December 10 2013 Latest news:
Friday, November 1, 2013
Something has been eating away at me for too long now – and every time the issue of racism from fans hits the headlines it comes back to the fore.
I forget now when it happened, so much has passed since. I suspect it was during one of those less enjoyable seasons in Norwich City’s recent history.
Sat in the Barclay End during an otherwise forgettable game, against a forgettable team, I heard something that several years on continues to grate.
A so-called supporter called out something which was clearly negative and clearly based on the colour of a player’s skin.
I can honestly say I think it was the first time I witnessed out and out racism on the terraces at Carrow Road.
Thankfully, it’s also the last time.
So what did I do? Did I accost that supporter and point out his wrong-doing? Did I make a stand and explain to him just why it’s so wrong to make such a comment? No, I didn’t.
Did I even go and have a quiet word with a nearby steward, point out what had happened and leave it to them to deal with? No, I didn’t.
Did I leave it until I got home before putting a call into the authorities safe in the knowledge it wouldn’t come back to me? No, I didn’t.
Instead, I took the coward’s way out. I pretended I hadn’t heard anything untoward, sat back down and got on with watching the game.
I’ve felt ashamed ever since.
So why didn’t I act? That’s a question that has always bugged me.
It’s not that I didn’t realise how wrong the statement was; it was thinly veiled, but clearly racist.
And I certainly know a bit about the hurt it must cause, having suffered some minor bullying as a child for the then ginger colour of my hair. Granted it’s not on the same scale, but that provided a bit of an insight into what it must be like to be picked on just for the crime of being different.
I’ve also read many raw and emotive books on the subject, by footballers like Paul Cannoville and Paul McGrath, pictured, who had to endure such attacks and talk about the hurt it can cause.
Don’t think for a minute that players can’t hear what comes from the crowd, they clearly can. And don’t think that just because they earn more money than your Average Joe they don’t hurt like the rest of us. They do.
It’s not that I don’t condemn racism. Friends will confirm it’s a trait that I detest unlike any other.
I can only imagine that like so many in that situation I didn’t want to rock the boat. It was easier to put my head down, pretend I didn’t hear a thing – and forget about it.
Except I haven’t forgotten about it – and every time the issue of racism from fans against players is mentioned it’s at the forefront of my mind once again.
And sadly, of late, this issue has come to the fore all too often as far as Norwich City are concerned.
The fact these latest racist attacks on Chris Hughton have been made by keyboard warriors sat in front of a computer screen, rather than berating from the sidelines, makes it no more acceptable. The hurt it causes Hughton has been obvious in the press conferences where he’s discussed the matter.
It also threatens to hurt our club. Key in ‘Norwich racism’ on social media and it doesn’t take long to find people claiming the Canaries to be a club with racist fans or even a racist city as a whole.
It doesn’t matter that there’s no evidence these were even Norwich fans – mud is sticking as far as this is concerned. And who knows, that may even hurt the club’s fortunes. Will a talented black player torn between Norwich and another team be put off coming here because they perceive there to be a racism problem?
I don’t think there’s a problem of racism amongst Norwich fans, any more than there is across football as a whole. There are still some racists out there, though hopefully they are fewer in numbers than before, and they’re still finding ways to convey their filth.
I also don’t believe the answer is for Norwich fans to stay silent, like I did, concerned about the damage these incidents cause to the club’s reputation.
The most positive thing about the two most recent incidents has been how quickly the majority of people have condemned the attacks, put the racists in their place and contacted the relevant authorities.
Norwich City also deserves credit for taking a tough stance and pledging life bans.
Fronting up, re-educating, then punishment of the individual if necessary, that’s the best way to tackle this issue.
I just wish that was something I did all those years ago.
1: Rightly or wrongly I wonder whether Chris Hughton has four league games to save his job. Come the start of December we’ll be 13 games (a third) into the season. A failure to win any of the next four games would put the Canaries on a maximum of 12 points. Is that enough to satisfy a board which has shown it can be ruthless before, splashed the cash in the summer and has made its intentions this season very clear? Let’s hope we don’t find out.
2: On the subject of what happens next, I was given an interesting glimpse of how fellow fans feel via Twitter following Tuesday night’s defeat. My less than scientific poll found that around half of the 30 or so who replied to my tweets want him to go now, with only a handful coming out to fully support him and a handful more saying give it a few more games. The biggest issue amongst supporters seems to be whether there’s a suitable enough replacement out there.
3: All too often referees are lambasted for failing to apply a bit of common sense. But that’s exactly what Mike Jones did on Saturday for Leroy Fer’s ‘goal’ that never was – and I think he deserved a lot more credit than he got for the way he diffused a tricky situation. He certainly didn’t deserve the demotion handed out by his over-lords. Just six out of 10 was how the Pink Un boys rated him; very harsh indeed.
4: Please someone tell me what I’m missing, but I don’t see what Johan Elmander offers Norwich City that Luciano Becchio couldn’t, given half a chance of course. More than half a dozen games in and bar the appearance against lowly Bury I’m struggling to see what the Swedish striker brings to the party. The lack of chances afforded Becchio, a proven goalscorer let’s not forget, continues to baffle.