Every scribble of nonsense bearing my name carries years of generational weight.
Football has always been, to my mother’s annoyance, a significant member of the Southwell ménage. Norwich City has been a mainstay between a cohort of people who are hopelessly devoted to the game.
My grandfather’s voyage following the likes of Hartlepool United and, closer to home, Kings Lynn Town perhaps illustrate the lengths we go to for this glorious game. In comparison, my journey is perhaps more one-dimensional, predictable but definitely still as exciting.
My other grandfather graced the famous yellow of Captain Canary as he entertained young supporters and my late great grandfather, who sadly I wasn’t ever in the company of, used to change the scoreboard before technology tightened its grip on Carrow Road.
As a young supporter and writer, the intoxication of football is wonderful. Sometimes unhealthy, but I could, in comparison, get my kick from other sources. The aforementioned family tree presents that Norwich City FC has been engrained into my DNA.
Like so many before me, and like so many will after.
Yet despite this devotion to Norwich I experienced a brief flirtation with Manchester United (I was about eight, but I’m as ashamed as you) until I finally accepted the unbreakable and unconditional bond that is created when you start following this diverse football club.
I’ll never forgot the expression of my father as he witnessed the monstrosity of his only son donning a ‘Rooney, 8’ football shirt. It wasn’t one of disappointment but more determination.
I needed an education.
The sense of belonging, family orientation and collective identity one feels supporting this football club is overpowering, despite sometimes being a borderline abusive arrangement, forgiveness is almost immediately achieved.
So it’s with gratitude to my father that my regular doses of nonsense are gracing your computer screens, phones and tablets. It was he who I entered Carrow Road alongside, although I was already a football obsessive.
Even today, my season ticket is alongside my eldest sister, who deserves credit for the rants and frustrations I vent to her. Lucky thing.
In all honesty, I have had a wonderful football experience and I owe a huge amount to my father. The man who has willingly drove me across the region for numerous matches, sessions and trials. Battling in all weathers, it was my father who supported my love affair with the Beautiful Game, and wasted gallons and gallons of petrol in the process.
Whilst being on the books of Cambridge United, he and my mother would part with the contents of their wallets, which he’ll agree is a rare occurrence on his part, for the demands that being at a professional club required. Kit, boots and train tickets were catered for, leaving me to enjoy playing football while he stood a spectator. And that has always made me determined to make him proud.
While my dream hasn’t come to fruition, it certainly wasn’t through a lack of trying, but sadly, and brutally, through me lacking the ability. My journey was given the foundation of parents who believed in me and loved me. As a child and a young person looking back, their support was incredible.
But how does any of this link to Norwich City, particularly following a solid victory against Birmingham City?
This autobiographical 400 words or so explores how football stimulates the mind. Even being a parent, or follower of a team is an intense love affair in which the provider is just seeking something in return. For my father it was commitment or my enjoyment.
For a Norwich fan, it’s to see the team perform well, because if the commitment and passion is there, the result becomes almost forgivable. Almost.
Supporters demand to see at least a glimpse of why they have departed with hard-earned money and time.
Perhaps in more recent history, young people who followed the Holy Grail of supporting Norwich City were seduced by Paul Lambert’s war vessel that destroyed anything in its path and was built from a core of unity and togetherness. Older supporters remember years of mediocrity and dross.
And whilst the last four years have seen City win at Wembley and Old Trafford, the reality of modern football has kicked in. A proliferation in player’s wages has created a wedge between the supporters on the terraces and the players on the pitch.
The Premier League is where this club wants to be but, in truth, the qualities that football has been built on are probably more evident in this division.
Gone are the days where players would share drinks with people like my late grandfather; the 21st century has seen fitness regimes take centre stage.
But has this pastime become too serious? Has football lost the essence of what made it so great?
Spectators now purchase tickets in a way theatregoers would. Customers not supporters. Consumers not diehards.
That’s what made Saturday’s performance so heartwarming and pleasing. Following the mutilation at Millwall, many, including myself, vented and ranted. Yet these players who took to the field stood as a collective. It was a performance that contained the essence of what football should be.
Players fighting for one another. A clear approach. A desire which hasn’t been seen consistently for a while. Players who give a damn, heading crosses away and blocking anything with the goal of the team being greater than themselves.
If Norwich can build on this performance, with the robust core and injections of pace and excitement in wide areas, then many supporters will happily depart with their cash once more and the pendulum between fans and players might just neutralize.
But consistency is key.
To think, my father nearly swapped the football pitches I danced on (More Darcey Bussell than Darel Russell…) for a ballet dance studio as I was coming to grips with the game and preferred to dance around the pitch than kick or chase the ball.