Chris Goreham: No-one should question just how good City have been
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Oh, what fun it is to see Norwich win away.
That’s a line usually reserved for the Christmas period but anyone who has been on the road with the Canaries will know that every away victory must be enjoyed.
I can’t bring myself to count up the number of times I’ve arrived back in Norfolk late on a Saturday night with no points to show for it.
There is no such thing as a short journey home when you follow Norwich City.
The first part of those return trips is usually undertaken in a sulky silence as the result sinks in. Then there are animated discussions about what went wrong with words like ‘if’ doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
If only we hadn’t conceded just before half-time or how different it would have been if we’d taken that golden chance early in the game.
The next stage is one of acceptance when the price of a motorway service station coffee is worth it to drown the sorrows. By the time the ‘Nelson’s County’ signs catch the beam of the headlights it’s all about the next game and how different it’s definitely going to be. The whole process is usually repeated two weeks later.
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I’ve been through it so many times as a supporter and a commentator.
Last week I mentioned my first ever Norwich City away game was the 1992 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. That defeat by Sunderland rather set the tone. As an occasional traveller with my dad, perhaps once or twice a season, it would be a further six years before I finally experienced an away win.
That barren run included an eclectic mix of trips to places as diverse as Southend and The San Siro. Eventually, the day before my 16th birthday, it finally happened. A low-key 1-0 win at Reading in the last ever match played at their Elm Park ground brought my first ever taste of a triumphant return home.
Last season in the Premier League Norwich City only won away once. That victory at Everton was one to savour but the other trips were water off a canary’s back. You learn to travel in hope rather than expectation. Until now that is.
Kieran Dowell’s fabulous free-kick at Derby on Saturday clinched away win number 14 of the season. It’s a club record. Paul Lambert’s all conquering Canaries only won 12 during that League One campaign when they ended on 95 points.
What a season this would have been if Norwich City’s massive yellow and green army had been allowed to travel. The bright orange buses that transport them across the country would have been fuelled by optimism and joy.
“Ah – but it would have been very different with fans in the ground.”
You have to imagine that quote in a Derbyshire accent. A couple of the reporters who regularly attend Pride Park were adamant that Wayne Rooney’s side would have equalised on Saturday if home supporters had been permitted to return to the stadium.
They were convinced that Norwich City’s determination to protect their slender lead in the second half would not have withstood whatever extra percentage it is that a vocal fanbase adds to a home team.
That’s the trouble. This sparkling away campaign has mainly been played out in front of empty seats. When people look back at the record books they’ll put two and two together and assume that Norwich City benefitted because these trips were not as intimidating as in previous years.
It’s fair to say that away wins have been more plentiful across the board since behind closed doors football started. That should mean that Carrow Road hasn’t been a fortress for Norwich City.
However, the Canaries are currently on a run of 19 home matches without defeat. Derby are the only visiting team to win there this season and that was only thanks to a free-kick from Rooney.
Forget all of the extenuating circumstances Norwich City are having a record-breaking season because they are actually very good.
The metric that really matters is that I’ve saved myself a fortune this season on snacks and treats from service stations because I haven’t needed to lift my spirits on these long journeys home.
Norwich City fans have been soaking up the joy of Farkeball over the past few seasons.
It seems that the City head coach could also have the skillset necessary for playing dodgeball.
Daniel Farke has a wonderful skill of avoiding any prospect of activating the Manager of the Month curse. March was another month in which he was nominated for his achievements but didn’t win the award. So much for being the outstanding performer in the division this season.
Some Norwich fans have been annoyed by this monthly snub. It’s like watching that direct debit that you keep forgetting to cancel come out of your account. It’s really rather comical and the only conclusion is that the judging panel must have set itself the challenge of ignoring the obvious.
These City snubs are nothing new. The scintillating 7-0 win over Huddersfield was momentous enough for this newspaper to produce a poster marking the event.
It brought back memories of how rare it was to find Norwich City posters when I wanted to decorate my bedroom wall growing up. Even in the glory days, when City were in the top division every season, it was highly unusual for Match or Shoot magazines to offer a poster of a Canaries player.
They did have to include Norwich in the ‘League Ladders’ at the start of each campaign though. Before the internet this was a way of keeping the league tables up to date on your wall by moving cardboard tabs with each team’s name on up and down the slots cut into the giant poster.
For the first few weeks of each season I would keenly keep the tables as current as Ceefax. By mid-September the novelty had worn off and the temptation to just put the Norwich City tab at the top of The Premier League was too much.