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Lee Payne: Miracle of Millwall is why fans invest in football

PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 November 2018

City fans celebrate their astonishing victory against Millwall. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

City fans celebrate their astonishing victory against Millwall. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

I have the privilege of writing this column after the most ridiculous game of football I have ever seen.

Norwich City’s incredible 4-3 win against Millwall on Saturday was the most dramatic ending to a match I have ever seen in the flesh, and it has taken that title from the 3-2 victory against Derby in 2011. The wild celebrations that met Teemu Pukki’s 97th minute winner reminded me very much of those that erupted when the ball bounced in off Simeon Jackson seven years ago.

Back then, Jackson’s goal put Norwich within touching distance of the Premier League. This time, the last gasp heroics merely put City top of the Championship (I love saying that) going into the third international break. There’s a long way to go but the positive vibe is flowing like it hasn’t done in a long time.

Incidentally, there are some lovely similarities between those two goals. Jackson’s was all but the last kick of the game - as was Pukki’s. Jackson’s goal prompted a large huddle of Norwich players to form in front of the Snakepit - as did Pukki’s. Oh how great it would be if this season ended in a similar way to 2010-11.

It is not the game itself, however, that I wish to talk about in the main.

There will have been no shortage of words written about it without me adding to the pile. It just so happens that the drama of Saturday fits in beautifully with what I had been planning all along.

Recently I found myself in a conversation with someone who doesn’t like football. They could not understand why we all care so much about it. As football fans, we can’t understand how people could NOT be obsessed by it.

For me, it is a matter of pride. I am very proud to be from Norwich, and have never been ashamed to tell people this fact. It’s not perfect, but it is home. And Norwich City represent my home. Winning games of football shows where I come from in a positive light. That is why I care at the most basic level.

It might be a controversial statement, but I’m not sure I love football for the game itself.

There are many people who are far more invested in it than I am. I never played the game beyond Under 13 level due to a chronic lack of ability, talk of tactics leaves me cold and I’m not the sort of person who will go and stand in the cold to watch a non-league game on a Saturday when Norwich aren’t playing.

However, sat in the Barclay on Saturday, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions that you just don’t get anywhere else. Football does that. I went from absolutely gutted to completely elated in the matter of five minutes, and games like that are worth every penny of the ticket price.

I think as human beings we are all searching for the highs that the majority of the people inside Carrow Road felt at the end of the Millwall game.

It’s such a simple sport and I think that’s why it is so popular.

It’s a national obsession that anyone can understand and nearly everyone can play but it takes an elite athlete to master it.

I’ve found football has started more conversations and connected me with more people than anything else in my life. To some people I’m not Lee, I’m That Norwich Fan. And that’s why I care.

There are, of course, things that I wish were different about football. And while I have done by best to explain why I personally am so invested in the beautiful game, I have given up trying to convert people who haven’t been bitten by the bug to start clapping at the award of a corner. You either get it or you don’t. I am so glad I do.

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