The day I fell in love with Norwich City
Saturday 17th September 2011. What a day. Our first Premiership win in 6 years.
Rewind the clock four years and two days and something equally memorable was happening. Under the charge of Peter Grant, a team made up of players including Marshall, Huckerby, Russell, Doherty and Dublin took to the field to play Crystal Palace. Somewhere in the Jarrold stand, I was sitting, watching my first ever game at Carrow Road. And I was falling in love.
My Dad is a Londoner and a Chelsea supporter. He has been all his life. As a boy he spent a lot of time at the ground, with the players, cleaning their boots, watching them train. I never really had any choice. I was a Chelsea girl before I was born. Not helped by the fact that my mum, in labour with her first child, had to wait to be taken to hospital on a Sunday afternoon because the Blues were live on TV. Apparently the third word I could speak was “Chelsea”…. Or so the story goes….
And then, 31 years later, I’m sat, hungover, in the Jarrold at Carrow Road. In front of me the Canaries take on the Eagles; two teams I knew little, or nothing about.
I’m not sure if Peter Grant knew at that point that his time was up. Maybe he felt a reprieve because of the 1-0 win brought about by his Czechoslovakian summer signing, David Strihavka. But the reprieve didn’t last long. A few weeks later, Grant was gone. A few more weeks after that, so was Strihavka. But I remained.
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I don’t know what it was about Carrow Road that got me hooked. Back then, the football wasn’t the best. We weren’t Premier League and it didn’t feel like we were going to be for a while. But there was just something that felt so good about being there.
I started to figure it out when I made the trip to Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago. This was my second away game having been to Wigan a couple of weeks earlier. I was looking forward to the Chelsea game. I thought it’d be a good day out. I’d get to visit the magical ground that was so important to my Dad, and I was hoping for a good game of football.
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Of course the football wasn’t a let down. Ok, the game was eventful for all the wrong reasons, but the boys played their hearts out. Despite the loss, I left with a deeper confidence in our chances against the big teams this year. We looked like a team who could take anyone on.
The stadium was fantastic. But where was the atmosphere? Where were those hardcore Chelsea Headhunters belting out their very own rendition of Blue is the Colour, Super Frank, or Blue Flag? Why were we in the Shed End… Wasn’t this their Barclay? Their Kop?
Judging by the copious amounts of stewards and police around the ground, I was expecting some kind of hostility. At the very least, a banter of chants about our respective teams. But there was nothing. No sound. The Blues weren’t singing.
But there were three thousand of us… Non stop, for the full 90 minutes, despite Ruddy’s sending off, despite the penalty, despite the score, we stood together and kept singing.
I remember looking over at the Chelsea supporters a few times during the game, and most of them were watching the sea of yellow shirts providing the sound track to their day.
And I felt proud. I felt proud of every single yellow shirt in the stadium that day.
Then I figured it out…. That’s what it is…. Rain or shine, win or lose, home or away, the fans are there, singing and standing strong together. That’s what makes Carrow Road. The fans. That’s what I fell in love with.