The Canaries Trust annual collection for Norwich Foodbank is something we all look forward to because we know how generous City fans are to those in need, but this year’s also carried an element of discovery for us.
Norwich Foodbank have always provided volunteers to help but this year we were joined by the lads from City Elite who offered their assistance in running the collection.
For those who don’t know, City Elite is a group of predominantly young City fans who got together with the aim of improving the atmosphere at City games, both at Carrow Road and at away games.
Building on the great work done by the Along Come Norwich and Barclay End Norwich groups, and with very little external support they have shown an impressive level of organisation by scouting out away pubs and providing minibus transport over the last year or so as well as strongly promoting the Norwich City Women’s team, a subject that is also very close to our own hearts.
Inevitably they have attracted a degree of suspicion in some quarters where their name is taken to imply that they are self-styled ultras, as well as outright opposition from some for the introduction of a drum to City games, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect on Saturday.
In fact, I’m delighted to report that they are a fantastic group of lads who got stuck into the job of collecting contributions with gusto before going into the ground and keeping up a level of energy in their section of the Lower Barclay which was sadly not matched elsewhere in the stadium or, more importantly, on the pitch.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the atmosphere at Carrow Road over the last two seasons has been poor, and that’s not solely down to the poor onfield performances.
Of course, fans feed off energy on the pitch and vice versa but since lockdown there seems to be an attitude of “Entertain me and then maybe I’ll make some noise” in some parts of the ground, although that’s not just a Norwich City issue, because it’s also part of the creeping sanitisation of the game for the benefit of a largely armchair audience.
I fully understand that there are people who don’t want to be near a drum, and the Club’s cautious approach to City Elite has reflected that, but equally there are many who do.
Having grown up in the 70s I know that they are many things that have changed for the better and fully support the fact that stadia are now infinitely more family-friendly, but there are also things that have been lost in terms of noise level and atmosphere, but which can, if revived, enhance rather than detract from the match day experience.
As an example of how that can happen at a smaller club you just have to look at the Holmesdale Road Stand at Selhurst Park where a drummer backed by like-minded fans generates a tremendous atmosphere throughout Palace games without any hooliganism or unacceptable chants. It can be done and hopefully City Elite will continue to develop and create something similar at Carrow Road.
With a return to safe standing looking imminent on the back of the Fan Led Review an improvement in atmosphere is more than possible, and while there will inevitably be those who oppose it there are many who would fully support a more vocal Lower Barclay, and I suspect that the players would agree with them.
I really hope that more people back what City Elite are trying to do, as we at the Trust certainly will, and I’d like to take the opportunity to publicly thank them for their efforts for the Foodbank.
For the record, their hard work and that of all the other volunteers meant that we collected 229 kilos of food and toiletries and £537.15 in cash donations on Saturday, while donations can still be made via a link on our website at https://www.canariestrust.org/ until next Tuesday, so if you weren’t able to be at the game but would like to help then please do!