Many, many words have been written and said about the atmosphere at Carrow Road. Today Thomas Markham-Uden a founding member of Barclay End Norwich explains what they have done and what can be done from here.
It starts slowly at first. Those first refrains, a few solitary voices breaking out of the body of the crowd, leading the way. Others quickly join, turning those fragmented, rasping shouts in to a rumbling chorus of support. Within seconds it's rolling across the stands, enveloping almost everyone like a foreboding mist in a broody horror film. Belted out with gusto, this is our club anthem. Our badge of honour. Our identity. Whatever travails have been and whichever ones await, in this moment we're all united. We're all Norwich and we're all proud of it.
Against Barnsley on Saturday, though, one could be forgiven for thinking that for many, this pride had been seemingly been replaced with timid embarrassment. 'On the ball, City' dwindled in to the Autumn afternoon with hardly any fanfare. Certainly nothing approaching passion.
Since helping in the formation of the Barclay End Norwich fan group, I've lost track of the amount of conversations that have taken place regarding the atmosphere at Carrow Road and, more precisely, what can be done to improve it. The standard response from many is, "play better football." This is, on the one hand, true. It is a sadly inescapable fact that for large swathes of the ground, when Norwich are doing well, they will feel more inclined to join in and cheer. They'll clap along to some of the newer songs and join in with the few they know. And this is fine. For many, many Carrow Road regulars, this is their input in to generating an atmosphere and they're quite content with it as a state of affairs.
However, it is also a sadly inescapable fact that Norwich won't always be playing well. I know, I'm as shocked as you. So, what to do when the going gets tough? This is when the team arguably needs our help the most, to galvanise them and get them over the line.
Historically, this "twelfth man" effect has been provided from the areas of the stadium considered to be the most vocal. One doesn't have to go back too many years in the grand scheme of history to see photos and videos of the old Barclay terrace, swaying with exultant passion, roaring on those on the pitch in yellow and green shirts. Even the modern, all-seater Barclay has on countless occasions acted as a focal point for those eager to lend their voices to the cause. Recently, though, that passion has been slowly evaporating, reaching a nadir in the games against Wolves and Barnsley. So what can be done?
Over the time we've been doing the fan group, along with Along Come Norwich and other fan groups such as Forces 2 Canaries and Proud Canaries, we've attempted to introduce numerous ideas in order to spark a resurgence in the noise levels. We've had countless meetings with the club, some of which have proved positive, while some have been maddeningly frustrating. We've tried to push safe-standing and ticket prices to make attending more accessible for younger fans. We attempted to build a group at the free under-23 matches - something which received almost universal approval from those in attendance - until factors beyond our control meant we weren't able to continue.
We've tried to build an organic fan culture and foster a greater identity, through stickers and flags unique to us as Norwich supporters. We've had a incredibly well attended march to the ground and attempted to introduce original songs that don't just use the same tunes that are popularised by every other fan base. We've tried to be as open and inclusive as we can to all fans; we like to think we've won a lot of people over, even if not everyone remains convinced of our methods or aims.
This isn't meant to come across as a brag about what've done. More, it's intended to highlight the fact that ultimately, despite the best efforts of everyone with a vested interest, the atmosphere inside Carrow Road is the responsibility of those who pay their money to be in the stands. Sure, the club could help by facilitating the movement of like-minded supporters in to a designated singing section, where the expectation is standing, flag waving and continual vocal backing of the team, regardless of what's happening on the pitch. This is something that we're making our number one priority to push for.
That said, if all the fans who currently occupy our traditional vocal areas made a little more effort, we wouldn't need the club to do anything. When the loudest noise during the second half against Barnsley was people in E Block ironically shouting "hand ball!" at the away fans, it's hard not to feel as if we're fighting a losing battle.
Lots of people talk a good game about improving the atmosphere. Lots of people bemoan the club, the stewards, the PA system, the big screen, the queues at the food kiosks, the price of beer, the playlist before the game, the playlist at half-time, the fact the new songs are too wordy (this last one is my personal favourite).
Ultimately, though, if you occupy a space in the Barclay, particularly D and E blocks, you need to ask yourself why? If, like me, you wanted a season ticket there because you wanted to play a part in backing the team vocally, great. However, too many have become complacent and, dare I say it, self-entitled. We have no divine right to play scintillating football every week. It would be nice, but it's unrealistic. People have season tickets inthe Barclay because it's the place to be; to be in amongst the traditionally vocal supporters, playing your part win, lose or draw. But if many of those in those areas aren't contributing, what is there to be a part of?
We'll keep plugging away at this, because we think it's important. However, we all have a part to play. If you can honestly say that you're doing your best, brilliant. If not, though, then ask yourself why. Then maybe try and start.
Second, to keep AlongComeNorwich advert free and to help us fund additional initiatives aimed at improving the Carrow Road atmosphere, we occasionally produce exclusive t-shirts/merchandise.
This time we've produced garments celebrating our rightful place as the Pride of Anglia. As always, we take no profit from these and put all the revenue back into the site and things we can all enjoy.
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