I planned to write a sage column about travel and the human spirit. But let’s talk about Brighton first.
Though not quite as Siberian as I remember Easter bank holidays in Yarmouth, the South Coast weather last weekend was miserable , as was the discovery that Row C on the ticket really meant Row C – a worm’s eye view of the game to endure in the constant drizzle. And yet, Saturday and Sunday somehow became infused with a warm glow, and those seats in Row C proved perfect as Super Bradley Johnson celebrated face-to-face with us.
Reluctantly stepping back from those thoughts, I wish I could say that travel always broadens the mind. It sometimes does, gloriously. But other times it makes us pine for the familiar and well-loved comforts of home.
Engaging with fans of other clubs is much the same. Everyone should try it but it can be a less than happy experience. I recently fell out with a few Watford fans (a bit unfortunate, as I live there) when I lambasted one of their players for getting an opponent sent off by rolling around clutching his face after the mildest of contacts with his chest.
They came back with scathing criticism of our beloved Wes for diving to get a penalty at Vicarage Road. I retorted that if they thought that was a dive, they should take a look at their on-loan player who won the penalty for Millwall against us. And so on…
Fortunately we stopped short of bricks through the window and an appearance before the local magistrate (which might have been all right actually as he’s a Norwich fan).
Often though talking to fans of other clubs can be enjoyable and illuminating. After all, our different perspectives are less important than the fundamental thing we have in common.
And it can be good for our self-awareness. However much some of us pretend to take a reasonable and mature view of games, talking to other fans reminds us that we are utterly and magnificently biased. When we get ‘the rub of the green’, we raise a mild eyebrow and move on. When it goes against us, we’re scandalised.
If anyone is now thinking “I don’t remember anything important going for Norwich”, let me take you back back to two defining April days under Paul Lambert:
1) April 17, 2010 vs Charlton (a) – The glorious day of Michael Nelson’s goal, which put the trauma of League One behind us. The truth is we were battered that day and barely got out of own half. To this day Charlton fans can’t believe they lost that game, and they have (in the argument, if not in the game) a good point.
2) At risk of heresy and calls for this to be my last column – April 25, 2011: Simeon Jackson and that 95th minute goal to defeat Derby and propel us towards the Premiership. It was an immortal piece of Radio Norfolk commentary but in truth the goal wasn’t just scruffy, it was fortuitous. Simeon, and all of us, got lucky.
While I contest some of the criticism of Chris Hughton, no-one can deny that City’s travelling army were served meagre fare last year – this season’s eleven away wins, and counting, are a well-deserved recompense.
Before Brighton, my last away game was at Millwall. Three outstanding memories of that day: City’s clinical 25 minutes that put the game to bed, the unprintable but fine chant about who put the ball in the Millwall net and the complete feeling of physical safety.
No, that’s not a misprint. It was the polar opposite of a visit to Cold Blow Lane in the Eighties and Nineties, where ‘enemy territory’ was a literal rather than rhetorical description.
The feeling of safety this time came from two things: the iron cage that surrounds away fans from South Bermondsey station to the ground, and the complete apathy of Millwall’s normally ‘enthusiastic’ following. Not sure I’d actually like to meet him, but I couldn’t help admiring the one fan who, on his own in an otherwise deserted section, managed to hurl abusive words and gestures at us for an unbroken hour. As I recall, even he gave up at 4-0.
So, some happy travelling. And a bonus at the Amex, in chance meetings with four MyFootballWriter columnists. Still to be convinced that Gary Gowers actually exists, though…