Eight years ago, myself and 3,000 fellow Canaries stood arms aloft in our little corner of Portman Road and asked the home fans: “Where’ve your prossies gone?”
As a group and in the spirit of ‘banter’ we were of course referencing, perhaps even ‘celebrating’, the then recent murders of five prostitutes in the town.
Men women and children were all singing the song and I wondered what it was that made football and football stadiums a forum in which social taboos and local tragedies were highlighted and even celebrated.
Was it okay to ridicule an entire town for the actions of one man, which left a community in mourning and, if not, why were we doing it? Why were people laughing and why was nobody attempting to stop it?
I should say at this point I am a huge fan of football chanting. I have been a season ticket holder in Block D of the Lower Barclay since I stopped sitting on my dad’s knee in turnstiles whilst he worked as a steward.
The atmosphere, the singing, the mutual ridicule and the sheer power of collective noise is the thing that I derive most enjoyment from – even more than the football most of the time. And it’s the same for many fans.
While football fandom is often compared to a religion, it is chanting that creates and sustains the powerful bond between fan and club, and fan and fellow fan.
Author Colin Irwin described it, in words I can’t improve on as “an extraordinary tribal spirit that binds fans together as one solid, fiercely united representation of a community and creates an almost irresistible intensity. At its worst it’s violent and plain ugly, but at its very best, it creates its own swell of energy that permeates beyond the terraces. To be part of it is a deeply emotional, almost spiritual experience”.
Many City fans will already know that we are the proud owners of the first football chant ever recorded in the form of ‘On the Ball City’, and whilst far from perfect (more of which later), I think we can rightly claim to be some of the better fans in terms of number, volume and inventiveness when it comes to chanting.
The “We lose every week, we lose every week, you’re nothing special, we lose every week” retort to gloating Arsenal fans at the end of last season was football chanting at it’s very best. The complexity of Paul McVeigh’s “We love you” serenade is worthy of repeating years after the diminutive Irishman left the club, and nothing says December better than “Twelve days of Huckerby”.
That said, our club is far from perfect.
The example I opened this piece with was an occasion where we far from covered ourselves in glory, and the disgrace of alleged monkey chants coming from Norwich fans at Wolves on opening day was shameful.
Wherever you stand on the rights or wrongs of what he did, we glorify Tony Martin – a man who shot and killed a 16 year old – with the chant “We shoot burglars”. We threaten to “Kick the ******* head in” of a tied-up Ipswich fan who our mothers are apparently giving to us, already strung up. I personally fail to see the bravery or heroism in either.
Just in my own experience, we have mocked Glenn Roeder for enduring a brain-tumour and Graham Rix for alleged paedophilia. We have picked out and abused old ladies attending games with their grandchildren and we have told fans of Liverpool “It’s never your fault, it’s never your fault, always the victims it’s never your fault”.
We’re not alone. Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds, Millwall, Tottenham Hotspurs and others have all made front page news in the last few years with chants about Hillsbrough, Munich, stabbed fans, Jimmy Saville and Sol Campbell’s mental health.
In essence the point of all of this is that as football fans, we all benefit from the atmosphere chanting creates within grounds. Whether you sit/stand in the Lower Barclay or Snakepit and participate, or merely enjoy it from the comfort of the River End, every one of us enjoys seeing and hearing Carrow Road at it’s loudest.
However, just because we are at football, just because we are in a crowd and therefore lose part of our sense of ourselves as individuals, we cannot abdicate responsibility for those chants.
We have a responsibility to ensure that we are projecting an image of the club and its support we are proud of. For me it’s loud, loyal, supportive, self-deprecating and funny.
We all play a part in each and every matchday at Carrow Road and through our chants we are celebrating our city to the rest of the world. So perhaps we should think about what we are singing and then sing it. Really sing it.
We also have a responsibility to the police, ourselves and others around us. If you don’t like a chant, don’t join in with it. If it is particularly offensive, and by that I mean racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic etc, report it.
Finally, can someone please tell me what the rest of the words are to the new one which starts “ooooo hoooo Norwich City…”? I love the tune, but we can’t get the words up on Row W…
Never mind the danger.
Andrew is the author of a book entitled ‘Who are ya, who are ya, who are we?’, which explores the phenomenon of singing and chanting at football matches and what it says about us as individuals and as a socity. It can be purchased online.