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Missed opportunity for Norwich City to encourage the next generation

PUBLISHED: 10:31 09 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:31 09 January 2017

Two City supporters had a section of the stands all to themselves. Right, Virgil van Dijk celebrates his opener. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Two City supporters had a section of the stands all to themselves. Right, Virgil van Dijk celebrates his opener. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

There was a certain irony that the most positive week Norwich City have enjoyed in several months was cemented by a stoppage-time equaliser in front of the lowest FA Cup crowd at Carrow Road in 20 years.

While a third round FA Cup replay may not have been at the top of many fans’ wish lists for 2017, a spirited fightback against a Premier League outfit was a welcome contrast from exiting the competition with a whimper.

So however inconvenient a trip to the south coast on a Wednesday night in January may seem, morale has been so low among supporters recently that it can only be seen as a plus. Going three games unbeaten in all competitions is at last some sort of steady run of form to cling to.

The importance of following up a resounding 3-0 win over Derby, only the second victory over a team in the top half of the table to date this season, with anything but defeat in a competition that many of us have become used to City faring poorly in was paramount.

It’s just a shame that thousands of fans were put off attending due to the price of an adult ticket being set at £25.

The logic behind the pricing strategy, which in this competition is now decided solely by the home club, seems to be questionable at best when you consider 12 months ago tickets to the third round tie against Manchester City were £20. Given the current mood of Norwich supporters towards the powers that be, it’s not surprising that many decided to stay away.

Pricing may not be set directly by the board but it could surely be altered if those on it were opposed to the ticket costs. Charging that much for a game where there was no predicting how many changes would be made to both teams doesn’t exactly align with Delia Smith’s comments in that revealing national newspaper interview that supporters should be “worshipped and respected”. Quite frankly, it rankles a little.

Unlike many other clubs, Norwich have always had to rely on even the most hardcore fan paying extra to attend cup fixtures given that none is included in the annual cost of a standard season ticket. Thanks to a loyal fanbase, strong attendances for home draws in the most famous cup competition in club football have become the norm.

Not since John Polston scored the sole goal in a third round tie against Sheffield United in 1997 have so few fans attended an FA Cup fixture at Carrow Road.

To put Saturday’s crowd of 12,479 into context, more than double watched that infamous 2013 defeat to non-league Luton, over 18,000 saw a defeat to Leyton Orient in 2011 and almost 20,000 attended a draw against Bury nine years ago.

I’m guessing that tickets to those matches didn’t reach the £25 mark, and the message sent to those setting the prices at the weekend was delivered loud and clear by the absent majority.

Tremendous support shouldn’t be taken for granted.

At a recent supporters forum attended by season ticket holders, chief executive Jez Moxey asked for ideas to help encourage the next generation of fans through the Carrow Road turnstiles.

Earlier round FA Cup ties present a great opportunity to do just that. More affordable tickets are an incentive for families to attend, for adults to bring along children at a cheaper cost than a league game and perhaps even introduce them to watching live football.

An opportunity that was sadly missed on Saturday.

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