Long road back for City
David Cuffley The long road back to the Championship will be exactly that for Norwich City supporters as they face up to a new list of marathon away trips.Relegation to League One means the Canaries' travelling fans have waved goodbye to long excursions to Plymouth, Blackpool, Preston and Swansea, but in their place will come equally demanding journeys to Exeter, Carlisle, Tranmere and Yeovil and back.
The long road back to the Championship will be exactly that for Norwich City supporters as they face up to a new list of marathon away trips.
Relegation to League One means the Canaries' travelling fans have waved goodbye to long excursions to Plymouth, Blackpool, Preston and Swansea, but in their place will come equally demanding journeys to Exeter, Carlisle, Tranmere and Yeovil and back.
A fan living in Norwich and attending every league away match next season will cover well over 8,000 miles on the road.
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With 19 of the 23 destinations decided, it only remains for the promotion play-offs to determine the rest. Promotion for Leeds from League One and Gillingham from League Two would be the best options for keeping the mileage down.
City's return journey to newly-promoted Exeter will be the longest at 640 miles, with Carlisle (570), Tranmere (520) and Yeovil (500) all in the 500-plus bracket.
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A 482-mile round trip to Bristol Rovers is the alternative to Bristol City, while a visit to Hartlepool - a team City have not faced since 1949 - clocks up 472 miles. Oldham, Southampton and Swindon are all 400 miles-plus and there will be another journey in that category if one of Bury, Rochdale or Shrewsbury gain promotion from League Two.
As the Canaries' new status means they enter the FA Cup at the first round stage and will compete in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, there is the likelihood of clocking up even more miles.
Diehard travelling fan Richard Bland, from Horstead, who has seen City teams - at various levels and age groups - play on well over 250 different grounds, will be able to add to that tally but hopes it is just for one season.
He said: “Once the dust has settled on our sad demise, the release of next year's fixture list will soon be upon us. I personally am not looking forward to 'entertaining' the likes of Wycombe, Brentford, Exeter, Carlisle and Yeovil at Carrow Road.
“I am, however, part of the loyal band who follow the Canaries home and away, so for me it will be a case of revisiting grounds that we have not played on for a few years. I will also be adding at least two new grounds to my current list of 261 - Colchester's new stadium and Hartlepool being the only two I have not seen Norwich City play at.”
There were, he said, still reasons to look forward to away trips.
He said: “OK, the names may not readily roll off your tongue as, say, Manchester United and Liverpool. I don't think I will be getting up on a Saturday morning thinking, wow, we play Swindon this afternoon, best get there early to see their team of stars arrive.
“However, we are sure of a warm welcome from the clubs we visit, friendly staff, proper fans and pricing, and if we can get our act together on the pitch with commitment and passion to win, maybe we will have something to shout about.
“I would say maybe the novelty will wear thin if we don't bounce back next May.”
Kathy Blake, secretary of Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association, said relegation would not dampen her enthusiasm for away travel.
“Numbers may be down, but not markedly so because the type of fan who goes away is the diehard supporter who will still go. I'm still quite looking forward to it,” she said.
“Nobody wants to get relegated and it is very sad, but if there are positives, you probably have a better time at smaller clubs.
“When we visited Torquay a few seasons ago, we were invited into the fans' social club. That would never happen at Old Trafford.
“There are people who like ticking the grounds off and there will be one or two new ones.
“But you can bet your bottom dollar we get Carlisle away on a Tuesday night.”