Following Norwich City on the road can be a thankless task for supporters
PUBLISHED: 15:16 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 20 February 2017
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So that was Burton. Any excitement garnered from visiting a ground that Norwich City had never played at before quickly gave way to an all too familiar knot in the stomach.
The Pirelli Stadium is now just another place on a long list of venues from which the journey home has been a quiet one for Canaries supporters.
It’s no wonder that City’s loyal travelling army has learned to make its own entertainment over the years.
Watching Norwich City away from home has always been an adventure undertaken more in hope than expectation. When I was growing up, my dad and I would probably go to one or two away games during each season.
I think I’d followed City away about 13 times before I saw them win. It’s worth remembering that in our greatest ever league season, 1992/93, Norwich finished third in the inaugural Premier League despite conceding 46 goals on the road that year.
Only Middlesbrough, who were relegated, let in more and it left Mike Walker’s much admired team with an away goal difference of -16.
Twelve years later, under Nigel Worthington, Norwich were relegated from the top flight by just a single point after losing 6-0 at Fulham on the final day.
They went through that entire season without winning away in the league. Just one single solitary win outside the comforting surroundings of Carrow Road would have been enough for them to stay up but they couldn’t manage it in 19 attempts.
Norwich City supporters are either boundlessly optimistic or shamelessly masochistic because, despite all the evidence that suggests the Canaries do not travel well, the thousands of motorway miles per season and the painful expenditure on fuel and food, there is always a glorious splash of yellow in the corner of every single away ground.
One of the highlights of following City to the far flung corners of England is spotting the impressive number of Norwich fans who make it to each game regardless of cold weather, anti-social kick off times or length of the journey.
Perhaps this resilient attitude towards travelling stems from Norfolk being so far away from anywhere else.
It becomes a badge of honour to clock up the miles in the name of the team you support and once you have done Carlisle away twice in the space of six weeks, as we did in that League One season thanks to a particularly unkind FA Cup second round draw, anything else seems like small beer.
These road movies are not made in Hollywood so a glorious happy ending is never guaranteed and when Timm Klose was caught in possession in the first half at Burton as the home side grasped an early lead there was an unspoken feeling amongst the Norwich collective inside the ground which was along the lines of “Ok, so it’s going to be one of those away trips then is it?”
With three points far from guaranteed, small victories have to be seized upon where they can be found.
The big talking point amongst City fans ahead of Saturday was a comparison competition as to how many of the 92 Football League grounds they had visited.
A few people asked me over the weekend and, believe it or not, I had never actually counted. I think I have been to 76 of the current 92 with that aforementioned season of League One football helping to tick off a few unlikely ones.
One of the reasons this particular breed of Norwich City fan is so keen on a Premier League return is that West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium has exposed a gap for some ground collectors.
Promotion looks a long shot for City so it could be that our next new ground is a little less salubrious than where Mo Farah and Jess Ennis won gold medals and British hearts in 2012.
I see Fleetwood are going well in League One.
When City shook the football world
The FA Cup shocks that resonated around the football world at the weekend will have been particularly poignant for Norwich City fans of a certain age.
In case you missed it, Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the day the second division Canaries knocked Manchester United out of the cup, with Lol Morgan’s side winning 2-1 at Old Trafford.
There are two things that need to be pointed out to younger readers. Firstly, in those days clubs didn’t rest their star men for FA Cup ties. Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law all started for United that day. Secondly, the first name of the Norwich manager wasn’t short for ‘Laugh out loud’, they didn’t have text speak in 1967.
I spent some time with one of the stars of that win, Dave Stringer, last week and he fondly remembered being given the daunting task of marking George Best, that United had been gracious enough to send champagne to the City squad in recognition of that win and that many of the players had celebrated by smoking in the communal bath in the dressing room afterwards.
The wonderful pictures that featured on the front pages of the next day’s newspapers back up that version of events. Manchester United won the league that year and then, famously, the European Cup just 15 months later.
If you’re too young to remember what could well be the best ever one-off result in Norwich City’s history, given the quality of the opposition, you might like to check whether you were at Carrow Road on Saturday April 28, 2007.
I’m afraid City did lose that day, but if you were there you saw The Canaries take on Gareth Bale as well as Best and Pele.
An impressive sounding line-up, I’m sure you’ll agree. Southampton beat Norwich 1-0 with a goal from Leon Best, who is now with Ipswich Town, while Portuguese defender Pedro Pele was last season playing Non-League football for AFC Totton.
But we don’t need to let those facts stand in the way of a good story.