2018 has been quite the year for a number of reasons. Here's Thomas Markham-Uden from Barclay End Norwich on how he kind of fell back in love with Norwich City....
Reviews of the year are often quite difficult to write; picking over the highs and lows from the previous twelve months, fondly recalling the positives while promising ourselves that we’ll try and learn from the negatives. For lots of people, it might not actually be the most pleasant of experiences. Despite cautious optimism being a character trait I’m often told I possess, if you had told me at the tail end of 2017 that twelve months later I would be typing out such a positive recap of City’s fortunes, I would have been highly sceptical. Yet here we are: 2018, the year I fell back in love with Norwich.
I should state early doors that this last statement is slightly disingenuous. I never really fell out of love with Norwich, not properly anyway. However, a run of seasons which saw some pretty average football on the pitch and some pretty galling decisions off it, had left me feeling disconnected from, and slightly resentful toward, the club as a whole. Shoots of improvement took root at the beginning of last season, but it wasn’t until the early days of 2018 that things truly clicked and began to grow. When Jamal Lewis headed that equaliser into the net at Stamford Bridge, something clicked. There had been flashes previously, but at that moment a collective sense of togetherness took hold. We were in this as one; players, board, fans. This connection is what’s rekindled my affinity with my club.
A review of on-pitch matters will probably be covered in other places, often by actual paid journalists, and to be honest you shouldn’t need reminding of how joyous, exhilarating and wonderful our football has been this season. That being said, the collective desire to never give up, to never stop fighting for the Norwich cause, that this group of players has shown has certainly gone some way to building a bond between players and fans which is the strongest it has been for some time. I said on Twitter recently that this squad is the most likeable in years and I truly believe this goes a long way in showing fans their passion and love for the football club is reciprocated by those pulling on a yellow and green shirt.
Passion and love for the club were, indeed still are, two of the primary reasons why we started the Barclay End Norwich fan group. Our desire to create a united fan culture at Norwich has never subsided, but I’ll admit it’s not always been plain sailing. Met with ambivalence from those in charge at the club, from many in the stands, and topped off by ambivalent performances out on the pitch, our progress began to feel like one step forward, two steps back; achieving our aims feeling increasingly unobtainable.
Many will no doubt equate the recent successes with the atmosphere initiatives with our good football, but this misses so much of why things have begun to take off to a greater extent. The effort of the players, as previously mentioned, is certainly one factor. That we have a team who have bought into the ethos of the current set up is massive, in so much as the relationship between players and fans is transactional: we respond to the players efforts, who in turn respond to ours.
Having a regime at the club who are in the main supportive of our efforts has also been invaluable in allowing our work to grow. Yes, things aren’t perfect and both sides continue to learn and reflect on how we can move forward, but gone are the days when our efforts were dismissed out of hand based on the dogmatic attitudes of some club staff. We’d keep banging the drum about what we want to do regardless (I appreciate the irony of this last sentence!), but I’d be lying if I said that feeling a sense of acknowledgement from the club for our efforts didn’t go a long way in helping us feel energised for our 2019 plans.
Finally, the support of our fellow fans over the past year has emboldened us perhaps more than anything else in pushing this thing of ours forward. We got to collaborate with Proud Canaries on the Justin tribute banner (which, as a queer football fan, was also huge on a personal level), engage with The Canaries Trust and other fan groups on wider fan issues and most impressive of all, we set up a crowdfunder scheme which was overwhelmingly supported by so many of you. Us and Along Come Norwich put a hell of a lot of work into the planning and execution of our match day activities, but there is no way it would continue to grow exponentially from game to game without the support of the wider Norwich fanbase. Every time one of you helps us out with the flags, holds up a scarf as the teams come out, or comes up to one of us in the ground to say, “well done” you make what we’re trying to do worth it.
What strikes me is that actually, 2018 was the year that I felt represented by the football club I’ve always loved. The year when I felt a stronger connection with those on the pitch, those behind the scenes and those around me in the stands - and across the globe - than ever before. At its essence, that what makes supporting a football club special; the connection. For a while, supporting Norwich felt unrequited and one-sided, but 2018 changed all that. My one hope for 2019 is that this connection intensifies still further, because at the moment I’m putting more effort in to this club than ever before and my love for it has never been stronger.
While you're here.....
Along with our friends at Barclay End Norwich, we've put a new exclusive badge on sale. Links below, all profits are going straight into the crowdfunder for the flags....