‘We Are Not Old, We Are Retro,’ it said on the front of one of my birthday cards last year.
It didn’t sound a convincing argument at the time, and I was even less inclined to go along with it after our visit to Peterborough a couple of weeks ago.
It may have been a fine retro experience, with the terracing, tatty toilets and the toilet roll chucked onto the pitch, but the afternoon did leave me feeling very old.
For one thing, it’s clear that I now struggle to stand for ninety minutes. The following morning… well, I haven’t known such a bad back since Jurgen Colin.
And I didn’t manage to remain standing throughout. I missed Robert Snodgrass’s goal since I was knocked flying by a surge from behind just as he was about to shoot.
I went in one direction and my glasses case in the other. (Fortunately my specs survived intact, which is more than can be said for my dignity.)
No, standing on a terrace is no longer something I could do every week, much as I used to love it. But it was fun as a one-off.
Indeed, in the words of Elbow, one day like this a year would see me right.
Obviously, there’s no guarantee of getting an away cup tie at a small ground every season – so I’ve been wondering whether the club could stage an annual retro-themed day.
I believe that theme days already exist in US sports; for example, in 1993 the Houston Rockets basketball team held a Bald Day in honour of their shiny-domed star Charles Barkley. They even offered two free tickets for the rest of their home games that season to any female fans that turned up with no hair – and twelve women took them up on the offer.
Then a few years ago, Crystal Palace fans organised a theme day in honour of their then-chairman Simon Jordan. Under the slogan ‘The Future’s Bright, the Chairman’s Orange’, supporters turned up wearing liberal amounts of fake tan.
If it weren’t such short notice, the forthcoming game with Luton would have been an ideal occasion for a retro day, with it being a repeat of the 1959 FA Cup semi-final. The club could have sold tickets at 1959 prices. (Some Luton fans have been complaining that £10 is too cheap; it would have been funny to see what they made of 2s 6d.)
Should the club wish to take up the retro idea, here’s a handy checklist of things I would hope to see at Carrow Road:
● Rosettes and rattles (the latter subject to Health & Safety clearance).
● Small kids being passed overhead to the front of the crowd (subject to CRB clearance of all spectators).
● Players travelling to the game on public transport (unless this would involve using East Midlands Trains).
● An elderly confectionery seller at the River End shouting ‘Sweeeeeets!’ in a high voice (the selection on offer to include Bar Six, Aztec and Opal Mints).
● An A-Z half-time scoreboard with numbers hung on it by hand. And Golden Goal times being displayed on a board carried around the pitch by two blokes using it as a shield against potential missiles. (They needn’t have worried; on the rare occasion that anything was thrown at them, it was with the accuracy displayed by the majority of Crossbar Challenge participants.)
● Half-time entertainment to be supplied by a brass band or an uncoordinated group of hypothermic Canary Girls.
● The DJ’s playlist to include ‘Glass of Champagne’ by Sailor, which seemed to get an airing at every match from 1975 to 1980. Christie’s ‘Yellow River’ also comes to mind, though I may be thinking of the old toilets again.
● Weeing in other spectators’ pockets using a rolled-up newspaper as a funnel. (Though I have to admit I never witnessed this taking happening; I suspect it may be an urban myth.)
● Canary and Dumpling. (Pitchside mascots, not a half-time snack.)
● Blue three-wheeled disabled cars at the side of the pitch.
● The classic Barclay chants ‘You’re going in the river’, ‘Sheep-sh*gger aggro’ and the enigmatic ‘Boots-ss-ss’ (which I was once told was very rude, though I don’t see what’s so suggestive about advertising a large pharmacy chain).
● Shirts numbered 1 to 11, with just the one substitute. And no gloves or coloured boots as worn by half the team in the cup match at Charlton in 2009 when they were supposed to be sporting the 1959 kit.
● A bucket and sponge carried onto the pitch by the trainer in the event of injury.
● Cushions cascading onto the pitch from the main stand in the event of injurious refereeing.
That’ll do for a start, I think, but feel free to suggest others below.
Of course, today’s young supporters will one day look back on the current era with nostalgic amusement. I can’t help imagining our six-year-old son talking to his grandkids about it one day…
“Really, Grandpa? They honestly had balloon-waving clowns as pre-match entertainment? In the Premier League?”
“Yes, they really did.”
“And they played samba music after every goal?”
“Every single one.”
“And the ground only held 27,000 people?”
“That’s right. The City Stand didn’t always have three tiers, you know.”
“But Grandpa, my garden shed is…”
“I know, my child. I know.”