Matt Howman: What it means to watch City at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When you try to explain to anyone who isn’t a football fan what it means to be there in a football ground for a live match, they don’t quite get it.
They listen and nod along as you get stuck into the detail but they’re not captured in the same way as you are talking about it.
It’s not their fault, because what makes it special is individual to everyone. At Carrow Road on any given home game there are thousands of fans that make their way into the stadium with their own routine, their own traditions and their own story to tell.
For us it was mid-way through the league one season where we finally got our season tickets.
I first went to Carrow Road in the early 2000s and my first vivid memory is Norwich vs. Dagenham & Redbridge when Zema Abbey scored an injury time winner. I still remind my Dad to this day that I wouldn’t let him leave early, and it’s a rule I've stuck to ever since! Then, it was that League One season when three tickets became available and we were there week after week, same seats, same routine.
So much has changed in the last 10 years but that was a constant. Norwich are at home, brilliant, we’re there. It didn’t matter whether it was a freezing cold night in January, or an unglamorous fixture against a League One team, I’ve looked forward to every single game.
For a lot of people there are tough moments in life, or things that are playing on your mind but for that period of time you’re in the ground and enjoying the game everything outside of Carrow Road is just noise.
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It’s all of it - rushing to make sure you’re at the ground on time, stressing because the traffic isn’t moving quick enough. Making sure you meet at the regular spot, seeing all of the same faces that have followed their trusty routine for as long as you have. Listening to snippets of conversations that are happening as everyone makes their way to the ground.
For over 10 years it’s been the same topics. “He’s not good enough”, “sell him, he’s rubbish”, “we need another goal scorer” and then the week after: “what a player he is, I've always loved him”, “we’ve got a great squad, we’ll be up this season”. We’re all fickle fans to varying degrees - it’s just the nature of the game.
In the ground there’s a pre-match buzz and, especially under the lights, there’s always been an atmosphere that is unexplainable, but encapsulated only in that it’s irreplaceable in anything outside of football.
Same with the goals, and there have been plenty of those moments over the years. Nothing, absolutely nothing, comes close to celebrating those crucial goals. The ear-splitting, deafening roar around the ground and people who, like myself, are generally quiet people are jumping around like a lunatic. To share all of that with Dad’s, Grandad’s, family and friends… priceless.
For a lot of people, us included, it won’t be quite the same going back. The past year has changed things and those football matches have been sorely missed over these past few months.
There are loved ones who won’t be able to go back, and some will choose not to and for lots of fans it will be strange and very difficult to walk back into the ground without the people who you’ve shared so many of those memories with.
This is what those idiots planning the “super league” didn’t factor in. Football might be a commercial business but the qualities that hold the game together transcend any of the financial rewards that the game has to offer.
The beauty of the game isn’t about watching glamour ties on the television, or watching a league play out in empty stadiums, it’s thousands of people being able to come together in one place and share an experience that creates priceless memories that last a lifetime.