Your club chooses you. Those who are not football fans fail to understand this when they wonder why we care so much. Norwich City took me the day they lost the play-off final to Birmingham. Until then I had shown no interest in football at all, but there I was, screwed up on my bed in tears with my pillow over my head. I couldn’t be sure why, but I felt personally hurt by the team’s defeat. All-conquering Manchester United were the club I was most aware of, and all I knew was Norwich would get to play them if the penalties had gone our way. Maybe my 9-year-old self really was that shallow.
School brought me into City’s path again when I would go with some fellow pupils for a weekly visit to the club’s Study Centre at Carrow Road. I remember little about what we did in terms of study, but I do recall meeting Darren Kenton and being given two free tickets to a first team game. We beat Burnley 2-0, and looking it up now it might have been Darren Huckerby’s debut, though the significance will not have registered with me at the time.
City was gradually becoming more and more important to me. I would listen closely to Roy Waller and Neil Adams describing the games on Radio Norfolk and have long discussions about the result with my dad when he got home from Carrow Road. He couldn’t afford a season ticket for us both at the time, and I imagine he was still unsure if my interest would last, so I would only go to a few matches a season. One game I was at was a victory over the aforementioned Manchester United, complete with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. I vividly recall jumping up and down with sheer joy, grabbing my dad, struggling to believe my birthplace, Little Old Norwich, was beating these superstars. We were near the away supporters, and a police officer stood up just on the other side of the mesh that segregated us to tell an angry United fan to calm down.
When that season ended with humiliation and relegation at Fulham, I was walking around the Mile Cross estate angrily throwing my replica shirt around. In three years, my relationship with Norwich City had completed a circle. It began with painful defeat, continued on to joy and glory, and returned to despair.
There was no going back, though. This was my club.
I finally got a season ticket in 2008, sitting next to dad in the Barclay. I have had this same seat ever since, and will be sitting in it once again to witness whatever the season that’s just appeared on the horizon has to throw at City. Dad died two years ago after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and going to Carrow Road together as he began to fade away provided some vital, warm memories that I will cherish forever. The way he could tell me about a goal he’d seen City score fifty years ago even as his mind started to betray him is a symbol for me of how much this club matters.
Just over a year ago at Wembley, I was as in love with Norwich City as I have ever been. Going down to London, seeing yellow and green scarves flapping out of car windows on the way down, it felt like we were on an adventure. I have never been so proud to be from Norwich as I was that day. It was weeks before the elation of it wore off.
I cannot say that I was paying as much attention last season as I should have been. Relegation was annoying rather than devastating. I did not feel as emotionally involved in the ebb and flow of the club’s fortunes as I had before. I missed some games because I was working, I turned the radio off if we fell behind yet again in an away game, and I spent a whole half at Carrow Road texting a girl when in the past I would not have dreamed of getting my phone out during play.
There’s a guilty feeling about this. I feel as if I’m betraying an old friend by losing touch with them. I feel like I should still love the club as much as I did when I was a child. It’s not as if I don’t care, because I do. I really do. It’s just as I get older and have more responsibilities, I’ve taken my eye off the ball slightly. I figure this has probably happened to every supporter as they moved from childhood to adulthood. It’s impossible to be as obsessed with something as you were as a kid, and the sooner I realise that the less guilty I will feel.
The pride I felt when I saw Wes Hoolahan – our Wes Hoolahan - score for the Republic of Ireland at the Euros showed me that while my relationship with Norwich City has changed, it’s still my club. After all, I don’t have a choice in the matter - your club chooses you.
By Di Cunningham
What the hell has this to do with football? – a reply to Norwich City’s Facebook post on Thursday with news of its support for Norwich Pride was met with a one word shut down:
And it has. If recent law changes enshrining equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans people make it tricky to remember why Pride events are needed then look no further than a sport which has no elite male players who publically acknowledge their homosexuality.
Advances in rights and changes in public attitudes have made it easier for LGBT people to be open with family and work mates about who they love – even people in the media spotlight - even people in the sports’ media floodlight; Keegan Hirst, Nicola Adams, Tom Daley, Steven Davies.
There’s an obvious feedback cycle: as more sports professionals and celebrities come out they become role models and inspire others to be honest with themselves and others about their sexual orientation. And the openness helps, mentally and physically. A recent Stonewall study found a significant link between being ‘Out’ at work and productivity – why wouldn’t any sportsman want to perform to their maximum potential?
Last autumn the Mirror and Daily Star both announced that 2 Premier League players would ‘Come Out’ before the start of this season; there are a few weeks yet but I’m not holding my breath – no top tier male player has been openly gay since our own Justin Fashanu.
So the only role models for young gay players unconfident about asserting their sexuality (and let’s be clear we’re not talking X Rated chat here – it’s generally more a question of freedom from screening out names and pronouns in case you give away, for fear of being bullied, just who you went to a film, or spent the weekend with) are in the Women’s game; Casey Stoney and Lianne Sanderson, MLS; Robbie Rogers, Non-League – Liam Davies, or retired; Thomas Hitzlsperger.
Given the homophobic abuse routinely heard from the stands and seen on Social Media (and that’s in the absence of any confirmed gay player) it’s not hard to figure out why being closeted is preferable.
It’s clearly not only supporters who perpetuate football’s casual homophobia; the Chelsea v Spurs top of the table decider last season saw Coventry’s Chris Stokes deride players as ‘Faggots’ on Twitter, later suggesting he’d been shocked to learn what the word meant.
Ex Birmingham and Derby defender Michael Johnson who branded Homosexuality ‘Detestable’ on Nicky Campbell’s Big Question TV show is now U21s Assistant Manager at Cardiff City. And I was devastated to hear that Martin O’Neill joked at the Euros about being thought of as ‘Queer’ for spending too much time with Roy Keane. Martin O’Neill. One of the smart guys in football. One can only imagine the face palming in the Eire squad from Robbie Keane (a vocal advocate for Equal Marriage and friend of LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Rogers), and Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan who both actively supported this season’s Football v Homophobia campaign – like being embarrassed by an out of touch grand-parent maybe.
Not the sort of colleagues and support staff who foster an atmosphere promoting self-disclosure.
While Stokes received a minor rebuke and penalty from his club, and Equality Training from the English FA, the Irish FA haven’t taken issue with O’Neill and are yet to act in response to grotesquely racist and homophobic tweets made during the Euros by League of Ireland Premier Division Manager Murt O’Connor; he tweeted an image of an ape he tagged ‘Sterling’ and reported that the Orlando Massacre murderer wasn’t ‘a Straight Shooter’.
Football Authorities’ delayed and inadequate action or inaction and dismissal of abuse as banter ignores the fact that even if there are no gay players or officials there are many LGBT fans – it’s variously gauged that between 6 and 10% of the population are Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Trans, which means several thousand people at a EPL or top Championship stadium.
Increasingly groups like Proud Canaries are working with their clubs to ensure visibility and inclusion and until players (and officials) do feel comfortable acknowledging any same sex relationships publically the only sign of that community’s involvement in the game is through the fan groups.
In the season Proud Canaries launched there were 5 reports of homophobia – all were investigated and dealt with by Norwich City.
It didn’t signal a sudden increase in abuse; it simply meant that fans felt empowered to take control of the arena they pay a significant sum to sit in for 90 minutes and they believed that their complaints would be addressed.
On the pitch Norwich City have lead the way in overtly combatting discrimination with many players acting as ambassadors for the campaigns Football v Homophobia and Rainbow Laces (in the current squad Russ Martin, Steven Whittaker and Josh Murphy, Wes and Brady) plus former Canaries Robert Snodgrass, Elliott Bennett, Nathan Redmond and Leroy Fer.
Some footballers are superstitious about their kit and won’t wear Rainbow Laces however open-minded and even I wonder had Snodgrass not been wearing them on 21st September 2013 might he have scored that penalty against Villa? But then RVW was wearing them too and may …
The stripy laces are obviously not wanted in John Ruddy’s eyeline – he has never worn them but is unequivocal in his advocacy for any team mate who might come out; they’d get “nothing but full support from myself and certainly this dressing room”. Fans who’d abuse an ‘Out’ player, Ruddy said should “Take at look at themselves”.
The Board too are manifest in their commitment to promote inclusion and address prejudice – Michael, Delia, Tom and Ed all sported their FvH badges during the campaign’s fixture v West Ham in February and they, with sponsors Aviva, have literally put their (Rainbow) colours on the mast for the Hannover game this afternoon.
If any club has a model environment where a gay player might choose to ‘Come Out’ then it might be similar to that at Carrow Road, with its enlightened dressing room and Board, where the fans challenge homophobia, and where for the 8th Norwich Pride – the first to coincide with a home game - the club will be flying the Rainbow Flag because, as they say, it has everything to do with football.
By Andrew Lawn
The new season. Optimism abounds as you head down to the ground for the first time, bathed in August sunshine and surrounded by people in shiny new polyester.
Your heart quickens as you push through the turnstile and greet the steward, slightly more rotund than 3 months ago, with a quick nod. Did he always have his ear pierced?
As you squeeze through the concourse avoiding the ever increasing queue for the ladies the first strains of chants reach your ears and the nerves and excitement ratchet up another notch.
You turn into the stairwell and get a first glimpse of the pristine green pitch and the unmistakable sound of a firm but wayward shot from the opposition’s warm up whistling towards the head of an unsuspecting, programme reading first-timer.
Climbing the steps towards your row, you nod to the familiar faces from seasons past and make a note of who is missing and who is new.
Reaching your seat you exchange the traditional “Alright? How was your summer? Good to be back” with your nearest neighbours whose names you don’t know but who will hug you more times over the next 9 months than your kids.
Everything at this point is rosy. Newness is fertile ground for seeds of optimism and anticipation to flourish and their fruits are being harvested in your heart and brain as the teams emerge.
Then the game kicks off and all of that is shattered as the moron, who sits just far enough away for you to hear every word they sprout, pipes up for the first time.
You know the one. The know-it-all-know-nothing who thinks every decision is a conspiracy and every misplaced pass a sackable offence. It’s the same guy who shouts “You should’ve gone to Specsavers ref”. The guy who you can’t even escape during the summer months as he also rocks up at Wimbledon and Lords shouting “Come on Tim” to Andy Murray, or greeting every Mohammed Amir delivery with “No ball”, guffawing each time. It's the guy who makes a vocalised buzzer sound if someone gets a question wrong and points "You're the weakest link, goodbye". You know the one.
Well this year take that pain away, or at least channel it into something more enjoyable; Moron Bingo.
The rules are simple, every time Mr (or Ms) Moron chirps up with one of the following, you let out an ironic cheer and tick it off the list.
Once you have the full set (often takes less than a full 90 minutes) shout “Moron Bingo” and the win is yours.
Eyes down and ears up. Let’s play Moron Bingo.
“You musta come on a skateboard” – Normally quite early on the moron will consider the away fans. Be there 100 or 5,000 the retort is the same.
“My Nan wudda scored that” – Wrong in many regards. First off, she almost certainly wouldn’t even if she had been allowed to play, which she wouldn’t as this a men’s team. She probably wouldn’t have passed the pre-game fitness test had she got special dispensation from the FA anyway.
“Stop fannying around, git it out” - Any time the defence or goalkeeper plays a pass of less than 100 miles this is trotted out. For some reason the moron has a real aversion to any kind of possession and would much rather our back line deliver the ball immediately to the opposition’s back line, than keep hold of it themselves.
“Git it fuhwood” – Along a similar theme to the above and particularly prevalent if we’re not leading, the moron appears to believe that we have more chance of scoring if the ball is closer to the opposition’s goal, regardless of who actually has control of it.
“Git it in the box” – Like “gitting it fuhwood”, putting the ball into the box, even if it is only Wes stood between two 6’4 central defenders, is by far more preferable than recycling possession and coming back to go forward.
“Shoooooot” immediately followed by “wad he hit that fuh?” – The missed contradiction is possibly the most infuriating aspect of this one. The cry of “shoot” is not annoying in itself but if, as is likely, that shot fails to wedge itself gloriously in the stantion, the follow up “wad he hit that fuh?” should lead to immediate ejection from the ground and a possible life ban. For bonus points there is the equally infuriating; “Tek him orn” then as soon as the player is tackled “Why dit he pass fuh?”
“Wad he do that fuh?” – Subtley different from “hit”, the “do” in this implies the player in question deliberately fucked up. I have seen teams containing luminaries like Darryl Sutch, Mark Fotheringham, Raymond De Waard and Des Hamiltion and not once in my Norwich watching years have I seen a player make a deliberate mistake.
“Dut hit the fust man” – A particular bug bear of mine given my thoughts on hitting the first man generally, this was always going to feature. The additional aspect of being a) not what was intended, b) not the worst thing that could happen with a corner and c) offered long after the horse has bid goodbye to the stable makes this finger twitchingly awful.
“Git up you pouf” – The first in the list that is actually offensive rather than just annoying. It may not be meant as homophobic but the implication is clear. Sadly still prevalent whenever anyone, City player or opponent, stays down for longer than deemed necessary from 100 yards away.
“Whooooo?” – The ubiquitous greeting to any opposition substitution. You know who, they just announced it over the tannoy AND on the scoreboard.
“Sort it out Neyul” – Often it is not clear exactly what Alex Neil is meant to “sort out” when this is hollered. Often accompanying a misplaced pass, mistimed tackle, or failed interception, the utter dimness of a request for a man who was not involved to “sort out” an event that has already passed (pun not intended) is enough to make you weep.
“Wadda they wuk orn hin traynun haul week?” – Can appear at any time, but often when a throw-in is intercepted or a goal kick just clears the head of its target and sails out. Now I’m not privy to training but I’m guessing they cover more than just throw ins and given maybe 1 in 50 is intercepted, they probably have the balance right. Double points if you hear it on a Tuesday night when we also played Saturday.
“Why cart he kick ut strayt?” – Often following the above after a goal kick goes out for a throw-in. This one shows a particularly basic misunderstanding about what they are watching. For the moron the purpose of a goal kick is just that – a kick, from near the goal by the man in goal. The fact that quite evidently our big striker has gone and stood on their smallest full back and the goalkeeper is clearly trying to make full use of this advantage by hitting said man, 50 yards away, with no margin for error on one side, is apparently beyond them. It could barely be more obvious. You don’t even need to understand football to spot this, just basic pattern and shape recognition would be enough.
“Hanball ref” – This one applies only in certain circumstances so we’ll put it last. Appealing for a genuine handball is fine. Mocking the opposition after they have appealed for a ridiculous handball by shouting “handball” every time anyone else touches the ball is fine. It is those ridiculous appeals where “hanball ref” enters the realm of Moron Bingo. Typically hollered when the ball goes anywhere near an opponent’s chest or even head anywhere within their penalty box, it’s not just wrong, it’s desperate.
Let the games begin.
By Cory Varney
I’ll set the scene for you. It’s August 2009. Norwich had just toppled Wigan Athletic at Carrow Road, which capped an unbeaten pre-season. We’d won 6 of our 7 games.
I recall being excited about the signings of both Goran Maric and Simon Whaley. In Whaley, I thought we’d filled that Darren Huckerby void. A blasphemous sentiment, I’m all too aware. But regardless, I was living in Switzerland at the time and looking forward to trekking back to the UK for the opening day visit of Colchester United.
I was struggling not to be optimistic. After the disappointment of relegation to the third tier, it seemed pretty inevitable we weren’t going to come along and take to League One like a duck to water.
I was sure we were about to take it by storm, before triumphantly returning to the Championship.
In fairness, we eventually did that and then some, but still…
Norwich City 1. Colchester United 7 (SEVEN).
What did I learn? You can’t read anything whatsoever into pre-season.
The most interesting part of pre-season, the bit you can actually read into things, are Alex Neil’s post-match comments. Are we getting anywhere with transfers? Who might be on their way out? Who is injured? Who’s in the thinking for a first team spot? Which younger players are in with a chance of forcing their way through? Those sorts of things. They give us an indication of what the season ahead may hold.
3-1 defeats to Czech sides with what’s not a first choice eleven certainly don’t. Why on earth would you then go and exert energy fretting about the most meaningless of games?
Last time we were in the Championship, we had a productive pre-season. A 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo and a 5-1 triumph over Nice concluded things, though we then went on and lost our first game of the season.
Having said that, things went pretty well after that but the point is, though, the only purpose of pre-season is to get the boys fit, in shape and ready to go for that opening day of the season.
Alongside the shenanigans of friendly matches, we’ve got the tedious transfer circus rolling into town.
Ross McCormack is the current man in place dividing opinion and causing mass panic. He’s too old. He’s too expensive. Ricky should play instead – I’ve actually come across that one. We should sign Assombalonga instead.
In fairness, thanks to social media and Sky Sports, transfers have now become a daily case of will they, won’t they often growing very tedious, very fast. You also have the ITK accounts pop up like fireworks across a November night’s sky, with the vast, vast majority completely full of rubbish.
It’s a rotten egg dumped on top of a less than satisfying recipe we chomp on each summer.
The transfer ‘fun’ will stretch on in the weeks to come, but thankfully we’ve almost got some competitive football to stick our teeth into.
Have I learned anything from pre-season so far? No.
Saturday’s team to face Hannover may give us an indication of who will face Blackburn, but all in all, the first 10 or so games of the season will show us just how up for the fight this City side are and what the season may hold for us.
By Jon Punt
Pre-season. You wait all summer for the “proper” football to begin, then quickly realise the friendly fixtures we’ve organised are nothing more than an exercise in bringing fitness levels to an optimum and trying out new systems. If you’re lucky you may also see the odd youngster who more than likely will never get near the first team. Yes, the real business begins on 6 August and it can’t come quick enough.
That didn’t stop me venturing down to Carrow Road on Tuesday night though. Not because my love of the club couldn’t keep me away, more so my 7 year old daughter was promised I’d take her back at the earliest opportunity. So at a paltry pound a ticket for under 12s it was a no brainer, and a nice move on the part of the club to make football so affordable to the next generation of Norwich fans. Well played Norwich.
I’ll be honest, the moment I was looking forward to the most was having a decent look at the new giant TV screen, so when that wasn’t in place I was mildly disappointed. There is however a gaping hole conveniently positioned in front of the Holiday Inn, bridging the gap between the away fans and the Lower Barclay where I’d imagine it will be situated.
Coincidentally where my Block E season ticket won’t allow me to properly view it for the entire campaign. Oh well, half time viewings of Cam Jam’s latest howitzer on a TV screen emblazoned with local advertising, making the actual football almost indistinguishable, will just have to do. Yes, I’m a grumpy old man if you haven’t picked that up already.
The match itself was attended by over 7,500 of the Canary faithful and predictably the evening was fairly devoid of atmosphere. No great surprise for a friendly. Norwich’s first half performance was particularly strong, with a 4-2-3-1 system (or 4-4-1-1 if you want to be picky) asserting midfield dominance. A number of half chances were created without us really looking clinical, aside from Hoolahan’s wonderful strike – who knew he could kick the ball that hard?
The second half defaulted into standard pre-season mode. Substitutions made for a rather disjointed affair against youthful opposition. Its very difficult to confidently take anything away from the match but the lasting impressions were as follows:
In summary a decent workout but Saturday’s test against Hanover 96 will provide a better insight into how we’ll line up at Blackburn.
Atmosphere rating - 12 footballs (out of 100)
Performance rating – 73 footballs
Ability to blood the youngsters rating – 92 footballs
Follow Jon on Twitter @puntino
By Duncan Edwards
Ok, so he sounds like a Geography teacher that wears jeans, has an acoustic guitar in the corner of the classroom and lets the pupils call him by his first name because he's "cool".
That doesn't matter though, the decision has been made and Mr Moxey - sorry, Jez..- is our new Chief Executive. Already people are knocking their own teeth out with violent knee-jerk reactions, the poor guy hasn't even had his nameplate knocked up yet.
It was clear that we were looking for somebody with "football experience", in fact, this was a pre-requisite for everyone when it looked like Steve Stone might get the gig on a permanent basis but it seems that 21 years in the game with Stoke and Wolves is insufficient. Or perhaps it's all a bit British Rail "wrong type of snow" experience.
He has also overseen an increase in ground capacity - fair enough, they probably suffered on-field because of that expansion but he has experience nevertheless - and was an integral part of the Wolves development of a top-notch Academy facility.
Again, both things that large swathes of our fans are keen to see us press on with, youth and capacity.
Furthermore, he has been part of a club that have been taken over with external investment, an area that most seem to think is either the dream ticket to the Champions League or at the very least integral if we are to become an established top-flight team like, erm, let's go with Southampton, they should stay up.
On the face of it, he seems to tick plenty of boxes and appears a positive and progressive appointment. However, I do appreciate that Wolverhampton might not be the most glamorous of places and no doubt there'll be plenty made of us searching high and low to end up with the bloke who used to work for Delia's mate.
As with anything, it will depend on your outlook.
If you see the club through yellow-tinted shades, it looks an excellent decision - especially if we manage to retain the services of the impressive Steve Stone too.
If you see the club as a plaything for Delia Smith, this will do little to dissuade you that this is a "little Norwich" appointment of an easily malleable puppet of the board. You'll also believe he was heartily recommended by Steve Morgan over a cosy hotpot round Ettie's.
Whatever. Ultimately, if you're against the appointment, you'll end up being proved right because, like Managers, they all run out of road eventually.
For now, welcome to Norwich City, Mr Moxey, just don't start playing Oasis covers on non-uniform day.
And if it does turn out to be a wank appointment, well, at least we can start calling him Jizz.
James Chaplin's official rating
Strong pedigree steeped in football and sport in general. Improved facilities and infrastructure at Stoke and Wolves whilst keeping the books balanced. A high earner, but recently voted Championship CEO of the year. Has left both previous clubs in a better position than when he joined them. 85 footballs.
Astronomy changed my life.
I like to think of it as fishing in the sky. Your telescope is the rod, the stars and planets, they’re the fish, and your eyes… well, they’re still your eyes but you use them to see the stars and planets.
You don’t catch anything, but that’s like fishing as well, in my experience.
The only time I’ve been fishing was with Bellars and all we caught in 6 hours was an old boot, a Tamagotchi and a packet of dip-dab. Bellars reckoned that as the Tamagotchi was still alive, it counted as a successful trip, but we did the decent thing and chucked everything back in the canal anyway.
I’ve got a bit of a bad-boy reputation amongst my team-mates, mainly because I once stayed for a half of lager after a show at the Maddermarket when preseason training started the following week.
However, the truth is I’d prefer to be out on Mousehold Heath, peering up through Pamela (my pet name for my telescope) at a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse than doing shots of tequila through my eyeballs with Delia and Michael.
When I’m alone, looking up at the stars, my mind races with the possibilities of what might be out there.
Andy Marshall reckons there’s no other forms of intelligent life, says that this planet is all there is and when we blow it up with our diesel cars and burning of fossil fuels, that’ll be that and we’ll all rot in hell for eternity. I probably shouldn’t have asked his opinion during a game; I forgot he’d let the third goal in through his legs. But when we got back to the changing room at full-time, he carried on, saying that it’s much more likely that every single planet in the Universe is just an endless stretch of barren wasteland, housing nothing more than piles of grey rubble and mindless bacterium.
“Just like Ipswich,” shouted Peter Grant, jumping to his feet and laughing aggressively in everyone’s faces until they were intimidated enough to join in. At least he still had his y-fronts on for a change.
I could never tell the other lads about my hobby.
I saw how they ridiculed Sutchy when he tried explaining his idea for a new daytime quiz show. The tears welled up in his eyes like dust clouds around the moons of Jupiter. Poor fella, I thought it was a good idea, even if elephants are an endangered species.
And it’s not like the rest of them don’t have other interests outside of work; Darel Russell’s got his miniature train set, Craig Fleming’s got his reggae DJ-ing, Malky’s got his… ‘views’, Viktor Segura’s got… actually, nobody knows what that guy’s into, although big Iwan reckons he’s in the Spanish Mafia (The Spafia, he calls it).
Anyway, I was fed up having no-one to share the excitement of witnessing Saturn at opposition or the Delta Aquarids meteor shower with, so I decided to place an ad in the local paper:
“SWM (I don’t know what that stands for but all the other ads started that way) seeks LMI (Like Minded Individuals) to enjoy view of the stars. Mshld Hth (Mousehold Heath), Tues (Tuesday) 9pm”.
Unsure whether anyone would even read it, I settled myself down in my usual spot at the highest point of the heath and began setting up my telescope on its stand. However, no sooner had I finished tightening the final screw into Pamela’s R.A. lock knob than I heard a rustling sound behind me.
I turned and watched as a shadowy figure slowly emerged from a bush. It shuffled its way up the slope towards me, the moonlight illuminating it as it got closer.
It was a small man, grubby and unshaven, his hair a thinning mop of dirty-blonde, spaghetti strands, his eye-balls rolling upwards, revealing red tridents of broken blood vessels. Oh yeah, and he had no trousers on. Or pants. Friendly bloke though.
“Hello,” I said, holding out a hand, higher than was necessary. “Are you here for the stargazing?”
He grunted and kept approaching, but refused to shake (my hand - he was shaking his though). “I saw your advert,” he drawled lustily, clearly overexcited by a fervent love of astronomy.
“Good,” I said, feeling slightly uneasy about his exposed... ‘dwarf planet’. “I tell you what, why don’t you put your trousers on and come and help me look at Jupiter.”
He shook his head. “Why don’t you take your trousers off and let me have a look at Uranus,” he said, putting the emphasis on the U and the R.
With that I realised he must have been a novice. “It’s nearly impossible to see Uranus,” I told him.
He stopped, craned his neck around and began trying to look down the length of his own back. “You’re right,” he said. “We’re gonna need a mirror.”
“Anyway, we can both have trousers on and look at Jupiter, maybe even Mars if we’re lucky,” I said firmly and then felt a pang of guilt for chastising him. He was my guest after all. “Would you like a go on my telescope?”
That did the trick: he lurched towards me, a smile lighting up his face. I flinched and turned away, his pointy asteroid was heading straight for me, but, as with a solar eclipse, I refused to look directly at it.
“Henry, get back here right now,” shouted a woman’s voice from down the slope. “You haven’t finished with me yet”
The man gasped and halted in his tracks. With a groan of disappointment, he released me from his grip, swung around and slouched back towards the rustling bush from which he had emerged a minute earlier.
“I thought we agreed the rules,” said the shuddering bush in a reprimand as he disappeared back inside.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but my respite was to be short-lived.
The peace and quiet of the night began shattering around me, the chirp of crickets replaced by the low mutterings of my fellow astronomers. I looked around at the horizon of trembling shrubbery before me; the vegetation seemingly communicating with each other in male and female Norfolk accents.
Nude men and women, apparent strangers, began pairing up, then disappearing back into the sanctuary of the scrubland, presumably to get a better look at Orion’s belt.
I was glad my advert had touched people, but now people were touching people. And there wasn’t a telescope in sight.
I’d heard that astronomy enthusiasts were a bit ‘out there’, but this was off the chart. I vowed to go back to stargazing alone from then on and began to pack away my things.
Tiptoeing quietly down the pathway, I found my options of where to tread limited by the thicket of amorous couples enjoying the view of the stars (although I was sure some of them wouldn’t have even been able to see the stars from the positions they were in). I closed my eyes when possible but their hedonistic groans echoed painfully around my ears. Some people must have really been enjoying the full moon.
“Lee,” called a familiar voice, just as I had reached the foot of the hill.
Reluctantly I turned back. At the bough of an old maple tree, an upside-down man was beaming with joy, from beneath the raised skirt of a large, topless woman. It was Viktor Segura.
“Hi Viktor,” I said, forcing a smile and focusing intently on his eyes. “I didn’t know you were into astronomy, too.”
“Oh yeah,” he grinned, his face coming towards then away from me, in accordance with the thrusts of his pelvis. “If you calla thees astronomy, then I’ma into eet!”
So much for the ‘Spafia’, Iwan, I thought, deciding at once to give fishing another chance.
By Neil Thomson
Many people can remember every aspect of their first match, the year, the opposition, the score, maybe even the starting eleven.
I was 5 or 6 when I took my first steps through the turnstile and in to Carrow Road.
I don’t remember much about the game itself which I think was against Arsenal. I vaguely recall a goalkeeper with a dark bowl haircut (maybe John Lukic) and a guy who was a cut above anyone else on the pitch (which may have been David Rocastle).
The thing that caught my eye was what was happening in the stands. The singing and swaying of the old Barclay terrace is definitely the single biggest contributor in me falling in love with this great club.
I remember the songs going back and forth between the two sets of fans, the incredible volume when OTBC was sung and the one song that really stuck in my memory from that day was hearing “The referees a wanker” for the first time.
I turned in disbelief as the entire Barclay screamed profanity en masse, to see my teenage brother and cousin laughing and telling me to put my fingers in my ears.
I’d started that day being dragged away from my toys, probably kicking and screaming, and ended it as a fully-fledged Norwich City fan and I wouldn’t shut up about it. Many would probably tell you that I haven’t stopped talking about Norwich ever since.
I’ve seen three decades worth of games since and my love has never wavered, especially my love for the antics in the stands.
In the mid-nineties, I got my first season ticket in the Barclay with a few friends from school and although our tickets were for the front of C block, we often stood at the back of E block against the will of the stewards, until we finally moved our tickets back there permanently a season or so later.
You see, it has always been about the atmosphere for me. If the atmosphere is dull at a game, I’m far more upset about it than if we lose but had a good sing song in the meantime.
I, along with many friends around me on a match day have contributed plenty of new songs to the Norwich terraces over the years. Some have become Barclay favourites, others have fallen flat on their face, some are still in the locker and may never even get an airing.
It’s not just my beloved E Block that get songs going of course, many others from other areas of the ground have contributed to our repertoire, especially at away games. Some songs are brilliant and never take off, others have been terrible but are welcomed with open arms (Gary O’Neill’s last season for instance).
Personally, I love a song with some originality, maybe with a tune taken from the continent that most clubs haven’t quite caught on to yet. However, what I’ve found over the years is that for some reason, Norwich fans tend to play it safe. The songs that tend to take off quickly are ones that are being sung by every club and their dogs, which is a little disappointing for me.
We’ve been persistent with some of the more original ones and they’ve taken off eventually.
When Dave, Tom and I started the Barclay End Projekt in 2013, we saw the games at the U21’s as a potential chance to introduce some new songs, and with the popularity of that small section when the club started offering free tickets, we took the chance wholeheartedly.
Numerous new songs, and friendships, came out of those few U21’s matches and I hope that it leaves a lasting impression on some of the younger fans that went along to those games in the same way that (possibly) Arsenal game did with me.
When I was first asked to write something for ACN, I was asked to help provide suggestions for songs for new players and the like, and I may have a few suggestions in the future, but for now I’ll just offer some advice;
If you’ve got a song suggestion, be brave and go for it. Sing it in the pub, the train, the coach, the stands or wherever you and your mates may be on a matchday.
People may laugh at you, others may join in, but just remember you could be responsible for the next “Moroccan All Over the world” or “We love you Paul McVeigh”.
Enjoy yourself and create the best atmosphere you possibly can for our team.
And if you can….. Be original, even if it’s only for my own satisfaction.