ events at Carrow Road over the years.

What I’ll remember best about Michelle was the great support she had for the team. I’m not just talking about her fantastic consecutive run of 908 games before falling ill, but the support she always had for the team. On many occasions I would be chatting with her and her partner Ian, moaning about the latest defeat. Whilst myself and Ian would say what the players should’ve done, Michelle would just listen, refusing to criticise any of them.

Ian will be at Pride Park today, but I know the strength he and the rest of Michelle’s loved ones have received from many people from the club and fellow Canaries has helped so much.

So, as I stand next to Chris today, I know I’m so proud to support such a fantastic club and will always be grateful for Norwich City for giving me such great people throughout my life.

Op De Kogel City (Dutch for On The Ball City).

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