By Andrew Lawn
Anyone who knows me, follows me on twitter, or sits (stands) near me at Carrow Road will know I am a huge fan of football chanting. I even wrote a book on it (shameless plug).
I have been a season ticket holder in Block D of the Lower Barclay since I stopped sitting on my dad’s knee in turnstiles whilst he worked as a steward.
The atmosphere, the singing, the mutual ridicule and the sheer power of collective noise is the thing that I derive most enjoyment from – even more than the football most of the time.
While football fandom is often compared to a religion, it is chanting that creates and sustains the powerful bond between fan and club, and fan and fellow fan.
It also makes me feel part of the occasion and, part of the subsequent success or failure of my team. We can either go along to Carrow Road and watch us try and beat Sheffield Wednesday, or we can go along and help them beat Sheffield Wednesday. The choice is each of ours.
Wherever you sit, or attempt to stand, at Carrow Road you play a part in what happens on the pitch. Individually the effect is small, although a small effect can spread, but collectively the effect is massive and it can be positive or negative.
First the positive; a loud, proud Carrow Road will give us a massive additional edge this season, as it has in other seasons. Think back to games when Fortress Carrow Road was at its best.
The first one that struck me was the 2-0 win over Stockport to clinch our late play-off place back in 2003 and the subsequent home semi-final against Wolves. Both games saw Carrow Road louder than I had ever previously known it (I started going regularly in about 1994). Both games were nervy affairs, but ones in which the noise drove the players on to big wins. We didn’t panic when Wolves took the lead in the first-leg of that semi – a game we went on to win 3-1.
Or remember Simeon Jackson’s late late show against Derby. We didn’t boo when Derby kept pegging us back that April afternoon, we kept the faith and the team kept going.
Also fresh in the memory is the cauldron we created for the games against Ipswich 18 months ago. Both games were tight for a long time, until a Bradley Johnson rocket set us on the way in the league and magical little Wes (and Redmond/Jerome) took us to Wembley via the play-offs.
The atmosphere at each of those games was electric; a heady mix of tension, desire, passion, hope and, in most cases, joy. It was also loud, vibrant and encouraging and in each case we got our reward.
The club have tried – and in my opinion failed – over the last few seasons to help replicate those atmospheres with clappers. Whilst clappers, undoubtedly create noise and encourage participation, my own view is that they are counter-productive, creating a theatre-style atmosphere rather than a football one.
Counter-intuitively I think the aim is not to create 4 sides of intermittent noise, instead we should focus on 1 or 2 areas of constant backing.
At Carrow Road, we have two natural atmosphere driven areas: the Lower Barclay and the Snakepit. Let’s make the most of those.
The Barclay End Projekt is a great start, aiming to bring the entire Lower Barclay together as one with new songs, tikka-tape, flags and hopefully forthcoming choreographed displays commemorating big wins or gaps that we have minded. This is something we can all get behind and support.
The next big-step is dedicated standing areas, which are already in place at Palace and Cardiff, amongst others or ideally safe standing, as has been installed this season at Celtic.
By designating an area for standing, you solve the problem of people wishing to sit and not being able to see and those who want to stand without objection.
Safety is obviously a concern, but if it can be done elsewhere safely and Celtic are this season proving it can, it can be done here. I nominate the Lower Barclay blocks C-E as an initial trial.
The crowd are often called the 12th man but for this to be true, we need to all take responsibility as individuals within the crowd to play our part in helping the team win.
Be positive. Don’t be anxious and panicky as this undoubtedly transmits to the team. And whatever you do, don't motivate Gary Hooper before kick off with a chorus of boos. Instead, we've forgotten all about him. It'd be much more powerful to confuse him before kick off than rile him up after all.
One of the arguments you frequently hear whenever anyone calls for fans to create a better atmosphere is that the crowd need the players to lift them. Bollocks.
Anyone who stood in either the Barclay or any away ground concourse towards the end of last season can attest to how many times that Gary O’Neil song was sung pre-game. Nobody needed the players to lift them for that. Just bring your concourse voice into the stand tomorrow evening, where it actually makes a difference and leave your excuses down there.