Lee Payne: Home or away fan, if you support Norwich City then we are one and the same

United front - City fans in full voice at Reading on Saturday. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

United front - City fans in full voice at Reading on Saturday. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The clamour to buy tickets to Norwich City’s cup game at Arsenal has sparked an interesting debate about what a ‘real fan’ is.

I was one of the many people who tried to snap one up from the club’s website as soon as they went on sale last Thursday morning. The demand meant I was in a queue for an hour and a half, but I eventually managed to get one of the original 5,000 tickets for myself.

The glamour tie at the Emirates Stadium will be my first experience of watching the City first team in an away match. I was lured by the reasonably priced ticket, the calibre of the opposition and the relatively short journey. I was, like most of us, at Wembley for the play-off final. I was also at Stamford Bridge on the night the Under 18s won the FA Youth Cup. I haven’t yet, however, seen a regular Norwich game away from Carrow Road.

Those who follow City all over the country, attending every home and away game, had no special treatment when it came to buying tickets for this one. They went straight on general sale. It didn’t matter if you’d been all the way to Middlesbrough and back two days earlier, been at Brentford in the previous round, or about to make the trip to Reading for a Saturday tea-time kick-off. If you had something as ludicrous as a job and weren’t able to queue at Carrow Road or get on the website on Thursday morning, then you were out of luck.

This – and I can understand why – made some people quite angry. Disappointed fans wanted to know why the tickets didn’t go on sale to season ticket holders first, or why the club didn’t use its usual away points system. The anger then turned to those who had got tickets – and a rather ugly game of one-upmanship followed.

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I’ve always felt uneasy when my fellow Norwich fans claim that they are somehow ‘better’ than others. We are a set of supporters that I am incredibly proud to be part of, and I don’t think there is a certain way to follow the team. I’ve been a season ticket holder for nine years. I’ve been to nearly every home game since 2008, but I don’t feel superior in any way to someone who listens intently to every game on the radio.

If you went all the way to Germany to see City in pre-season action in the summer, I think you’re great, but I don’t think you’re any more of a ‘real’ fan than the rest of us. We all have our own ways of following the Canaries.

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The term ‘armchair fan’ is used as an insult. If most of your football viewing is through a screen, you’re apparently not as dedicated as someone who goes to the ground on a freezing Tuesday night to see a game in the flesh. I’m fine with it though – as long as you’re enjoying it, you keep on watching, however you please.

Personally, I don’t think I’d want to go to every away game City play. Given how Norwich is miles from anywhere, I could certainly see myself thinking of another long haul in the dark, cold winter months as more of a chore than a pleasure. That wouldn’t do. Football is meant to be entertainment, after all.

Thankfully, after the first batch of tickets sold out within two hours, the club secured another 3,600. So in the end, pretty much everyone who wants to be at the Emirates later this month will be able to. I’d like to think that we will put this little episode behind us and come together to make it a great atmosphere on the night.

For me, there’s no such thing as a ‘real’ fan. If you support Norwich, we are one and the same.

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