We all know that Monday morning feeling, but that Saturday morning feeling really kicked in for me the other day.
That first Saturday in May when there is no City match and there will not be one until pre-season friendlies engage and nothing meaningful will happen on the grass until the beginning of August. Ten whole weeks without football with points at stake. Nearly three months of torpor.
There’s not even a World Cup or Euros to ‘enjoy’ this year either. I’m one half English with a quarter each of Irish and German ancestory thrown in for good measure, but as much as I consider myself an honorary supporter of the Republic, I am English in terms of principle loyalty. The third option I have never considered, although if I were a glory hunter I suppose I might have done around 1970.
During the season, the first thing I do on a Saturday is check out NewsNow Norwich City and the Pink ‘Un on the laptop. Due to the dogs, I’m normally up before most of the world is awake, so it’s still only around 7am when I head for the newsagent to buy the EDP and The Sun.
Last Saturday morning? It’ was half nine and I hadn’t even shuffled off my butt. No incentive, I guess, and it will be the same all summer. It always is.
Then it struck me that I would also be missing my entire match day “ritual” for quite a while.
My three-mile walk to The Carra involves constants and variables in roughly equal proportion.
First up is often a quick chat with a married couple, one of whom follows Man City and the other Man Utd, if you would believe it. The phrase “glory hunter” comes to mind as both have strong Norwich accents. Nice people, though.
To follow this, there’s an exiled Binner further down the road who keeps a goose and a few ducks in his front garden. On a City A-road. He’s always good value for a quick natter – he really doesn’t rate Marcus Evans and often expresses the view that we at City have nothing to worry about in comparison with his lot. All I can ever do is agree with him.
Then after a few well-intentioned catcalls from the newsagents if I’m wearing a replica shirt, it’s off to Anglia Square after looking at the latest Jaguar I can’t afford to buy at the car lot on the main road.
When I reach the excellent emporium that is QD, I always buy a few packets of dog treats, stuff them into my backpack and head for the Wig & Pen to see if any of the Coltishall contingent are in situ. That’s a variable.
If they’re not, it’s a quick spin around the Market and then off down Prince of Wales, at almost the end of which a very nice Sri Lankan lady sells me a can of something I shouldn’t be drinking en route to the match, always asks who we are playing and says she hopes we win.
Then, it’s Morrisons. Who are these people that think they have the right to do a family shop within an hour of kick-off? Ban ’em, I say.
After eventually purchasing a bottle of water and a bag of chewy sweets, it’s time to play dodgems crossing the road, hailing a couple of people I know (variable) and then a quick word with my steward mate James, who always gives me the team news and any gossip he might have picked up. Or did until he quit and moved to Thetford (Come back Southy!).
More than once, the on-and-off bag check before the Barclay turnstile has been acutely embarrassing. My knackered but still functional Berghaus once contained cotton wool, dog treats, latex gloves, fishing line, a tin of possibly poisonous past-its-sell-by-date dressed crab and a box of ladies’ hair dye. I was purchasing to family order, honestly.
Then those stairs to the Upper Barclay are constantly there to be negotiated. Elderly people with walking aids can make that journey quicker than me because I am just useless with stairs. Always have been since I was a kid. When somebody much more advanced in years makes that comment, everybody laughs. Even me.
After the game, it’s the same in reverse, although different in its way.
Quick handshakes with our little band of brothers in the Barclay, the same with the steward on our exit gate and then the negotiaton of the cobbles towards a certain riverside hotel near the train station where a gentleman has the opportunity to expel an excess of a certain kind of bodily fluid without buying a drink in said establishment if the bouncers don’t mind allowing access.
(I’m sorry, but the vast majority of us do it if we’re honest. Anything rather than using the facilities in the Upper Barclay bar. Too dangerous, at least potentially).
Then it’s radio on, and Canary Call for the last leg home. You either laugh or cry. Sometimes both.
Decision time for tea: is it from Lidl or the City’s finest Chinese takeaway, the Kam Lee (other Chinese takeaways in Norwich are available). Or maybe something unexpected is waiting at home. Without the advent of the mobile phone, none of us would ever know for sure.
So all these mundane, one hundred per cent individual but surprisingly pleasant encounters add up to my match day experience. And I will miss them all for a good while.
And I would imagine many of our readers feel the same – especially those who go to away matches on a regular basis, and who I heartily respect.
I really do not enjoy the close-season.
I must conclude with a special mention for Sebastien Bassong’s self-effacing remarks on his departure from NCFC.
He probably, after all, had his own reasons for not joining in last week’s lap of appreciation.
Fair play to you Seb, and written like a real man. Merci et merci encore. Bon chance.