The best Norwich City supporting day, ever
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Look, I know that the cynics in you will say that what happened at Wembley in May 2015 is now done and dusted and that we should all move on and confine it to the history books, that we should concentrate on the future and forget the past and all its glory.
Well that's tough as I feel that I cannot start this season's blog off without acknowledging this wonderful event and occasion, because to me and my close friends and family it summed up what supporting Norwich City Football Club is all about.
I sat on that train leaving the Valley, way back in 2009 following relegation to League One with my then nine-year-old son Tom and close family friend Jack. Young Tom really did take some consoling and convincing that this very sad and pitiful supporting day was an all-time club low and that it really couldn't get any worse. The good times would soon return son so stick with it, but he was having none of it. We said that supporting the Canaries is like a roller coaster ride for most of the time and that there will be some good times to come, with more ups and downs, but that it was all part of the rich tapestry of following the boys in yellow and green.
Then came that home game against Colchester United which then further tested Tom's supporting resolve as he asked more than once during and after the game if he could and should support someone else just like many of his friends as surely it would be better than supporting this lot?
I told him that they may well support Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United etc, but that they will never experience what he gets to see every other week. A couple of hours in the pub with our close friends, the burger and the chips, not forgetting the cans of coke. He still challenged me and even though he has seen some good and not so good times in recent years since that depressing train trip, that day at Wembley told me that Tom really got it. He now knows better than ever that Jack and I were right to set the Norwich City stall out. He gets it that we should support our local team and keep the faith when the chips are down and enjoy the ride whatever the weather and result.
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As we set off from sunny East Dereham bright and early on that sunny summer Monday morning in May, aside of me the tour organiser forgetting my driving licence (I don't expect to ever live this down) we were all naturally in high spirits looking forward to our special football friends and family day out (even before the occasional can of beer was used to wash down the bacon rolls).
Three generations of Norwich City fans crammed into our 13-seater bus from young Milly, daughter of Mark (nicknamed Milky on the day, due to my poor spell checking on the iphone the night before) to our elder statesmen John and Phil.
- 1 Machinery sale marks end of family's 100-year farming history
- 2 'Max Factor lady' - Tributes to adored gran who died in M11 layby
- 3 Ghosts of business past: Empty shop units for rent for £100,000
- 4 Warning over 'Amazon' cold call recordings scam in Norfolk
- 5 Roads flooded on east coast after heavy rain
- 6 'Oh no, not another one' - lake drowning triggers soul-searching over safety
- 7 Two Norfolk villages named among most beautiful to visit in England
- 8 Pub has to close indefinitely as town cleans up after floods
- 9 'An insult - Matt Hancock accused over secret visit to crumbling hospital
- 10 City recruitment chief linked with Boro exit
Every time we went round a snug corner, we had the ooooooohhhh's that are normally reserved for a dodgy away team goalkeeper's kick and there was lots of horn tooting even on our fairly unconventional route down to North London as we passed another car load of Canaries as we avoided the M11 and picked up Jack in Cambridge. The queues in his flat for the toilet resembled one that was last seen at a small League One ground with one urinal when we had 3,000 supporters lining up for a pre-match toilet stop back in the day. Some of us gave up and made a bee line for the wheelie bins.
The journey continued in high spirits as On The Ball City, Just Can't Get Enough, Scooby Doo vs Delia, Seven Nation Army, The Canaries, Yellow, King of Spain and We Are The Champions (only Chic Aplin's Norwich City Calypso was missing, sorry Batey!) blasted out of the CD player. All accompanied by the odd bit of road rage from our driver Phil and his co-pilot Gary as we made our way round to Wembley, getting ever closer to the stadium without any pre-booked parking.
We eventually got lucky after some forceful, almost confrontational and lively negotiation with the scrap yard owner. I think his name was Wayne, John Wayne? He was certainly not the most pleasant man that you will ever meet in a scrap yard in North London. But once Phil had negotiated a parking spot that was as big as a postage stamp he calmed down, I paid the £30 and he walked off mumbling something that cannot be repeated in this column. We all started to relax, throwing the keys at Gary our non-drinking driver ready for the journey home.
If he could get that bus out of there, he would go down as a driving legend (he did and he is). My, oh my it was tight, but at this point even he wasn't worried?
We were off to see our team hopefully win the play-off final at Wembley, so off we headed in the direction of the stadium, keen to find a decent pub to help us get even more into the pre-match party atmosphere. Well. the venue wasn't at all salubrious but it served luke warm cans of beer and Coke to help keep us all happy for a couple of hours and it gave us time to practice honing the vocal tones ready for the big match. It was a great couple of hours, rounded off with Jack (our man of the cloth) blessing the score as we all did our now customary huddle on the bit of wasteland round the back of the dodgy bar or whatever it was!
Then we were onto the stadium and game itself.
As Tom stepped onto the terraces, he was blown away (as we all were) on his Wembley debut at the enormity and sheer spectacle of the new Wembley and thousands of Norwich City fans in club colours. He was by now even further into the zone; things would surely continue to get better? The day wouldn't at any time soon be allowed to go backwards, would it?
From the kick off, the boys in yellow and green didn't disappoint, not even for one minute as they chased every ball down and got into Middlesbrough's faces, playing them at their own game. When that first goal went in, it was quite brilliant and sublime as any pressure that was being felt lifted, then when Nathan Redmond slotted home a second not long after, we were all in a footballing heaven. It was a dreamland as our team controlled the game and the occasion without looking troubled throughout. Wow! It was quite amazing to see.
Back in 1985, when we won the Milk Cup, it was also a day to treasure as we indeed still do. On that day we won a trophy with a deflected shot during a fairly drab encounter, but on this day all of our dreams came true as we won in style on the national stage with the Premier League as the prize. It was certainly the club's biggest ever game in their history, but for me the day wasn't just about the prize, it was the whole occasion, sharing the moment with those dear to us, our lifetime friends.
Yes, Tom really gets it as will have many other young and impressionable youngsters of a similar and influential age that were there to witness the day that Norwich City Football Club went to the capital city and won in style at the home of football, the one and only Wembley Stadium.
My dear friend Bob, dad of Jack, said to me the day after the event, 'they all get it, don't they Stevie, they all get it'.
Yes, all the youngsters got it that were on our minibus on that day in May and that to me represents and means an awful lot, all of the third generation now understand even more what is required to support your local team through the good and bad times and in the process have a great family day out at Carrow Road or other football grounds around the UK, throughout the years win, lose or draw.
It shows great character, loyalty and true friendship that we can all still enjoy the match day pint and banter whatever the score after all these years. Hopefully our children's children and their children thereafter will also have the chance to experience many more similar glorious days in the future.
Meanwhile, is it too greedy or just asking too much for us all to experience another great occasion like this in my supporting years at the age of 53? It really was the best Norwich City supporting day, ever.
Roll on the start of the new season, but don't forget the FA Cup Mr Neil. • You can follow Steve Plunkett on Twitter at @plunkykos