Di Cunningham: Why City fans are in a class of their own

The home fans belt out OTBC before the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
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The home fans belt out OTBC before the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 19/12/2020 - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

A defining characteristic of Norwich fans is our singing.

The voices - always strident if not tuneful - have been further amplified in recent seasons by Along Come Norwich’s atmos’ campaign and put the support of many ‘bigger clubs’ to shame. But it’s the material we sing (when we’re losing, drawing or winning) that really sets us apart.

Of course we have the oldest football song as part of our supporter heritage with its challenge to action and skill, its call for fearless endeavour and its triumphal ‘Hurrah!’. No matter how often I sing ‘On The Ball City’ it it still makes me feel proud to be part of that choir and part of our club.

But there’s another vocal tribute that for me defines the quality of Norwich City’s fan family - not in the same league in terms of historic significance or gravitas but typical of our difference, wit and application; ‘We love you Paul McVeigh’ is simply brilliant lyrically and uniquely bucks the trend of all the other cut and paste football versions of the Four Seasons/Andy Williams number (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You).

The standard football covers start with the song’s defining ‘Dah da, Dah da, Dah da da da da and then uniformly state: ‘Oh *insert name of footballer* you are the love of my life’ (and then there’s offer to introduce the player to the singer’s partner). Ours - and massive credit to whoever crafted it - was about us; ‘We love you’, and Paul; ‘sleight of height’ maybe but the source of crosses from which ‘we score’. 

Another Canary classic of invention and ingenuity regularly meted out during our spells in the Premier League is ‘We’ve come for our scarves!’ The song along with lyrics posted on socials are guaranteed to incense United fans who re-adopted the yellow and green of Newton Heath LYR (the original identity of Man United) in their campaign protesting the Glazer take-over. 

It’s an interesting reflection on the quality of our singing (or perhaps on the limitations of football stadiums as auditoriums?) that though I’ve joined in with the chant in the past, I’d never grasped that the tune was supposed to be the Beach Boys ‘Sloop John B’ until recently.

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Equally I’ve only just learned that ‘Can you hear the Ip5w1ch sing?’ is based on Camptown Races. I’m sure there must be many younger fans who’ve never heard the original of either song and know them only in footballing form - no doubt the same will be the case for ‘Guantanamera’ (‘You only sing when you’re winning’) and for ‘Bread of Heaven’ - the hymn that provides the tuneage for countless supporter chants (‘He’s just too good for you’, ‘Shall we sing a song for you’ ‘Your support is *rather poor*’).

These days we’re as well known for Brit Pop as we we are for ‘On the Ball City’ with rousing renditions of ‘Farke Life’ home and away, so I was delighted to be part of a Twitter thread this week adapting another hit from the 90’s UK indie canon for the NCFC song book. The prospect of the imminent arrival of Dimitris Giannoulis at Carrow Road led Tom (@splutcho) to tweet ‘He came from Greece he had a thirst for Norwich’ and the alternate wording developed organically courtesy of the Canary Twitterati.

I am absurdly pleased with my own small contribution - suggesting that the titular refrain become ‘Colman People’ but chapeau to creator Tom and the other lyricists. I very much hope we’ll all have an opportunity to sing it together before the season ends.

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