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.
Andy Privett says
Great article, well articulated!
I have always been embarrassed by some of our chants, particularly regarding Tony Martin. These chants simply serve to re-enforce the general stereotype of Norfolk being an uneducated backwater full of idiots. Sometimes, particularly at away games, I feel exactly the same! This is a great shame as there a number of excellent witty chants each season that spring up and almost as quickly disappear.
On a personal note, I would really like us to get back to applauding the opposing keeper when he takes up his position. It used to engender some great rapport between said player and supporters, especially at away games. Memories of Ogrizovoc’s personal battle against Robert Fleck at Highfield Road and Jan Stezcal’s comedic run-up to goal kicks at Loftus Rd stick in the mind, and, as a club that has always had a ‘sporting’ reputation, it would be great to get back to the days before simple abuse became the order of the day.
I look forward to your next musings!
Tracsoot Joe says
Tribalism can get awful close to inciting hatred – some of the stuff screamed at officials, away subs warming up, one of your own players having an off day, struggling manager……pretty ugly insight into the mental state of the shouter! Some should truly be carted away – and yes, they do spoil it for some of the rest of us when that line is crossed.
But when the line is not crossed (usually not even nearly) some of the wit and banter is exceptional.
Lee C says
Excellent article. Good read. More please!
As for the song, this is what I sing on Row S, Block D:
Oh, Norwich City: Pride of Anglia, Carrow Road
The team in green and yellow; the team we all adore
We are the Pride of Anglia, we’ll be forever more!
At least I think that’s what it is – doubting myself as I type now…
Good article. Just wanted to take issue with the first paragraph though – it wasn’t 3000 singing that song at Portman Road that day. Most fans including myself felt uncomfortable and didn’t join in. When you’re in the thick of the singing and the noise it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking everyone else is doing it too when they’re not.
Southwold Jack says
Not being a season ticket holder and only being able to attend the odd match I’ve sat all over Carrow Road. I do wish the whole crowd would get more involved in the chanting, as I think the louder our 12th man the better for the team. Every section seems to have one or two who try to get the crowd going but, apart from OTBC, the majority seem to sit and wait for something to cheer…reactive not proactive.
One humorous time I remember was against Hull last year. Sitting behind the River end goal (tickets I’d won, thank you Barclays ;)) when Allan McGregor took his place and throughout the half he was subjected to “Alan, Alan, Alan, etc” mimicking the bit on telly from a few years ago with the Meerkat standing up and shouting to his friend http://youtu.be/DljZvX3iCEA . Didn’t seem to put him off his game too much but funny nonetheless!
I well remember being at that Ipswich game back in 2006. In fact I took my 11 year old son and was in the family enclosure and had to explain to him what a “prossie” was.
If memory serves me correctly, at the time there was one or two girls “missing”. I honestly can’t remember if any bodies had been discovered, but, certainly, the perpetrator had yet to be arrested.
This is in no way intended to condone the chant, just a personal recollection of the time.
Ian Lamedi says
Look forward to reading the book – this topic has been the focus of numerous lofty academic studies.
One published in 2006 (based on the songs of Scunthorpe fans) concluded that;
“supporters use songs to construct their own affective place-related collective identities whilst manipulating cultural bricolage to (re) negotiate and manage the collective identity of the other.”..I think that says it all (I had to look up what ‘bricolage’ meant).
I guess you came to pretty much the same conclusion?
My favourite has to be the chanting of you’ll never get a passport to the then Fulham owner AlFayed,
Don Harold says
I’ve always thought the Tony Martin one to be the most ridiculous and embarrassing chant Norwich fans use, luckily it seems that no other fans can understand it as no one has ever asked me about it. Andy Privett wants to get back to the days before ‘simple abuse became the order of the day’. I’ve been going for 40+ years, there has always been abusive chanting and in the 70’s and 80’s it was much, much worse (and less clever) than it is now. Anyway, pretty much anything goes on Saturday!
Great and thoughtful article: what’s to disagree with?
Anyone remember the Sunderland fans’ response when Newcastle fans started ‘Going Down. Going Dow. Going Down’?
‘So are We. So are We. So are We.’