Terri Westgate: Wherever Canaries fans are, they really should be elsewhere...
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
To update John Donne’s famous line, no person is an island.
For me, one of the joys of the fan experience is being part of a crowd. A safe space where you can escape from the outside world, surrounded by comrades all vying for the same result.
I can sing and shout at the top of my voice, and unite with my fellow Canaries in a chorus to will the team on. Anyone who was present at the Manchester City game in September, or any of those injury-time winners last season, knows the ecstatic joy of celebration en masse.
Yet it has been several months since fans have assembled. There has been a long pause whilst the world deals with Covid-19. Now our beloved football team are poised to attempt the little miracle needed for Premier League survival – but without us to roar them on.
My experience of watching football matches home alone, is during a World Cup or Euros, when my allegiances are minimal. When England are playing, I go to the pub to watch with friends. When a game is important, I need the security of being amongst others who share my emotions, my irrational concerns and my desperation for victory.
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As a result, I don’t have any paid sports channel subscriptions and I usually listen to BBC Radio Norfolk to follow Norwich matches when I can’t attend. Though sometimes I find even that too nerve wracking, and take myself offline to distract from events miles away.
But in this new set-up, Norwich will be playing several games just a mile and a half from my front door.
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The pubs are still closed, restrictions in place. Not only will I be distanced from my team, but also separated from my fellow fans. The matchday crowd of 26,000 will be spread out across Norfolk and Suffolk, with further pockets of Canaries sprinkled throughout the country. Those who sit near you at the ground, the family you meet before the game, the friends you have a drink with afterwards. We will be a disparate fanbase all missing from Carrow Road.
Yet following a club is not just about the group gratification of goal celebrations, it’s also being part of a community. By being a regular visitor to Carrow Road I have made friendships for life, but often those friendships were made away from the stands. Instead they were formed in the pub, at social club gatherings, on away trips and often through social media. We may have bonded over our experiences of being present at games, but it’s away from the matches that the sense of community has grown and strengthened.
It will be a surreal feeling knowing that Norwich are playing at home without us.
We will instead all be in our cocoons whilst the match takes place. Watching from the sofa, pacing the room whilst listening to the radio, or taking drastic action to get away from any football updates. However we choose to deal with the exclusion, we’ll be conscious at kick-off that we should be somewhere else. We will be united in that moment.
Luckily we are in the internet age, and we can still reach out to our football friends online. And tomorrow, as kick-off approaches, we can still display our support by posting photos of the yellow and green, hanging scarves from our windows, singing On The Ball City in our homes. We can connect through social media and group video calls, we don’t have to be alone.
What makes supporting a team special is the camaraderie with fellow supporters – be it at the ground, in the pub, on your travels, or online in exile. Whatever way you choose to follow the remaining games this season, it is just a temporary situation. We will all be together again, waving flags and hugging friends. The community we have built remains strong and it will get us through the enforced separation until our Carrow Road return.
Can City survive?
I will say no, in the hope I am proved wrong.
Who will be relegated?
Norwich, Villa and West Ham.
Who is the most important person for City for the rest of the season?
Teemu Pukki and his scoring boots.