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Time to take a stand because sitting at matches sucks

As we were.... Carrow Road when standing up for football matches was king. This picture from our files dates from around 1960.

As we were.... Carrow Road when standing up for football matches was king. This picture from our files dates from around 1960.

Archant

Do you know what I can’t stand? Yes, I know, my collection of columns suggests it’s pretty much everything.

So I’ll narrow it down by narrowing it down to one thing: sitting to watch a football match.

I cannot stand sitting, but I can stand standing, which is outstanding.

The issue of introducing safe standing to top-level English football matches will be debated in Parliament because it has the required number of supporters to trigger a bit of ultimately pointless waffling and grandstanding.

Nothing will happen. It’s too much hassle and requires too much courage.

Nonetheless, I still hold out hope that I’ll one day be able to roll back the years to the 1980s Barclay terrace by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow fans to watch the Canaries.

Here’s why.

Flimsy plastic seats are uncomfortable. They make my back ache and there’s not enough legroom for anybody over 5ft 8in. So the seat in front digs into my knees and my knees annoy the person in the seat (occasionally even waking him).

For about one-quarter the cost, I can go to Cinema City and enjoy armchair comfort, generous legroom and somewhere to put my beer. Some would say there’s a better chance of entertainment, but I’m not going there. (Actually, I do go there, often).

All-seaters also suck the atmosphere out of football. I’m sure that I could produce a scientific paper proving that fun and atmosphere at football are inversely proportional to the number of seated areas.

That’s largely down to how they disperse the hardcore supporters who used to be able to congregate on a terrace and make a racket.

Now, if you shout or sing in some parts of Carrow Road, you get glared at by nearby fans - sorry, audience members.

On top of all this, all-seaters leave you lumbered with whoever is in the nearby seats.

There’s no escape from the man who moans constantly, no chance to flee from the woman who has a Russell Martin vendetta.

For the price I pay for a ticket, I’d like to choose my own nutters, with traits similar to mine.

OK, so I’d probably end up standing on my own, but at least I’d have my demons for company, not someone else’s.

In fairness, Norwich City are fully behind the concept of safe standing. They, like all high-end clubs, are lumbered with adhering to rules that were introduced - rightly - after the Hillsborough Disaster, but which are not appropriate for 2018.

In 1989, some football matches were terrifying - fear of being attacked by rival supporters ran alongside fear of being injured in a crowd crush.

Now, ticket control is rigid, enabling clubs to be sure of crowd numbers and to minimise danger.

I was on the Holte End at Villa Park for Norwich’s 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Everton. As tragedy unfolded up the road in Sheffield, the crush was terrifying.

It’s the only match I can remember where I did not care about the result - I just wanted to get out alive.

The quarter-final at West Ham was also terrifying.

But all-ticket matches, 21st-century scanners and far more enlightened policing mean those situations could not recur on modern terraces.

I long to be able to walk onto a terrace with my friends and stand together, not struggle to find enough seats in an obscure part of the ground in order to congregate.

I want to be on my hind legs during a match, not get tutted at every time I stretch. I want to be able to walk about, not get dents in my knees and cramp in my thighs through being wedged against yellow plastic.

I want to be able to nip out for a pee without feeling judged for making a few people stand up for a few seconds to let me pass.

Most of all, I want to experience the freedom of celebrating a goal on a terrace: running, jumping, screaming, hugging your mates, hugging complete strangers, falling in a heap of bodies.

Try any or all of that in a seated area and it’ll result in injury and a chorus of tuts.

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