Chris Goreham: My complicated relationship with Norwich City and kits
- Credit: Norwich City FC
As an adult I have had a complicated relationship with football shirts.
Having grown up wearing basically nothing but replica kits they are difficult to associate with anything but childhood. There must have been a point in my late teens when I decided not to buy them anymore. It’s not one I remember making so it can’t have felt like a particularly outrageous call at the time.
Most people experiment with all sorts of fashions during that difficult transition from the crippling self-consciousness of adolescence to (hopefully) becoming a fully functioning grown-up. For me it felt like the right time to consign most of my collection to the charity shop.
It started an arbitrary set of self-imposed rules about the wearing of replica shirts. Somewhere along the line I decided that it wasn’t acceptable for a grown adult to wear a football shirt unless they were either going to a game or exercising.
They were the only two occasions when dressing up as your current Carrow Road heroes felt appropriate. I had faced up to the facts that an item of clothing designed to be worn by elite sportsmen is not suitable attire for filling your trolley with beer, burgers and biscuits in the supermarket.
It’s always a bit depressing when you go on holiday abroad, if you can remember those heady times, when the airport is full of English tourists making it clear which teams they support.
After a while I had to soften my stance and introduce a local bylaw that permitted the wearing of retro shirts. The growing market in re-issuing and recycling the classic kits from my youth has proved too tempting not to buy into.
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One could easily become a football fashion version of one of those middle-aged vinyl junkies who spends hours on eBay tracking down all the records they bought originally but chucked out 30 years ago.
The launch of Norwich City’s special edition fourth kit at the weekend has forced me to admit that I’ve been kidding myself for two decades.
Am I too cool not to click on the Canaries website as soon as they announce a new strip? Of course not. My dad and I are always texting each other within seconds with our snap verdicts on the new look Norwich.
New strips have become a seasonal occurrence in recent years. The Canaries even wear their second and third choice kits on a regular basis now Kenny McLean’s cross and Max Aarons’ glorious volley against the blue and white hoops of QPR wouldn’t have been in fetching black and pink in the old days.
Norwich wearing anything but yellow and green was a rarity in those less commercially savvy times.
In the years that Watford, Oxford or Wolves were not in the same division as City it was possible to go an entire season without ever seeing the Canaries in their away kit. They still had to have one just in case they drew one of the above sides in the cup. Or perhaps they might have been invited into some sort of breakaway super league that would have involved playing Brazil away. That doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched concept after the last week or so.
It meant that some sartorial classics were barely, if ever, worn in a match. There was the white Asics kit, the tartan strip and, my personal favourite, the white one with purple sleeves that was the official alternative to the egg and cress classic of the early 1990s.
I had most of those shirts. If only the teenaged Chris Goreham hadn’t decided he could live without them. They go for big money on eBay these days. Apparently. You wouldn’t catch me wasting time looking up football shirts online obviously.
At your service
It’s been great being back on the road with Norwich City over the past few weeks.
The performances and results have been superb, QPR on Saturday was the 15th away victory of a remarkable season.
It’s also meant discovering an unexpected oasis of normality in these difficult Covid restricted times. The hospitality industry has been trying to edge its way along the roadmap since the rules were relaxed a little earlier this month.
If you have been longing to meet a friend indoors for a meal, or even just a coffee, there is somewhere you can experience this simple joy that we used to take for granted.
What you need is a visit to the travelling football fan’s favourite location. A motorway service station. They are such an important part of any away day that Grant Holt even devoted a section of his book to naming the ones he likes best.
These places are operating as close to normal as anything in life is at the moment. A justifiable reason for travelling such distances from Norfolk is needed but once you’re there it’s almost like going back a year or so.
There comes a point where the need to stop to refuel (both yourself and your car) is considered a greater risk than contracting Covid-19. Masks are necessary right up to the point that you start eating, there are plenty of sanitising stations but apart from that it is business as usual.
Rob Butler and I stopped at Birchanger near Stansted on Saturday and shared a meal indoors together for the first time since Norwich knocked Tottenham out of the cup last season.
All that was missing was the thousands of yellow and green shirts that pack into that venue whenever City have played in the capital. Service stations are usually neutral territory on Saturdays.
It’s possible to spot no-end of shirts being sported by sets of supporters criss-crossing the country, following their favourite teams. It’s always fun to see how many you can name. Despite the collection of travelling tribes there is very rarely any trouble.
If you are really lucky you might run in to an entire football team. Colchester United’s fortunes have faltered in League Two since we had to queue behind their first team squad at Blyth Services on the A1 on a Saturday night last year.