Chris Goreham: How City fans have the ability to pop up anywhere and everywhere
PUBLISHED: 09:47 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:47 31 July 2018
I may be a Johnny-come-lately to the great Norfolk Day party but there was one aspect of life in this wonderful county that wasn’t properly celebrated during the overdue pat on the back that we gave ourselves last week.
Not enough was made of the great skill that Norfolk people have of popping up anywhere in the world bar Norfolk.
Following Norwich City away from home means that slinging a red knapsack on a stick over the shoulder and heading off into the sunset for an adventure is a regular occurrence.
Seeing as the rest of England has decided to distance itself from Norfolk, there is no such thing as just popping out to a Norwich City away game. Every single fixture has to be approached and organised like a voyage of discovery and yet, wherever they play, no end of Canary Christopher Columbuses turn up to watch.
This was illustrated perfectly earlier this month when I kissed goodbye to my family and headed for a place called Barsinghausen in Germany.
Having only learnt of its existence a few days earlier when it was announced as the venue for a pre-season friendly between Norwich City and Wolfsburg I plotted a course that involved driving to Stansted, getting on a cheap flight to Bremen, undertaking a two hour train journey and then a 50-minute rail replacement bus ride. Yes, that’s right, a rail replacement bus sevice in Germany.
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First they go out of the World Cup in the group stages and then the discovery that their train service isn’t always 100 percent efficient. What an appalling summer it has been for those of us who deal in national stereotypes.
Having said that, the entire return journey on the train/bus cost about £25 which might just get you to Ipswich and back on Greater Anglia at peak times, but I digress.
The eight hour journey on trains, planes and automobiles ended outside the ‘Rathaus’ (I knew those lessons at Sprowston High School would come in handy one day) in the small town of Barsinghausen. The August Wenzel Stadium was a ten minute walk away.
As I rounded the corner towards the ground some familiar faces emerged from a side road. It was a group of yellow-shirted Canaries who were chirping away about the week they’d had following City and their under 23 side on tour.
If I was Phileas Fogg then my hot air balloon suddenly had a slow puncture.
Going to just one pre-season match on foreign soil was a poor effort compared to the most hardcore City supporters who had, as usual, planned their entire summer around their favourite football team and good luck to them.
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The camaraderie that grew with each new Norfolk accent in the one stand at the tiny tree-lined ground was stronger than anything ever forged on a cruise ship or Club 18-30 holiday.
One of the number was the great Lil Kemp whose commitment to the Canary cause saw her named fan of the year last season.
Now in her late 80s, Lil is manner from heaven for people like me in search of great characters to talk to on a microphone.
She takes her pre-season seriously. The performances of the players in Germany would help her decide which name and number should be given the honour of adorning her brand new replica shirt.
But what had she done in Germany in between Norwich matches?
“Yesterday we went to watch Stoke play Bochum,” Lil told me. “Stoke were rubbish.” Steady on Lil, you can’t dismiss teams in pre-season.
Mind you, we used to say that Germany could never be written off in World Cups. I’m so confused. That’s what leaving Norfolk too often does.
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The real stuff may begin on Saturday but watching Norwich City in pre-season has already thrown up just as many questions as answers.
Having seen them lose 1-0 at Charlton in the final friendly at the weekend the main concern for me wasn’t that they lost to League One opposition, that they failed to score or that Norwich gave the ball away too often.
It’s been pre-season for the reporters too and the most alarming factor came from seeing the Canaries’ new third kit. I am in no place to make any sweeping fashion statements about the lime green, tennis ball coloured strip but the decision to put white numbers rather than black ones on the back of the shirts gave me one or two identity problems during the game. I know my eyes are bad but not being able to read the numbers is a commentator’s anxiety dream.
I also have left The Valley with a question about whether Norwich City’s new goalkeeper Tim Krul is the superstitious type.
When the teams came out before kick-off there was something strange about the Norwich line-up. After a few seconds it dawned on me that it was odd to see a goalkeeper as the last man out of the tunnel.
Usually the keepers are second in line behind the captain. Has Krul already fallen out with Grant Hanley, is he just shy around his new team mates or is something else at play? A quick internet search has proved fruitless.
The other point of note to emerge during the phony war of friendlies was to wonder whether the signing of Jordan Rhodes points to a canny new transfer policy at Carrow Road. It felt like I had commentated on the former Ipswich striker scoring regularly against City in recent seasons and sure enough three of Rhodes’ last eight Championship goals for Sheffield Wednesday have been against Norwich.
If you can’t beat them then get them to join you. There can be no better way of ending such a run.
If only Chris Hughton could have done something similar during his spell as Norwich City manager. If he’d been able to sign Luis Suarez from Liverpool then he may still be in charge of the Canaries in the Premier League today.