Yesterday's fierce debate about whether the Barclay should be reserved for those who sing, and those alone, got Terri Westgate thinking. Here's her thoughts on how City's most vocal stand needs to take a trip down memory lane....
Let me start by confessing I am old skool. I may look like a fresh-faced cherub, particularly with the right Snapchat filter, but I’ve been attending matches at Carrow Road since 1990. My first season ticket was on the Barclay Terrace. Despite being slightly vertically challenged, I chose to stand there rather a comfy seat elsewhere because of the atmosphere.
I am not a quiet person. From within this diminutive stature a booming voice originates. I have a laugh (I am told) that cuts through a packed and chattering pub, and I have been known to drown out a karaoke singer without the need of a microphone. The latter is not pleasant, as though I have been blessed with volume I am also tone deaf and always flat. Hence why I’m not a soprano.
Over the years I have been criticised or gently teased about this attribute, but on the steps of the terrace I found my home. I could yell, shout, sing and chant at top volume and no one would disapprove. And what better way to deal with the frustrations and joys of a football match? There’s a primal pleasure in laying out the emotions bare, channelling all the tension, whilst also demonstrably supporting your team. It’s liberating. Even when the result doesn’t go your way.
Recent concerns about the poor atmosphere at Carrow Road have resulted in much chin-stroking about how this can be improved. Although myself and my comrades at the back of the Barclay have continued to destroy our voices each game to try improve things, it’s noticeably quieter than it used to be. There isn’t just one reason for this, and therefore not just one solution.
Attitudes have changed; we called ourselves supporter because we came to give our support to the team. Some now come just to be entertained, and if they aren’t they become disengaged. (Personally I shout louder if things aren’t going well, to try and lift the team – meaning on occasions I can barely speak by the time of the final whistle.) Also a disillusionment with the team or how some aspects of how the club is run, affects the level of enthusiasm some arrive with to the match. Maybe as well the proliferation of football across satellite TV means people are more inclined to sit passively watching, than to get to their feet and join in.
I bristle at the thought of a “singing section” being introduced. Partly because to us old-timers that’s exactly what The Barclay always was, but also because it feels forced and tacky – reminiscent of when Fulham had a neutral end. Also I appreciate not everyone is as gobby as me, and I don’t see why my quieter friends should have to sit elsewhere in some kind of vocal apartheid. Banners, flags, inflatables do create more vibrant surroundings, but are unlikely to maintain that over 90 minutes and 46 games.
When I think back to my football supporting days of the 90’s, both good times and bad, it felt like the supporters were a unit rather than a collection of individuals. Not to get all socialist on your ass, but The Barclay was an identity, rather than the name of a stand. It was our job to get behind the team, through thick and thin, and we were proud to do it. That’s what we need to rediscover.
Yes we would still moan in the pub or on the way home afterwards, and spout our opinions about what went right or wrong. But during the match, for that hour and a half, we were there to will that ball into the net. There is no magic formula. The atmosphere is created by the fans; the more of those at the ground who join in, the better it will be – however you choose to take part.
I will continue to stand with my fellow old skool Barclay Enders next season, and I will yell myself hoarse on many occasions no doubt. Hopefully in this new era, with the team and club revitalised, others will feel enthused to join us and we will get the Barclay rocking again. OTBC!