Darren Wood writes a heartfelt plea for fans to keep calm as the good times are never far away…
Do you remember your first ever Norwich City match?
18th April 1992. Barclays Football League Division One. Norwich City V Notts County. We lost. 1-0.
I’ll be honest, I remember very little about it. I couldn’t tell you who played, or how it all panned out. I just remember being there.
Did I love it? Not really. Mind you, I was five. I doubt many 1-0 losses register in the memory of many first time home fans. I was probably just gagging to get home to watch my Button Moon tape. Or Rupert the Bear, anyhow, I digress.
That game was the start for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but the following season would be arguably the greatest in the clubs history. My parents would take my older brother and myself to most home games in the 1992/1993 season. I got used to winning. Carrow Road was an absolute joy for me. It seemed I would turn up with Mum and Dad, they’d supply my hot chocolate and I’d watch Crook, Fox, Goss and Sutton tear teams apart.
‘This was awesome’ I remember thinking, when I turned up at school on a Monday. I’d gloat in front of the United fans, the Liverpool boys and my Arsenal supporting brother (Ian Wright was better than Chris Sutton, apparently). I don’t need to go into what happened post Christmas, but I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for the next season. We were bound to win the league.
Well, the next season was, well, something. We didn’t go to the UEFA Cup games. Mum and Dad didn’t fancy the midweek trip across Norfolk. Except for when Dad won tickets for Inter Milan in a newspaper competition. He took Mum. I’ll NEVER forgive him. Mum only went to wave and scream at Bryan Gunn. Oh, and the occasional ‘Ruuueeellll’.
In terms of the league, it was all a bit average. I always looked at the table on a Sunday and asked Dad why were only mid-table. We were supposed to be 1st or 2nd. Even at six and seven, I was an expectant City fan. I knew, at some point, we’d challenge for the title. It was a matter of time.
Now, I realise this isn’t my autobiography, so I’ll get to my point. Southampton. 8th April. 1994. A memorable fixture. You don’t get many 5-4’s do you? For some reason, this game just got to me. It was the first time I recall being gutted. I mean I was really upset. I made sure that drive home was an unpleasant experience for Mum and Dad. I still curse the name Ken Monkou.
Now because of this low, I started to appreciate the high that had been my supporting life so far, albeit only 3 years. I could not wait for the next home game. We’d sort this out. We were Norwich. We were Awesome………….
We lost, to Sheffield United. This was horrible. Why was this happening? I was starting to doubt why I was doing this. Maybe I should start staying at home and watch Fireman Sam or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles instead. Was it worth it? Feeling like this was not what I had signed up for.
Then, we beat Liverpool, away. I wasn’t there but I remember finding out after coming home from climbing trees or something equally fantastic. Monday morning at school was going to be fantastic. In want of a more masculine word, I was giddy.
I owed this feeling to Sheffield United and, more importantly, Southampton. Without these losses, beating Liverpool would have been, well, cool. Just cool, nothing more. (Please bear in mind I’m seven)
But this was something else. It was genuinely like Christmas Morning.
Relegation in 1995, in such spectacular fashion, was the first big ‘low’. Many years of dreaming of a return to the ‘real Norwich’ would follow. I wouldn`t have much to distract me from games of Wembley Singles and adolescence (although I do remember doodling obscenities about Robert Chase on my English work book) until 2002.
That superb end to the season, just sneaking in the play-offs. How good was that?!
I listened to the Wolves games on my walkman down the local park, no cider though, sadly. I went mental. Passers-by must have wondered what on earth was going on, but this is the feeling I had waited nearly a decade for. We were Norwich again. All these years of pain would have been worth it if we would beat Birmingham.
As gutted as I was when Sutch scuffed that penalty (it`s not cool for a 15 year old to cry over football), I couldn’t wait for the next season. We would get our own back on football. It should have been us back in the big time. It wasn’t fair. We would show them.
2003/04 can be summed up like this – ” Top of the league, at Portman Road ‘ Just sit back and remember that day. Now that was a high.
Promotion shortly followed, featuring the joy that was Darren Huckerby. Then, shall we say, a difficult return to the top flight brought me back to earth. It was not without its highs. The 2-0 win over Man United being the obvious one. But the 2-1 win over Newcastle sticks out. Despite being a bit crap all season, that night I was drunk on Norwich City. I was adamant we were staying up that night. However, Safri`s 40 yard ping would have been less special if we were 10th in the table.
That 6-0, well, nearly ruined my summer (it didn`t, I was 18, I found ways to forget). But I did find myself dreaming of an immediate return, full of glory and the romance of the football I had grown accustom to back in the early 90`s.
Then came more lows than I care to mention. In no particular order, Peter Grant, Glenn Roeder, the FA Cup 3rd round replay vs Charlton (the worst game I have ever seen by the way, and strewth it was cold that night) and, oh Charlton again, sending us to League One. Wow. I got some stick. I watched Soccer Saturday with my Ipswich supporting friend that day. He made it a lot worse for me. Week upon week having the constant reminder of the bleak state we were in by a ruddy Ipswich fan. Rock bottom. I probably considered getting out those Button Moon videos again.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I now remind you of the single best 7-1 loss to ever happen to a club. Had that game not happened, we would not anywhere near where we are now. It sparked the revolution. High upon high ended in promotion. Then it carried on. The momentum stuck. This was an unusual feeling. It had been a long time coming. Would it have felt this sweet without having to get ‘excited’ about Chris Killen and Alan Gow?
See where this is going?
If we didn`t have Glenn Roeder treating Huckerby like something he found on the bottom of his shoe in the away end toilets at London Road, would we have been living the Lambert Wonderland. I very much doubt it.
So, my point is this.
As a football fan, to truly appreciate the highs, you have to accept the lows and take them on the chin. The lower the low, the higher that next high will be.
All those ruined weekends (and most of the following week if I`m honest) after a defeat. Surely they just make the victorious weekends seem that much more glorious?
Would that Championship run in have been so sweet if it wasn`t for the years of heartache. Jacksons last-gasp goals? The wins over Ipswich? Promotion at Portsmouth?
Yes, they would have been superb moments. But would they have meant SO much, if it wasn`t for the years of crap we suffered.
Would the wins over Arsenal and Man United this season have been so amazing, if 5-0 at Fulham and 5-2 against Liverpool not happened? Of course they would have been good, but would you have felt the same level of euphoria? I don`t think so.
Wins mean more after a defeat. Promotions mean more after relegation. For every Roeder, Doncaster and Maric, there will be a Lambert, Mcnally and Holt.
Just think about this next time some of the smelly brown hits the fan. Yes, have a moan. But seek solace that if you go out and support your team though thick and thin, you will be re-paid handsomely with those moment of ecstasy that we all live for. The moments that football is all about. The reason why we are all football fans. Fans of Norwich City.
The alternative? Support Man United.
How boring would that be?