Along came Derby – and made this young American’s trip to Norwich one to remember

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

American fan Charlie Hatch made his first trip across the pond to see Norwich City play. It's been eventful...

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

So it made sense when I left the Boxing Day dismantling at Reading wondering not why I made the trip, but why did City have to tumble now? They had fallen to 12th.

The truth is simple: regardless of any fixtures or goals allowed, I was excited to finally watch my football club.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, I'm enrolled as a journalism student at Ohio University and have dreamt of watching Norwich in person since the first match I saw televised – a 1-1 draw at Wigan when Norwich were newly promoted back into the Premier League in 2011.

I enjoyed the style of play. I liked the manager's aggressive tactics, the overzealous defending and the pairing of a scrappy little midfielder called Wes Hoolahan and an overpowering brute of a forward in Grant Holt.

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

More importantly, though, were the bright yellow shirts.

Over time my fandom grew. Before long I had the squad memorised and by the end of the next season I was deep into the relegation scrap before those late wins over West Bromwich and Manchester City.

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Honestly, being a Norwich supporter in America is fairly effortless when the club are in the Premier League. Barring the five-hour time difference, every match is televised. I took that for granted.

The Championship, however, means fewer matches televised and more fixtures with just match commentary. I've stared at many blank walls listening to Chris Goreham on BBC Radio Norfolk, pondering how the happy times disappeared so quickly.

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

American NCFC fan Charlie Hatch at Carrow Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

My plans for coming to England began last January, roughly around the time when Premier League safety seemed impending and I could begin saving up to see City in the top flight. Obviously those plans went awry.

As the club's form began to dip I got worried. Sure, being an American supporter can be selfish at times. Why lie? I need Norwich promoted so I can actually watch them.

But then the mood shifted, doubt crept in and by the time I finally saw City – the 2-1 Huddersfield loss at home – I genuinely wondered if I'd see a win in the four matches I had tickets for.

I came to Norwich at a strange time. For the first time in my fandom the club looked directionless, noticeably uninspired and supporters were disgruntled by the manager and the board.

Truthfully, every match has felt important, personally. While the Huddersfield loss marked my first night in England and Carrow Road, Reading offered my first away day and Brentford gave me an opportunity to see City on a terrace. Never mind that happening away to Aresnal, Chelsea, etc…

But with each disappointing loss there was fear and annoyance. Technically this was the lowest the club had fallen in my six seasons as a supporter.

Then Derby happened.

Words will never portray my emotions on Monday afternoon. For once City looked better than I ever could have imagined. The effort was apparent, the creative chances were brilliant and the backline was stout. Someone next to me perfectly described City as waltzing through their opposition.

I was finally happy. And now, maybe because it's a new year or the club have looked better with every match, I'm confident as I prepare to fly home tomorrow.

I've truly loved every second in England, from meeting friends to running to trains with a cumbersome suitcase and for the true reason I came, to watch City. For the rest of the season I hope the results are positive. I'm thankful for every supporter I've met, as each was helpful when needed and accepting into every conversation.

As for the city itself, Norwich is gorgeous and better than 17-year-old me could have expected when I randomly found my new favorite team. We all know the stereotypes…

Family friends back home have called this the trip of a lifetime. I never correct them, but they're always wrong.

Instead, this trip has been magnificent and the affirmation of a long, loving relationship with my football club, its city and country. Thank you all for that.

Once I'm home the usual routine will return: wake up 10 minutes before kick-off, make tea and put on headphones to listen. Only this time I won't have to dream of seeing Norwich as if they're on television.

This time I can listen with my head replaying so many unforgettable memories and overwhelming joy inside Carrow Road. And for that, I can't say how lucky I truly feel.

Thank you, and come on, City.

You can follow Charlie on Twitter @charliehatch_