Those familiar with the excellent ‘Y’Army’ fanzine will be familiar with the writing of Andy Head. Those who are not but who tweet may have crossed paths with @AndyHead02 at some stage when discussing all things #NCFC. If you’re in neither of those categories you’re about to meet him.
Andy, take it away…
So I have a problem. Actually I have four of them, but the particular one I’m referring to is seven years old, is named Che, and is a boy who’s unfortunately decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Norwich City fan.
He’s picked his team and he’s fell in love and he just can’t seem to get enough.
And he’s finally reached the stage where he can sit still for long enough that I can take him to a game, so on Christmas morning he unwrapped a pair of tickets for the Southampton cup game. After whooping and yelling, he proclaimed me the “Best Dad Ever” (A statement that he quickly rescinded five minutes later when he got a telling off for shouting the “Wesley Hoolahan” song into his sister’s face at a million decibels, but the initial thought was there).
Cup games are rarely good first-time experiences for a budding Norwich fan because a) we’re notoriously terrible in cup games, b) the first team players are often rested, and c) the atmosphere usually suffers because regulars aren’t always there, and you have a lot of fair-weather day-trippers and kids-for-a-quid attending. (And yes I realise the irony and hypocrisy of that statement but bear with me!).
I’d far rather take him to a league game, but the volume of season ticket holders means it’s next to impossible to get two tickets anywhere near where I sit, so the cup game is the compromise.
After having three girls who’ve all paid a visit to Carrow Road with me but remain largely indifferent to the cause (can’t blame one after inflicting the Luton FA Cup defeat on her), I thought I’d be delighted to have one that is learning the players names, begging me to play as Ipswich on computer games so he can give me a thumping, and who’s genuinely enthused by all things yellow and green.
And I am. Sort of.
My reticence is because when we walk up those steps into the Lower Barclay on Saturday week, I don’t know what we’re going to be walking into. I want his first game at Carrow Road to be memorable and to draw him in. To reward the interest and enthusiasm he has shown so far with an experience he remembers for his whole life.
Instead we may have something very different on our hands.
At the moment, with the board’s unswerving loyalty to a manager who sadly hasn’t produced the goods in eighteen months, the word “toxic” is the one that comes to mind regarding the potential atmosphere. Given the apparent vast availability of tickets online for the game, “empty” is also possible. Neither of which is ideal for your Carrow Road debut.
Of course, there are two more games between now and then which could vastly alter the feeling. A thumping win on the TV at Brentford, followed by a Bradley-bashing against Derby and we could be back on the up. We might even have a quickfire new signing at the start of January to excite us all and have a gleeful full house.
We’d need the floodlights on though because of the dark shadow cast by those pigs floating by.
Alternatively the board could have come out of hiding and relieved Alex Neil of what increasingly looks like a terrible burden for him, and appoint a new and exciting manager to lift the gloom and take us forward.
But the problem is we all know that this board, without McNally, cannot move at speed. So even if Alex went tomorrow, we’d have an exhaustive month-long recruitment process before deciding that Alan Irvine’s impressive one win, two draws and two defeats record as caretaker was enough to earn the job. (He is a very nice man though and knows the players).
So the likelihood is that we enter the Southampton game in a state of, at best, grumpy uncertainty.
My own first game was fairly inauspicious. Aldershot at home, 1984, the start of the glorious Milk Cup run, and a tepid 0-0 draw that left me with not one memorable passage of play. But it didn’t stop me falling in love. 32 years of season tickets later I’m still here. Just.
So maybe it doesn’t have to be perfect for Che to love it. Maybe grumpy uncertainty is as good a place to start as any for a Norwich fan. There will be good times. There will be heroic victories and last-gasp winners, and virtuoso performances.
But equally, there are bad days, when the last-minute goal is against you, or the ref ruins the game with an awful decision, or the players just don’t turn up. Managers don’t last for ever and when their time ends it does go this way. Particularly with owners who cling to dogmatic dreams rather than cruel reality.
It does feel like a hard way for a seven year old to learn the reality though. Like taking him for a trip to the abbatoir before taking him for his first McDonald’s.
The positive is that we all know, even if the board are still in denial, that it is only a matter of time before Alex goes. He’s lost the crowd entirely, the players only turn up occasionally and season ticket renewals will be slow. Eventually something will give.
And then my son gets to see the joy of rebirth that comes with the relief of a failing regime ending and a bright unknown beginning. A new manager, who will have hopefully heard of formations other than 4-2-3-1, picking different players, maybe even making new signings if we get someone in early enough in January. (We may even have a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Canos, although until I have confirmation, I’m still assuming he’s nothing but an urban legend.)
It’s not the best time to jump on the Norwich City bandwagon, but equally it might not be the worst. If he can withstand the inevitable winner from a returning Nathan Redmond and hold on for the changing of the guard, then January may be a really interesting month to be a Norwich fan.
He may even see his old man shed his despondent attitude to the current situation and spend an evening at the end of January huffily growling at Jim White whilst posting snarky comments on Twitter only to jump for joy at midnight as we pick up another Maddison. And we know how well that’s turned out so far… for Aberdeen.
Such is the circle of life as a Norwich fan. Good and bad usually overlap at a rate of knots.
Get used to it kid. Strap yourself in for a depressing, fun, stupid, wonderful, bizarre ride.
Thanks to Andy. An MFW debut that usurped his Carrow Road equivalent for sure. We’ll be hearing more from him very soon.