This column may ruffle a few feathers; I am completely comfortable with that.
Unfortunately, throughout my life I seem compelled to state my honest opinion… some would argue far too often. But whatever facet of life we’re focusing on – whether it be relationships with your loved ones, politics or simply going to the football and how we behave whilst there – I feel the best way to work through any differences is to start with honesty over how you’re feeling about a situation.
With consideration, tolerance and a bit of negotiation I think you can solve most problems. And this includes the current concerted effort to ‘bring the fans together’ or, more to the point, bring everyone closer – fans, players, coaches, other staff, the local media, fan sites and the entirety of what makes Norwich City Football Club.
That whole issue fizzed out on Twitter quite heatedly last night. If you didn’t see it or aren’t social media savvy, it was regarding whether fans should be forced to sing in the Lower Barclay or somehow be made to move elsewhere in the stadium.
Let’s get this out on the table straightaway – that is a ridiculous standpoint to take and exactly the kind of divisive attitude that will continue to drive a wedge between Norwich City fans with different standpoints on what is their ideal match day experience.
As far as I can see, it was ignited someone lamenting the atmosphere as being at an ‘all time low’ at Carrow Road. Although I fully respect another Norwich fan’s right to voice an opinion (the beauty of Twitter) I think it’s fair to say that is hyperbole.
Did you people who talk of terrible atmospheres watch any games under Rioch? Hamilton? That was terrible and I’ll tell you why… the ground was half empty. Between 15,000 or 16,000 was a usual turnout in the late 90s.
This was of course before the Jarrold was built but I vividly remember being at games with my Grandad Vic and older brother Joe, where we’d be playing someone like Tranmere, or Stockport or Bolton and it’d start raining. As a result we’d get up from the front row of Lower Barclay and make our way 6 or 7 rows back at least, to get a bit of shelter. The place was genuinely half empty, and we’ve only really been getting full houses since we got promoted in 2004. At times under Roeder and Hughton watching games felt like a chore.
This notion that the atmosphere is dreadful is simply inaccurate. We’ve had far worse, and we’ve had far better.
The first tweet I saw on my timeline started with: “As someone involved in a supporters group, I would like to state…” and immediately I thought to myself ‘oh here we go’ because I have an issue with this kind of fan at sports clubs.
I’m happy to be told otherwise, and this is not a personal attack on anyone, but the way that language is constructed says to me – and it’s a theme I’ve noted for many years – that some fans think their opinion means twice as much as that of other fans. That’s plain wrong in so many ways I don’t have the word count to explain.
Part of a supporter’s group? Good for you. Go home and away every single season? Hats off to you, genuinely. But please don’t start telling me from the mythical moral high ground how you are more passionate or a ‘better’ fan than me. It comes across as quite an ugly mannerism and is no way to solve the atmosphere problem.
As dedicated MFW readers will know, I’ve had many disagreements with the esteemed Mick Dennis over numerous issues at the club in the past but I must say, he is absolutely spot on with what he said last night.
Who do these people think they are? To say what I or anyone else should do when at the game? You don’t own the Lower Barclay. You don’t have exclusive rights to sit there. You don’t tell people to bugger off if they don’t want to constantly sing and bounce up and down whilst standing up.
This is not the Dortmund Wall. Why the incessant need to try ram this behaviour down other fans throats? If you want to do that, fine with me. I’d be peeved if someone was screaming in my ear for the entire 90 minutes or got landed next to someone with a drum (sign of a tinpot club I’d say) but I’m not going to start telling you how you should behave.
As it happens, most games I go to I do give it large – especially the away games like Blackburn and Newcastle – where it was electric. But some games I might be sporting a rugby injury and want to sit down, just want to observe, or I’m simply not in a raucous mood.
I don’t think a parent would be too impressed with continued foul language either and if you’re a fully-grown man or woman letting off flares… grow up. I do remember however walking around my Mum’s house at about eight years old bellowing: “The referee’s a w***er!” without knowing what it meant. Needless to say I got pulled up on that!
Another thing that used to happen as a kid at Carrow Rd was that I would get dropped back off at my Mum’s stinking of cigarette smoke; I couldn’t do anything about it as that’s just what people chose to do before the smoking ban. Now putting this into the singing context…. would you force someone else to smoke a cigarette if you decided you quite liked to and it was part of your perfect day? No of course you wouldn’t.
Do you know the number one thing that makes for a cracking atmosphere? Winning games. Simple as that.
Mick Dennis is right to say that not every game can feel like a Derby County 2011. I was privileged enough to be working in the press box that afternoon- as an RNIB volunteer commentator audio describing to blind and partially sighted fans within the stadium.
They all had headsets, and instead of having a summariser going off on a tangent like commercial football commentary, we were trained by the BBC in audio description, which basically meant we were more detailed in telling the listener exactly where the ball is on the pitch, and if the manager has kicked a water bottle in the dugout or how many away fans have made the journey.
It was an incredibly humbling moment to be told via feedback give to the club that it had enhanced some fans match day experience. One chap said how he was now able to really join in with the post-match pub discussion as he had a better idea of what was going on. Another commented that what sticks out in the memory was a 94yr old gent whose sight had started to deteriorate, and he was struggling to make out names on the players backs and that type of thing – but he didn’t want to move from the seat what he’d been occupying for decades.
For me that sums up this argument, just because YOU have an idea about what the perfect match day is doesn’t mean that others share that and should conform to your wishes.
Stuart Webber is not going to care about my opinion, but I do honestly believe these are crucial points worth bearing in mind. We’ve got to remember, we’re the ones who bang on about Norwich most days on Twitter – but not everyone is like that. Not everyone feels the need to join a supporters’ group. Heck, not everyone can make lots of home games per season. There is a real danger that we might be exacerbating the echo chamber effect by letting those who (quite literally) shout loudest be heard the most.
I can wager that the majority of people at fan’s forums are connected to a supporters’ group too. Again, they aren’t the majority of Norwich fans. I think if you feel the need to state your credentials as a fan before engaging in this debate you lose all authority on the subject…much in the same way that if a country has the word ‘democratic’ in its name you can sure as hell guarantee it’s the opposite.
People have busy and varied lives and things like work and family dictates you can’t be that ‘super fan’ who goes to every single game. Many people supporting Norwich are dotted across the UK and worldwide. None of this can be used as measurements of who is a ‘true fan’ or more passionate. Talking like that is a load of…. rubbish quite frankly.
As the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, famously said recently: “Diversity is the greatest source of strength that we have.” And I firmly believe that quote can be attributed to most walks of life, including not only the squad of players Daniel Farke has at his disposal but also the fans of Norwich City Football Club.
When trying to improve the atmosphere- and yes I fully endorse the efforts being made by the club – let’s remember that every individual is different. And that’s okay.
Once that is accepted by all, this is the way we can move forward as one and achieve progress at City. Let’s just stop the divisiveness and get behind the lads, starting with Fulham next Saturday.
On the Ball, City!