Terri Westgate: How fan power played a small part in keeping the Canaries alive and kicking

Norwich
 City fans played their part before, during and after the 1-0 Premier League win over Bournemouth Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City fans played their part before, during and after the 1-0 Premier League win over Bournemouth Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Saturday was the first time in a while that I felt really nervous before a match.

The Norwich fans at the end of the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
18/01/2020The Norwich fans at the end of the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 18/01/2020

I'm usually quite level headed going into games, but just about everyone who knew that football existed had said this was a must-win game for Norwich.

There are tribes deep in the Amazon rainforest, who whilst taking time out from fighting deforestation were discussing the importance of this match for the Canaries.

Even though there were 15 further games to play out the season, this was the one which would apparently decide our fate.

The team have not been playing badly. They are however inexperienced at this level, we've had a disastrous injury crisis and the dreaded VAR has been unkind.

It's noticeable that the self-belief that got us spirited displays against Liverpool and Chelsea, and wins against Man City and Newcastle, has been slowly seeping away.

It must be tough to keep persevering when things are going against you each week, and the highs of last season must seem a lifetime ago.

All the talk of a game-that-can't-be-lost must have reached the players.

I've no idea how they cope with such levels of pressure, but as fans we have many different approaches. Some look for distraction, others engage in ritual and superstition, and there are those who just go to the pub.

For me, it was an early visit to Carrow Road with my fellow volunteers to get the ground flag ready for kick-off.

Since Along Come Norwich and Barclay End Norwich began their campaign to improve the atmosphere at home games, there have been a group of fans who have stepped forward to help with the logistics.

This weekend it involved manoeuvring a crumpled 540 square metre banner, which when dry weighs 63 kilos. However it was soggy and foisty from being left out in the rain, due to storage issues, so it was a lot heavier. And smellier.

MORE: Six things we learned from win over Bournemouth

It took seven of us to carry it to the front of the South Stand, and half an hour to unfurl it over the empty seats and get some of that lovely Norfolk sunshine on it. Once that workout was complete we began on the lower Barclay flags, and by the time the team was announced an hour before kick-off, everything was in place. And the nerves returned.

I enjoy being involved with the matchday displays for two reasons. Firstly being a fan has never been a passive experience for me, as my often croaky post-match voice will verify. Secondly they are a visual demonstration of our support for the players. We positioned the Welcome To Norwich banner directly opposite the tunnel, so it was in the eyeline of the players as they came onto the pitch.

This game can be about small margins, if our collective efforts improve the team performance by one percent then it's worth it. We may be bottom of the table, but our love for this club is undiminished. And didn't Carrow Road look magnificent!

Despite what was at stake, the team continued to play their quick passing game against Bournemouth. The new recruit Ondrej Duda fitted in perfectly, Emi Buendía and Todd Cantwell were dribbling past players, with Max Aarons bombing down the right often in acres of space.

The sending off and penalty gave us a chance to take the lead, and the newly crowned Finnish Sports Personality of the Year took it.

Yet there were many more chances we didn't take. Once we were also reduced to 10, as a result of Ben Godfrey's out of character rashness, you could feel the tension around the ground.

So many late goals conceded this season, so many draws when on the brink of victory, the crowd was almost expectant of disappointment. But they held firm, and the relief at the final whistle was immense.

We have three more precious points, and all the doomsayers will have to wait until another day to declare our fate.

We still have everything to play for in those 15 games, the fight for survival is alive and kicking.

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