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'It's the biggest day for 30 years' - mass exodus from Norfolk as fans watch Norwich City win promotion

PUBLISHED: 07:47 26 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:00 26 May 2015

Coaches at Wembley stadium. Photo: Sanders Coaches

Coaches at Wembley stadium. Photo: Sanders Coaches

Archant

Rarely can people stuck behind thousands of others in a half mile-long queue for the bus have been so good-natured and cheerful.

NCFC fans at County Hall to get on coaches to the Wembley play-off final. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNCFC fans at County Hall to get on coaches to the Wembley play-off final. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

But the optimism of Norwich City fans waiting to board some of the 120 coaches heading from County Hall to Wembley epitomised the mood of supporters in the build-up to yesterday’s big match.

The crowd on the pavement was alive with yellow and green, with fans sporting dyed hair and beards, and motorists flying Norwich flags and tooting their support.

Julie Brown, who saw City win the Milk Cup at Wembley in 1985 and was queueing with friends, said: “I think there’s a lot more at stake this time. That seems so long ago, a distant memory. I think that was more of a good day out. This really means something. It’s far more important.”

At Norwich Station, special football trains were laid on for fans who were relieved the threatened rail strike had been called off.

Streets of Norwich were empty during Norwich's play-off final game against Middlesbrough.Streets of Norwich were empty during Norwich's play-off final game against Middlesbrough.

The mood was upbeat, with bottles of beer opened by 8am, and football chants ringing out in the forecourt.

For James Bishop, 40, it was a chance to finally realise his dream of seeing his team at Wembley, 30 years after his father watched the Milk Cup final without him. Yesterday, he took his daughter, Ashley, aged 14.

He said: “It’s the biggest stage in world football.”

Alan Lee, another veteran of 1985, was wearing his lucky shirt from 30 years ago, and was impressed with a city buzzing with cars and pedestrians, despite it being before 7am on a Bank Holiday Monday.

He said: “The atmosphere is unbelievable. I drove through the city and it is everywhere. It’s the biggest day for 30 years.”

Others headed to Wembley under their own steam. Motorists travelling south on the A11 were greeted by Norwich flags flown by supporters standing on the bridge near Wymondham. Drivers beeped to fellow Norwich fans as they passed, and passengers tweeted photos of a motorcyclist with city flags streaming behind as they overtook him.

One van decorated with inflatable dolls wearing Stephen Fry and Delia Smith masks was particularly popular on social media, and Mr Fry himself tweeted a photo of it.

The stream of Norwich fans travelling to London was so thick that former Ipswich Town player James Scowcroft tweeted that “driving down the M11 is heartbreaking”, but later shared a photo of himself with Norwich-supporting boxer Anthony Ogogo, with the words, “one Norwich fan I wouldn’t argue with”.

Birchanger Services was swamped by a yellow and green tide as it was taken over by City fans.

Behind them, the Yellow Army left a near-deserted Norwich. During the game, the shopping area around the market was largely empty.

Last night, chants of “we are Premier League” reverberated around Norwich Railway Station as fans returned home.

Edward Douglas, 25, of Aylsham Road, Norwich, said: “It was my first trip to Wembley and the whole experience from travelling there and back with the rest of the fans to the game itself was fantastic.”

Alan Rooney, 33, of Sprowston, said: “Play-offs are such a painful experience but there is no better feeling if you win and get promoted.”

Joe Grainge, 13, from Norwich, who went to the game with his dad, said: “This is one of my favourite days ever.”

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