In the Robert Chase years the prospect of City moving from Carrow Road to a purpose built, out-of-city, stadium was mooted. Rumour had it said chairman even had a model of the ‘new’ stadium perched proudly on the corner of his desk.
Alas, as that particular era of City’s history ended in acrimony, a flurry of police horses and the threat of liquidation so too did his dream of relocating the club to a designer ground.
In the years that followed, with the club teetering on the brink of oblivion, the pennies were made to work overtime in order for Norwich City just to see the light of the 21st century. A new ground – even major improvements to the existing one – didn’t get close to the wish list.
Finance was sourced to fill in the corners at either end of the Geoffrey Watling stand but on the whole, from the mid nineties to the early noughties Carrow Road stood still. The South Stand, resplendent those red and blue seats, physically creaked.
In 2003, with the financial footing a tad less crumbly and the South Stand on the cusp of losing it’s safety certificate, the City board took its only viable option and sold, loaned and scrimped to finance what it now the Jarrold Stand.
And it was a fitting time for replacing the old with the new. The demolition and subsequent replacement coincided with an unforgettable passage in City’s history.
At that time one Darren Huckerby was in his pomp and the sight of him whizzing down that left-wing with defenders in his wake and with a few hard-hatted construction workers for company is one that has remained with me.
So too the sight of a single line of away supporters from the real Wimbledon – about 30 in total from memory – who occupied the one temporary row of seats in the days post-demolition.
It’s fitting that Hucks now has a lounge in his name that overlooks that same wing.
The Jarrold Stand is wonderful but, for me personally, its arrival signaled the end of my Carrow Road: the one that I remember from back in the day. Back when I, not my son, was Gowers Junior and when my dad took me along to City’s inaugural season in the top flight armed with the world’s most sophisticated, height-adjustable stool.
Upon the demise of the South Stand, for me, Carrow Road became Trigger’s broom.
My dad and I stood (yes, stood – even before the red and blue seats were introduced) level with the edge of the penalty box at the Barclay end. I have no idea why that was our chosen vantage point but it did afford me a first-hand view of the away supporters who would occupy one or two ‘cages’ at the South Stand corner of the Barclay.
For a six year-old that was an eye opener.
At that time the only seats in the ground were in the old Main Stand from where its occupants would frequently hurl cushions – presumably there to provide comfort from the wooden benches – to express their disdain at events on the pitch. No flying clappers in those days.
But the South Stand did have a roof, which was more than could be said of the River End.
In addition to being open to the elements it was also built, as I recall, on a grass mound with steps at the back to provide access. (And to think some of us moan at the unsophisticated nature of the concourse catering in the 2014 version).
The Barclay too was built on a similar mound but was afforded the luxury of a roof (through which a Manchester United fan infamously fell). But, on that very subject, the 1970s iteration of the Barclay end had many a tale to tell and many of them not the good kind.
With hooliganism part and parcel of football at that time, its coming together of ‘lads’ and away supporters meant it was invariably the focal point of the shenanigans. Again our friends from the north-west were to feature prominently (the clip does offer a glimpse of the aforementioned grass banks).
But for the most part the memories are of the good, unforgettable and heart warming kind: the smell of cigar smoke post-match as the crowd slowly edged their way home behind the Main Stand, the sight of Jimmy Bone playing one-twos with a steward pre-match, a bloke pushing a trolley around the perimeter selling hot chocolate from a silver urn and the half-time scores from elsewhere delivered via the medium of a manual scoreboard along the front of the Barclay.
Memories that will stay with me forever – that have stayed with me forever.
Yet the modern day version of Carrow Road is no less magical.
While the whiff of cigar smoke is now a rarity, there is the occasional interaction with those wandering the periphery of the pitch (although they’re now more likely to adorn the costume of a clown or canary), hot chocolate is still available (even if the urn is no longer ‘mobile’) and the scores are now delivered by the wonder of digital imagery.
And I hope Mr Chase’s dream of relocating never comes to fruition. As laudable and ambitious as it was, I love Carrow Road for being a bit quirky.
I love the fact it’s a little ‘lop-sided’ and there is barely room for Neil Adams and co to breathe betwixt the edge of the pitch and the Geoffrey Watling stand. I love that the Snake Pit are within ‘shouting distance’ of opposing substitutes.
And I love that, in this age of off-the-shelf stadia, Carrow Road has a feel unlike any other. I’m even warming to the fact there’s a bloody hotel stuck in one corner.
It’s undeniably ours and even if Messrs Bowkett and McNally are to one day grasp the ‘second tier on the Geoffery Watling’ nettle, it will remain so.
They can keep their iPros, King Powers, St Marys and even Ricohs. There’s only one Carra Rud.
At least that’s what I think… you?