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?
Mike C says
Trigger’s broom indeed, there is nothing left of the old Carrow Road that I first knew. I appear to predate you, Gary, because the only attempted segregation when I first visited Carrow Road was between the roofless River End and the roofed, but seatless, South Stand. My perch, as a young lad, was on the rudimentary crowd control barrier at the top/back of the South Stand level with the 18 yard line at the Barclay End. The barrier formed a corner leading onto the aisle and I was able to perch on that corner, getting a panoramic view of the ground and enviously glancing at the noisy mass behind the Barclay goal. Naturally, as soon as I had the height to manage the standing crowd in the Barclay, I moved there, to a spot just to the right of the goal on the main stand side, about three quarters of the way back and that is where I still have my seat.
From that vantage point I have witnessed such historic moments as our first goal in the First Division, scored by Jimmy Bone, Steve Bruce’s late semi-final winner against some team in blue and in between those two events had to launch myself onto the pitch on the day that Manc (London based no doubt) chose to dance on our roof. We also witnessed at first hand that exuberant celebration at the end of Lambert’s promotion winning season in 2011.
For me it’s a ground of great memories, my second home.
What memories! as a young kid I would take my crate down to carrow road and always got there as the turnstiles opened,i think I was just so eager for the game and to see the ground slowly filling up.We would go to the back of the old south stand and decide where our position was going to be which would normally be towards the Barclay stand,but often our favoured place would be above the tunnel in the Barclay/south stand corner.I will never forget that Colin Suggett goal against Man u in the league cup semi final for as long as I live
Jinny rebound says
Still favourite memory of carrow road, is the milk cup semi final and beating the binners. Bruce header, barclay fan full to bursting and to see the binners creep out after the game. Carrow road will change in the near future, just to get more seats and fans in. Hope it will continue to bring great memory’s for fans in the future.
Stewart Lewis says
Great piece, Gary. For some reason, that manual half-time scoreboard particularly encapsulates all the memories.
From perching in the South Stand on the beercrate provided by my grandad, I ‘graduated’ to a season ticket in the front row of the Geoffrey Watling enclosure. A good place to appreciate the physical side of the game, though a bit traumatic when an opponent slid off the icy pitch and broke his leg on the railing in front of me.
Only one player ever said thanks for one of us returning the ball to him for a throw-in: Frank Saul, as I recall. Mind you, his team were 3-0 up at the time.
Leni Masad says
You big softie Gary – brought a tear to my eye.
The cigars, flat caps and rattlers may have been superseded by e-cigs, baseball caps and i-pads but the ‘old girl’ retains her old charm. As some guy once said – “age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”
It helps when the attendances are near capacity of course – I remember going with my Dad when it sank to 12-13k on occassion and coin tossing was in vogue – no amount of hot chocolate and meat pies could lift the spirit when we lost in those conditions. That all seems a million years ago.
Morris C. says
*Ode to ‘The Road’*
Since 1935 the Canaries heart and soul,
To the faithful, it’s in the blood & the ‘marra’,
Four stands, two halves, one uniting goal,
Through thick and thin, we flock to the ‘Carra’.
Faces come and go, formations chop and change,
Sponsors, kit, hairstyles go out of fashion,
Promotion and relegation battles at close range,
Highs and lows but always with a passion.
From packed terraces to safety-first all-seater,
Face-lifts; some gradual, others more swift,
Defeat just makes the next win even sweeter,
The ‘Saturday thrill’ is the Carrow Road gift.
To ‘hurl or to hull’ the cushions Gary? But in reality they were skimmed.I remember as an impressionable boy these green weapons of mass dissatisfaction where normally fired by the old boys who had a few more bob & enjoyed the game sitting in the Main Stand. A good one could easily reach the Half Back!
If you spent the first half in the Barclay normally you could blag a seat in the ‘enclosure’ benches at the front of the main stand for the second half – alas no cushions provided.
An even better match day experience if your mates dad was a turnstile operator & you were able to vault your way over the counter. Two shillings was a lot of money then! Being one of the first boys in the stadium was a memory I’ll always remember.
Andrew Gillie says
Lasting memories of grounds in the past? The smell of pies and Bovril, and the sight of the little blue invalid cars that were at so many games.
Thanks for the reminder that I started behind the goal at the River End idolising Cross and Keelan, garduated to the Barclay yes including for ‘the’ Fashanu goal and the Milk Cup Semi and have now moved-on to the relative comfort of the Jarrold. All that’s left is retirement/senility in the main stand. Let’s hope I’ve got the energy to lob a cushion or two…
Some great memories there, and in the comments. I can remember, as a teenager, being a programme seller for a while. When the River End was being redeveloped, and before it was opened to the public against Everton, we were allowed to stand amongst the huge steelwork framework before it was lifted to form the roof. Health & Safety clearly wasn’t too the fore back then!
Steve Sharp says
My grandad was the occupant of one of those invalid cars Andrew Gillie mentions. I remember him being chuffed when Bill Punton suddenly appeared at his open window. Having hurtled down the touchline and across the byline Punty used the car to stop him going into the River End railings.