The yellow and green ‘Barclay Brexit’ made Norwich City supporters’ concerns clear
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Carrow Road had its own Brexit moment on Saturday.
It could be argued that Norwich City were way ahead of even Nigel Farage on that particular argument having not been in Europe since 1993 but I can't help feeling that high ticket prices were not the only reason the ground was half full on FA Cup third round day.
The political experts who spent the first half of 2016 assuring us that UK voters wouldn't actually vote to leave the EU when it came to the crunch have been forced to put six months' worth of effort since into explaining why they did.
One of the most likely theories is that many voted leave because it was their only real opportunity to feel like they were giving the establishment a bloody nose. It was a reflection of a general feeling of frustration, anger and dismay amongst voters about any number of issues. By charging adults £25 to get into Carrow Road at the weekend, Norwich City inadvertently offered their fans an opportunity to stage their own polite protest vote.
Those ticket prices were announced right in the middle of the Canaries' recent poor run in the Championship. Watching the club tumble from 14th in the Premier League in January 2016 to 12th in the Championship by the end of the same year caused an awful lot of pent-up frustration amongst the Carrow Road faithful.
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Alex Neil, the players and the board have all copped for a fair amount of understandable criticism from a fanbase whose loyalty can never be questioned. The applause that filled the ground on the night City were relegated from the Premier League ought to be evidence enough to defeat any lazy argument that suggests football fans are simply 'fickle'.
So how do you show your displeasure or even mild concern about the way your club is performing on and off the pitch? It might have been a poor 2016 for Norwich City but when compared to the plight of Coventry, Blackpool or Portsmouth in recent times it would seem churlish to be protesting outside the ground in the sort of manner not seen in these parts since 'Chase' and 'Out' were the most commonly used words in Norfolk.
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No true supporter wants to stay away from games, they understand the importance of standing by your team in the heat of the battle for promotion as the club's season ticket renewal rate and impressive away following in recent seasons underlines.
The FA Cup doesn't mean as much as it once did and that's why it provides the perfect platform for disgruntled supporters to flex their financial muscles. They get to make a point without missing a game that they were utterly desperate to attend.
A crowd of just under 12,500 rattled around Carrow Road at the weekend and, because fans usually turn out for Norwich games in such unfailingly high numbers, it really does feel strange when the ground isn't packed at 3 o'clock on a Saturday.
It's my hunch that five or six thousand more would have been inside the ground even at £25 per ticket if the team was still top of the Championship.
Those who stayed away were trying to highlight more than overpriced tickets. It was a firm finger waggled in the direction of all at the club that a Nelson Oliveira hat-trick against Derby and a battling draw with Premier League opposition needs to be a sign of things to come rather than a flash in the pan.
With half a season to go and an encouraging three-match unbeaten run developing there is still time to win back those concerned Canaries but they need to see more reward for their loyalty from those who work for the club on and off the pitch.
This wasn't a vote for a 'hard' Barclay Stand Brexit from City fans, but Theresa May would probably call it a 'yellow and green Brexit'.
My Griffin Park injury admission
With about 20 minutes to go, I suffered from terrible cramp.
If you heard that complaint from a Championship footballer after playing his part in a hard fought goalless draw away from home during the busy Christmas spell of fixtures you would probably have plenty of sympathy and even admiration for somebody clearly giving all they had for the cause. It's not quite so impressive when it comes from a commentator though is it?
I'm almost ashamed to admit that at Griffin Park on New Year's Eve that is exactly what happened to me.
Around the time that Cameron Jerome blasted over the best chance of the game, I felt a terrific searing pain in my right calf. I had to bite my lip because a radio audience certainly doesn't need to hear a pathetic yelp while trying to follow Norwich City's progress so I sheepishly suffered in silence.
The only explanation I can offer would be the 'cosiness' of the Press Box at Brentford. With knees pushed up under the folded desks and our broadcasting equipment balanced precariously on top, I was scared to move for much of the game for fear of sending the whole lot crashing into the puddles on the floor and setting off an unwanted warm-up to the organised firework displays that were being eagerly anticipated in the capital that night.
I can't blame Brentford for my pain. The club was one of the more helpful to deal with this season and Griffin Park is a place packed with character. It appears amongst rows of terraced houses with the old fashioned floodlight pylons offering the only clue of its existence. If you've never been, try to imagine a football stadium plonked in the middle of Norwich's Golden Triangle without any of the houses disappearing.
I am left with no choice but to admit that my cramp was purely self-inflicted and most likely down to my own inactivity over Christmas. When the commentators have to start bringing their own physio to games you know there is definitely something wrong.