As a relatively new member of the MFW community I felt a piece to introduce myself was in order at some point. I could bore you with the details of my life leading up to my first piece for the site, but that’s not what we’re here for.
I decided the best way to introduce myself was to tell you about the matches that have made my career as a Norwich City supporter to date, starting with the double promotions of 2010 and 2011, leading all the way up to now. With such a great task at hand I enlisted the help of six fans to tell the stories with me, and today it’s the turn of 2015’s play-off final victory over Middlesbrough. As this was, for many, a family affair, I spoke to my dad Rob about his experiences of the day and the match.
It’s the pinnacle of English football, the grandest stage, even the name used in the playground when a number of children fight it out to see who can bundle the ball into the net first and advance to the next round: ‘Wembley’.
The destination for the play-off final on 25 May 2015, when Norwich City made their first visit to its most recent football stadium, descending in their masses for the first time since 1985.
“I obviously remember the big thing of getting out at Wembley station and walking down Wembley Way, experiencing that for the first time”, Rob said. “There was a really positive atmosphere and we had positive exchanges with the Middlesbrough fans; they were understandably confident”.
An important piece of context to add to the game is that Middlesbrough had beaten Norwich twice in the season already with an aggregate score of 5-0. They knew it was within them to beat this City side. There was a feeling that, although the Canaries had gone into the play-offs a place above Boro in the table, they were still underdogs.
After twelve minutes the deadlock was broken, and it was a famously key goal. Midway through Cameron Jerome dispossessing Daniel Ayala the commentary had started to detail how good Boro were when they scored first.
“After we’d scored, I don’t think I ever felt we were going to lose”, says Rob, “I can’t think of many occasions when I haven’t been frightful at some point”.
Part of Middlesbrough’s inability to come back into the game was Aitor Karanka’s famously negative approach. His side had clearly come to score first and sit behind the ball, but a seemingly (at least partially) injured Patrick Bamford didn’t help their chances of finding an equaliser.
My dad recalls Bamford’s injury almost instantly when I ask him what he remembers about the match itself. He had been a particularly painful thorn in the side of Norwich fans earlier in the season.
“He was a key player for Middlesbrough and Karanka decided to play him, being integral to the system, but he was clearly not fit and really not in any shape or form appropriate to play”.
Three minutes later and the task got even greater for the Teesside club. It’s not hard to imagine how I was feeling when Nathan Redmond smashed the ball into the net at the opposite end of the ground.
I’m sure a number of those reading this have spouses and families, and so are obligated to choose ‘wedding day’ or ‘children being born’ as the greatest moments of your lives. I have no such obligation and have therefore happily listed this as the greatest moment in my life many-a-time.
I remember bragging to my school friends that my team had scored a Barcelona-like goal to take them to the Premier League. I was mercilessly mocked a year later when they were relegated instead of the European place I had predicted.
Anyway, that’s enough of the negativity and the fussing over what followed the promotion, and back to the joyful celebrations.
Sometimes the beauty of football is how it brings people together, as highlighted when my dad described his celebrations for the second goal: “When Norwich scored I had this random guy jumping all over me and then when we scored the second I returned the favour by jumping all over him”.
One of my favourite moments in the day was staring at the black jumper Dad had on under his Norwich shirt, wondering why the hood was covered in yellow and green smudges. The puzzle was solved when I looked over at the mystery man and his long, thick beard, originally painted a bright half yellow and half green, now a mixture of both in the middle.
While the day provided a lot to remember off the pitch (right up to my meal deal on the day – chicken, bacon and lettuce sandwich, Doritos and orange Lucozade, if you’re interested), it was also immaculate on it. Wes Hoolahan provided what Rob describes as a “classic number 10” performance, Sebastien Bassong was solid as ever and even the likes of Steven Whittaker looked like prime Farkeball operatives on the day.
For many of us, especially those who weren’t around in the heydays of Chris Sutton, Bayern Munich and Premier League title challenges, this was the very pinnacle of supporting Norwich City Football Club.
Just the sort of day you want when 40,000 of us pile into London together.