Enjoy the occasion first – then let’s get the result all connected with Norwich City crave

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 May 2015

The Norwich fans build up the atmosphere before the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final against Ipswich at Carrow Road, Norwich. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Norwich fans build up the atmosphere before the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final against Ipswich at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

The Mason’s Arms in Donisthorpe didn’t know what had hit it.

The peacetime of an otherwise normal Saturday lunchtime shattered by a crazed Norwich City fan, desperate to see them reach Wembley.

Fab Four

Keep the faith in Saturday’s heroes

1: Alex Neil has been superb at changing his team for the occasion, often preferring one system at home and another away. His starting line-up on Monday promises to be an interesting one, which will no doubt leave someone having to cope with a major disappointment. I’d go for the same team as at Carrow Road last Saturday, leaving Graham Dorrans on the bench through no real fault of his own.

Keep Cam and carry on please

2: The toughest decision Alex Neil may actually face in terms of selection will be whether to allow Lewis Grabban back into the starting 11 or stick with Cameron Jerome. A completely fit and firing Grabban may be the best option for his system, but I’d be too concerned he’ll be a bit ring rusty and may be better deployed from the bench, if required. What a choice to have Grabban and Gary Hooper on the bench.

Premier League quality on show

3: Didn’t expect to be writing this a few months ago, but we’ve a lot to thank centre-back Sebastien Bassong for, especially following the two legs against Ipswich. Quietly he’s been improving with every game and in those last 90 minutes he did so much to combat our rivals as well as cover for his team-mates. We know he’s Premier League quality and thankfully that standard is being maintained again.

City’s grass isn’t always greener

4: Remember when many a City fan was desperate to see then Lotus boss Tony Fernandes extend his Norfolk links, purchase Delia and Michael’s shares and pump his money into our club? Worth noting that, several years on, his Formula One bid has long since gone belly up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing happen to his football club QPR. Be careful what you wish for hey?

As two regulars looked on with a mixture of bemusement, amusement and possibly a bit of pity, I spent two hours leaping around a Leicestershire pub.

You see a bit of poor planning meant that instead of joining in the celebrations at Carrow Road last weekend, the other half and I found ourselves in the middle of a camping trip more than 100 miles away.

But we were not going to let that stop us from enjoying the occasion. In our heads we were showing our support from the regular spot in the Barclay.

Every goal was met with a leaping lunge at the television and a high-pitched scream that must have echoed around the forests and fields nearby.

The final whistle brought a lonely but nonetheless passionate chorus of ‘we’re all going to Wemberlee’. For a moment, in lieu of not being able to run on to the pitch, I considered a merry jig behind the bar – yes that’s how swept up in it all I was.

But that’s what football does to us isn’t it? Put on that yellow shirt and suddenly an otherwise normal human being turns into a 6ft 2in semi-feral, screaming creature who thinks nothing of ranting and raving at a small TV in front of complete strangers. Or screeching at a video camera, as the poor fellow with the job of filming the aftermath of the game for the club’s official website can no doubt attest.

Judging by the post-match scenes at Carrow Road and tweets in the past few days I’m not the only one who’s been desperate for this moment for as long as they have followed the team in yellow and green. Read this column regularly and you’ll know how much I beat the drum about a desire to see the side and the city head down Wembley Way. An FA Cup final was the ultimate aim – but this will certainly do (for starters).

It’s what having a season ticket, spending all that money following the club and putting up with the lows is all about. Those days that will live long in the memory – no matter what the result.

Having visited both old and new Wembley several times before to see various other teams, I won’t let it be said the place no longer carries that magic of old. Granted, there are too many seats for the so-called ‘prawn sandwich brigade’, the beer is too expensive and everything is very commercialised.

But I defy anyone to take those first steps towards the Wembley arch without feeling the hairs on the back of their neck stand up, fail to be impressed by the crescendo of noise once inside or revel in the sheer joy of having 35,000-plus fellow fans make that same pilgrimage, full of hope in their hearts.

The Canaries at Wembley is about so much more than what happens on the hallowed turf from 3pm on Monday. It’s about the city that I love feeling on a high for the days beforehand. It’s about that moment on Monday morning when you wake up both nervous and happy about the events about to unfold.

It’s about heading down the A11, thousands of vehicles in unison, scarf hanging out of the window, waving at fellow Canaries and smiling and chatting at service stations on the way. It’s about the atmosphere, the banter, the debate, the buzz and the songs in the pubs beforehand. It’s about those nervous 15 minutes or so before kick-off when the fortunes of the day are taken out of your hands. And it’s about that deafening chorus of On The Ball, City as the teams walk on to the pitch and kick-off approaches.

Then it become about goals, victory, success, promotion – and of course a great big party as we make our way back home. Please make sure you enjoy the day, at 36 years old and dream about to be realised, I’m testament to the fact it might be a while before you get this opportunity again. OTBC.

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