52 (mostly) happy years...

It was Dad’s fault. Largely his fault, but partly Uncle George’s (Iain’s Dad) too. You see their family home was in Great Yarmouth, which is well within Carrow Road’s catchment area. And it was just a teensy weensy bit my fault as well.

Inspired and enthused by the 1958/59 FA Cup run and aged only 10, I had nagged Dad for months to take me to a Norwich match. On 11 September 1959 he finally succumbed. He took me, my cousin Iain and Uncle George to Griffin Park to see City play Brentford. Errol Crossan, Terry Allcock and Sandy Kennon played on that occasion.

I remember that the Canaries beat the Bees 4-3, and that I was elated at having seen my heroes play live in the yellow, green (and black) at the time, and win. I have been a die-hard City fan ever since. And I still feel a surge of adrenalin when I spy the club colours, and when the Canaries win.

Of course since then there have been many ups and downs. I can honestly say that there have been more of the former than the latter. The great cup run in 1958/59 (still the closest any side in Division Three has come to Wembley in the FA Cup) was followed by promotion triumph in 1960/61. City even won a national trophy in 1962. Ok, it was only the League Cup, and our opponents in the final were only Rochdale, but you have to start somewhere, don’t you?

Those interminable years in the Second Division at least brought some great players to grace the hallowed turf at Carrow Road. Older readers will argue about the relative merits of Ollie Burton, Tommy Bryceland, Ron Davies, Kevin Keelan, and Hughie Curran. And the Ron Saunders regime brought us Kenny Foggo, David Cross, Jimmy Bone, and promotion to the First Division for the first time in our history in 1972. The austerity of Sgt Major Saunders’ fitness regime at least brought us success, and was followed by the flamboyance of John 007 Bond. Who will forget seeing Phil Boyer, Martin Peters, Ted Macdougall, Kevin Reeves, and Colin Suggett in the City attack? Who does not remember Justin Fashanu’s fabulous strike against Liverpool?

City played in three Wembley finals. Ken Brown’s team, including such great players as Chris Woods, Steve Bruce, Dave Watson, Mick Channon, and Asa Hartford, even won one of them. In 1992/93 we finished third in the first ever Premier League season and qualified to play in Europe, disposing of Vitesse Arnhem and the mighty Bayern Munich with contemptuous ease before being beaten by two fluky strikes from one Denis Bergkamp and his pals from Inter Milan.

Duncan Forbes, Dave Stringer, Darren Eadie, Keith O’Neill, Robert Green, Chris Sutton and Robert Fleck were other heroes in this period. Some of your grandfathers may even remember the names of Jerry Goss and Bryan Gunn. I am not ashamed to admit that I am old enough to have seen them play (Gossy and Gunny, not your grandfathers). Inspired by the sheer personality and leadership qualities of Iwan Roberts and Malky Mackay, and the silky skills of Darren Huckerby, we won the Championship in 2004 and briefly tasted Premiership glory once more.

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The downs? Losing two Wembley finals in 1973 and 1975 was heartbreaking, as was losing to Birmingham in the penalty shoot out lottery in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Twice being denied the chance to play in European competition because of the tragedy at the Heysel stadium left a bitter taste in the mouth. The abject surrenders at Fulham and Charlton which both resulted in relegation.

Losing 7-1 at home to Colchester in the first game two seasons ago was not much fun either. And the ultra cautious nature of the City board in years gone by, when their only interest seemed to be in flogging off the family silver as quickly as possible, often proved deleterious to the aspirations of City fans everywhere.

On a personal level I have seen the Canaries play at venues as diverse as Rochdale, Wembley, Poorman Road, Enfield, Anfield, Highbury, Oldham, Old Trafford, Rotherham, Barnet, Wycombe, and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. I read the Pink Un in hard copy avidly from 1958 until its sad demise in 2009, and now I struggle to keep pace with the new technology: websites, text alerts, blogs, twitter and the like.

I have been a Canary exile in Germany, Outer Mongolia, Vietnam, Nepal, and Iran. Now I am a season ticket holder, Capital Canary, Gunn Club Member, shareholder, and sponsor of two bricks in the stadium. I was as proud as punch when I took my then eight-year-old daughter to Carrow Road for the first time, bought her a set of Norwich kit, and then stumped when I could not answer her very simple question: “Daddy, why don’t Norwich score?”

I wish I knew the answer to that one. But I believe that under Paul Lambert’s leadership, in the NEXT game we will score, win, and achieve even greater successes. Of such are dreams made. Here’s to the next 52 years. OTBC.