Bring me sunshine ... and some normality, please
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press ©2004
The weather has that end-of-season feel. Standing outside in shirt sleeves, with a beer in hand on a Saturday.
Up until that point it’s all rather normal, though of course we’re not standing outside the Coach and Horses, or the Kings Arms at 2.30pm, rather our own back doors, or balcony; wistfully dreaming of those sunny April afternoons of seasons past.
It would have been Watford last weekend, the Great Escape either reaching a crescendo or consigned to what might have been.
Sunny Saturdays and Watford. We’ve been here before. It is roughly 16 years when, in shirt sleeves, 4,000 (plus a few interlopers in the home end – me included) turned up to Vicarage Road, Watford to see Nigel Worthington’s Canaries, who had been promoted three days earlier without kicking a ball.
Sunderland had lost at Crystal Palace – I think Andy Johnson scored a penalty or two, although I can’t confirm for the record how easily he may have gone down. Norwich were promoted in front of a few thousand who had turned up for a reserve team game at Carrow Road that night.
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But the party was really at Vicarage Road. The away end was full with 4,000 success starved fans, singing “Going Up, Up, Up” for much of the afternoon.
The Canaries didn’t disappoint. Goals from Damien Francis and Leon McKenzie saw Worthington’s Canaries – all in green that day - win their sixth successive game.
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It wasn’t without incident. City cruising 2-0, pegged back to 2-1 and then Lloyd Dyer missing a sitter-of-the-season contender, but come the final whistle the real party could kick off. The Going Up photos, celebrations and dousing in champagne seen so often at promotions – but one that was so special to Canaries fans having endured nine successive seasons in the Championship.
What had been “on loan to the Endsleigh’ became ‘On loan to the Premier League’, unfortunately. But after the financial near-disaster of relegation in 1995/96, the stumbling to find an identity under successive managers and the continuous recruitment failures of Raymond De Waard, Fernando Derveld and Paul Dalglish; here was a Norwich team that was relatable, with the added Darren Huckerby panache. They would go on to be crowned champions two games later, when they actually lost at Sunderland, thanks to West Brom’s defeat on the same night. Further parties were had that night.
For too long Canary fans had endured meaningless “on the beach” days at this time of year. Days where you get a glimpse of the latest youth product, who would wash away into the background the next season. Days where Paul Hughes would score a last-minute winner. “Who?” you might well say.
But we’d all settle for just one of those today. It would be celebrated like those play-off semi wins against Wolves and Ipswich; probably more. Not because of the three points, not because of the Great Escape it may well lead to, not even because of the sun on our back.
But because we were allowed to watch our team again, with people we love, in a place that we love, with a shared love. And because something just felt normal again in all our lives.