The publication of the 2016/17 Championship fixture list naturally brought two questions to mind:
– What’s the ideal question to ask the Prime Minister at PMQs?
– Was Robert Louis Stevenson a Norwich fan?
I didn’t have much time for William Hague as Leader of the Opposition. But I later heard him as an after-dinner speaker, and he was brilliant.
Among the many anecdotes he told was a discussion among his team of the most effective questions to put to the Prime Minister at weekly PMQs. They determined that the best question of all would be: “Prime Minister, do you believe in Father Christmas?”
It would be a killer. If the PM answered “yes”, the next day’s headlines would read “At 50, Prime Minister still believes in Santa Claus”. If he answered “no”, the headlines would say “Prime Minister wrecks Christmas for 10 million children”.
Believing in Santa Claus is well behind me (though we do watch the fine Polar Express every Christmas). Unlike Gary, however, I still get excited at the fixtures coming out.
Apart from the obvious mouth-watering home games, I’ll tend to look at the away fixtures. I’m not one of the admirable group who go to all away games (and who surely deserve better reward than they received for their labours last season), but I’ll get to at least some.
My presence at away games is neither a lucky nor an unlucky omen for City. I’ve seen triumphs (including promotions from 1972 to 2015) and disasters (usually at Sheffield Wednesday or Fulham, coincidentally our first and last fixtures in the coming season).
While my choice of away games to attend is partly a geographical one, there’ll be other factors such as availability, opportunity to see friends and of course the importance of the game.
So my travelling has been somewhat random, but I seem to be a regular visitor at certain grounds and a very rare visitor to others.
One of my frequent trips – though not at the moment, obviously – has been to Leicester. It’s the scene of one of my happiest footballing memories, and certainly of the most bizarre one.
The happy one was on Tuesday 8 March 2011. Our Championship promotion charge had just suffered a setback with a 1-1 home draw against Preston, the most shocking bit being a late penalty that Wes chipped straight into the keeper’s arms.
Tuesday night became a crucial game, as well as a tough one. Our 3-2 win at the King Power stadium was a collective triumph, and a personal one for Wes who played a blinder. As did Aaron Wilbraham, by the way.
The bizarre one was much earlier, in fact around 1970 when I was still at school. A friend and I decided to follow City to Leicester (Filbert Street rather than the King Power, of course).
A very minor incident happened when we arrived at Leicester station. To avoid a queue of people at the barrier, my friend and I hopped over another part of it. A policeman spotted us, checked that we had proper tickets (which we did) and gave us a mild rebuke; I barely noticed that, as a matter of form, he took our names.
Getting back to Yarmouth station that evening, I was greeted by my distraught mother. The local police had visited her earlier to tell her I was in trouble with the police in Leicester. She had no idea whether I’d be returning to Yarmouth or be spending the night in the cells.
Why didn’t I call her on my mobile from Leicester when the original incident happened? Two reasons. The incident genuinely seemed so minor I wouldn’t have thought to. And it was 1970.
My friend, by the way, now runs a translation agency in southern Germany – but still comes back for most homes games (and lunch in the Gunn Club). Don’t know if he’s ever been back to Leicester, though.
As for Robert Louis Stevenson? He must surely have gone through a similar experience to the travelling City fans last season when he decided:
“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”
It’s got to be better this time, hasn’t it? Over to you, Mr Farke.