Terri Westgate joins us to build-up to the first home game of a new season. We all know the feeling; hope.
Football fans are a varied bunch. We are a cross section of society, and particularly at Carrow Road, a broad and diverse crowd. Optimists and pessimists, loud mouths and introverts, new recruits and veterans of the terraces. All of humankind is there.
There is one day though where we are all the same, and this is true no matter which club you support. There is a moment where even the dourest supporter will think, even when all the evidence suggests otherwise, maybe we can do it this year. It’s the first day of the season and a ball has not yet been kicked.
Every season your team is competing in a league with 19 or more teams, and you all want success. You dream about it, you demand it from the players and the board. However at the end of it all, only a handful will be celebrating. The rest will be hoping to learn from mistakes and try again next year. Some will be convincing themselves that relegation is actually a good thing for the club in the long term.
This is because football fans are fuelled by a blind loyalty. Why else would we give up so much of our time to sit or stand in the rain on the coldest days of the year, to watch our team slog out a tedious nil-nil draw?
We happily part with hard earned cash to wear our colours, emblazoned with a name of a company we’ve never heard of it. We renew our season tickets before we’re even sure what division we’ll be watching, because we are “City Till We Die”.
To be a football supporter is to throw all logic and reason to the wind. Perfectly intelligent and reasonable people who would balk at the nonsense that walking under a ladder is bad luck, will refuse to attend a home game unless they can use their “lucky turnstile”. After watching a dire defeat, you’ll sit in the pub and argue we just need a new midfielder and we’ll get back to winning ways. There is a cognitive dissonance between what you know to be true, and what you choose to believe.
So August comes around and we forget about any weaknesses in the squad. We have a pint and catch up with footballing comrades before walking in the summer sunshine to take our place in the stands. Maybe the manager has got the preparations right, new recruits will outperform and all those defensive frailties ironed out. Maybe this will be our year…
Last summer there were many Norwich fans who may have optimistically dreamed of promotion as they walked to St Andrews, or our first home game against West Brom. After that first defeat many of those dreamers would have felt the usual disappointment, and one month in there weren’t many who thought it we had much chance beyond scraping into the playoffs.
But then it all changed. The reason that all football fans have this illogical optimism at the start of every season, is because sometimes IT IS founded. Once in a decade the team DOES outperform. New heroes are found, and momentum takes the club all the way to the top.
Last season Norwich City outwitted all the pundits and bookies to win The Championship at a canter. It is a season of unexpected joy and it is imprinted forever into our memories. We know the unexpected CAN happen.
Now here we are again, on the dawn of a new season. Once more many outside the city are writing us off, their predictions based on our transfer budget and inexperience. Yet we can still feel the emotion of that magical night last April. When the final whistle was blown and our promotion was confirmed. We had done it against the odds, and we can do it again.
Hope had been given, not just to our own fans, but those of other financially challenged clubs. We proved unknown players can, in a few months, become heroes. That pre-season predictions can be just pointless folly.
The slate is now clean, the tables refreshed, and no one knows what lies ahead. At this point anything is possible. As we take our seats at Carrow Road on Saturday or jostle to see a screen in the pub, or settle on the sofa in front of the TV, an unknown adventure lies ahead. That’s what makes football so brilliant, and why we really are City ‘Till I Die.