I entered my second half-century on Saturday. Those who have already beat me to said milestone will know exactly what I mean when I say it makes you a tad reflective.
In that time I’ve meandered fairly aimlessly through life, along the way over-staying my welcome in local government before ending up in a place where I’m freelance, poor(er) but infinitely happier.
Along that same path I also managed to bump into a female who was accepting of my quirks, including my love of Norwich City, and in turn we somehow produced two beautiful children.
I’d love to report at this point that all now share my love of things yellow and green but that would be a whopper. They don’t.
I’ve tried my best and there were times when I thought it was going to happen – particularly when all four of us attended a pre-season friendly against Gillingham – but they were just fleeting glimpses of what might have been.
The task of converting an impressionable four-year old girl who would hang on her Dad’s every word – and who, for the first time, sat by his side as Dion Dublin scored City’s winner against QPR on December 2006 – into a teenager who dreams of watching the Canaries on the biggest stage has proved a step too far.
Alas the only stage she dreams of seeing is one adorned by Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna and co.
The other half too has proved a challenge, despite in the early flushes of romance convincing me that her conversion to the way of the canary was going to be a breeze.
Her first introduction to Carrow Road was in August 2000 when I took her along to watch Bryan Hamilton’s City side, which contained Fernando Derveld and Raymond De Waard(!), unsurprisingly lose to Fulham.
Despite the result she claimed to have ‘enjoyed the occasion’, albeit confessed to have been unimpressed by my liberal use of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ when engaging with a Fulham supporter who had the audacity to sit in the River End.
In hindsight the profanities, while wholly warranted in my opinion, were not the best way to impress a lady on her City debut.
But she came back for more, very occasionally, and was there the day Malky’s header in front of the River End clinched City’s place in the 2002 play-offs. She even shed a tear, although the mists of time have deemed them the result of “something in my eye” rather than the emotion of the occasion.
I know the truth.
But it was a love affair that was not to last – with the Canaries, not me thankfully – and the arrival of two children in the space of two and half years meant someone with only half an eye on events at Carrow Road chose to use that time for other things, such as being Mum.
I also put the Canary apathy down to her being the daughter of one who has yet to see the light; one who was, and still is, blinded by the glare of the 1978 FA Cup and the 1981 UEFA Cup.
The father-in-law and I talk football on a civil and amicable basis albeit with a purdah period that extends a week either side of a local derby.
But I do have one success story.
Aidan’s yellow and green journey also began aged four but had inglorious beginnings. His debut was in 2008, in the midst of the Glenn Roeder era (see what I mean about being inglorious), when a Robert Earnshaw-inspired Nottingham Forest saw fit to offer him an early taste of Canary defeat.
I was concerned at the time that the experience would scar him for life. It was a bitterly cold December afternoon, there was absolutely no sign of Christmas cheer and City were 2-0 down at half-time. He was freezing, so too was ‘Dad’ and a bloke two rows back spent the entire 92 minutes yelling, “GET STUCK IN…”
Norwich ended up losing 3-2 but, from memory, their second goal was the epitome of a consolation and there was no rip-roaring finale. It was dreary and the very antithesis of appetite whetting.
But I needn’t have worried. The bug had found its way through those fifteen layers of clothing and he was already well on his way to being a Canary for life.
Since then Carrow Road has become a familiar place to ‘junior’, albeit season tickets and Wembley cup finals are bridges that are yet to be crossed. Hopefully in time, but the glee with which I was greeted at the front door at around 9:30pm on Monday, May 25 told me all I needed to know.
“Dad, we did it! WE ARE PREMIER LEAGUE!”
And then the pièce de résistance.
“Dad… Mum jumped out of the chair when Redmond scored and scared Oscar [the cat, not Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder], and then nearly cried at the end”
Since then the other half has back-pedalled and is claiming her Wembley joy to be solely driven by the upgraded Ts and Cs on my Metro contract given City’s reinstatement in the top flight… but I’m not convinced. I believe there is a Canary in there fighting, but a tad frightened, to come out.
My daughter Niamh, however has proven a lost cause, although she did see the potential benefits of me earning more money, and remains unimpressed by that “short Scottish bloke with hair like Dad”.
But I’ll let her off… 1) Because I love her, 2) Because she has me wrapped around her little finger and, 3) Because her brother’s love of Wes and co more than makes up for her dearth of any Canary affection.
So… one and a half out of three, fifty years in the making.
If my fellow City brethren can make similar inroads then perhaps Macca’s 32,000 capacity stadium could yet become a reality and, while a 50 per cent success rate doesn’t come close to Alex Neil’s, my evangelising hasn’t been completely wasted.
Over the weekend a lively debate ensued on MFW courtesy of Andrew Lawn’s equally lively piece on the cost – literal and metaphorical – of following the Canaries to the Premier League. It was fascinating if not a little sobering.
For my part, to be rational over something as emotive as my football club is well nigh impossible so, for once, it was an argument I left to others.
Here’s to the next fifty.
Thanks for indulging me. Normal service will be resumed by the end of the week.