David Hannant: Diary of a Norwich City fan Down Under
PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:29 28 February 2019
A feature I'm very much looking forward to reading is one being worked on behind the scenes by one of my colleagues at Archant Towers.
The feature in question is aiming to pull together the stories of Norwich City fans across the globe – a great idea which I’m sure will make a helluva read.
In my last column, I mentioned that I was writing to you all from Down Under in Australia, where I have been since the beginning of the month. A lot has changed in the football world since then – though City’s seating in the automatic promotion places has remained one constant.
In fact, plenty has gone on for Norfolk in general since my temporary departure – one of our daughters has a multi-million grossing biopic about her in the cinema while another only went and won a blooming Oscar. But I digress…
So in what I hope will whet the appetite for the upcoming feature, I thought I’d document my time away and hopefully give a little glimpse into what it’s like being a Canary Down Under. And don’t worry, I’ll stick to the Norwich City bits – I’m well aware nobody turns to the back pages looking for travel writing.
Sunday, February 3, 4am: Toppling the leaders
As I mentioned, two years ago when I first visited these shores, much of the difference boils down to time zones. Before heading Down Under, I wrote a fair bit about kick-off times. Never did AM come into the equation.
However, fortunately for me on this occasion my body clock was working with all the efficiency of an Ipswich Town back four and was in as much sync as, well, an Ipswich Town back four.
Having spent practically a day and a half flying, as soon as I made it to Adelaide, landing at around 9am SA time, I was out like a light by about noon, sleeping practically all day. Therefore, when it came to the 4am kick-off at Elland Road, I was wide awake, huddled around my tablet and taking that glorious victory.
Sunday, February 10, 10pm: Derby Day
The noon kick-off became a topic almost as hot as Paul Lambert’s head in the run-up to his touchline tantrums. Many argued it was time for a bit more flexibility, though many didn’t. However, none of the times touted was 10pm – slightly past my bedtime…
By this point I was on the Gold Coast of Oz, 10 hours ahead, so that’s exactly when it kicked off for me.
Were it any other game, I wouldn’t be particularly fussed, but imagine waking up on Derby Day and having to contain those butterflies for an entire day – it wasn’t easy.
The previous day, I ambled to a pub near where I was staying to ask if the game would be shown. It wasn’t, so again I found myself watching from the comfort of my bed. By the time Town had been put to the sword it had gone midnight, but how could I possibly go straight to sleep? Something of a drawback – not that I’d change the result!
Monday, February 11: Crikey – recognised at Australia Zoo!
The following day brought one of those nice moments that come with being a fan of a certain football club abroad.
Naturally still riding the high of the Derby, what else could I wear to visit Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo but a Norwich shirt?
Having mingled with some of the locals – roos, echidnas and the like – I was moseying around the gift shop when a member of staff spoke to me.
“So are you from Norwich then?” they asked.
Turns out they were from Great Yarmouth of all places. Small world, eh?
But this is one of the nice things about being a City fan abroad – it’s an instant conversation starter which, when in Norwich, you don’t necessarily have.
Thursday, February 14, 5.45am: Defeat to start the day
If at the start of my jaunt I was offered one defeat from five, I’d have taken it. And, in all honesty, Preston away is the one I’d probably have preferred to lose, if I HAD to lose one.
However, while it didn’t require waking up at stupid o’clock to follow, there are always two edges to a sword. While the crack of dawn is preferable to the dead of night, when it turns into a defeat, not so much.
Whenever City lose, I’m put in a bad mood. Now, imagine having to carry it around for a whole day. Not pretty!
Sunday, February 17, 1am: Bouncing back
By this time, I was properly in sync with Aussie time, so while intending to wake up for the Bolton game, I failed. I did wake up, but about an hour or so after kick-off. Needless to say, waking up and checking the score and reading 0-4 with 20 minutes left made it fairly easy just to drop back to sleep.
Thursday, February 21: Another encounter
When I visited Australia in 2017, I actually bumped into another yellow and green shirt – and it wasn’t a Wallabies top.
This time, I’ve only actually come across one other English football shirt (other than those dished out to my partner’s family members as souvenirs). I was overheard pointing it out and was asked by the child in question’s mother whether I too was from Ipswich. Needless to say, I took great pleasure from pointing out I was “about 45 miles and 23 league positions up from there.”
All friendly chatter of course, but a conversation that likely wouldn’t have occurred in Norfolk.
Sunday, February 24, 1,30am: Try sleeping after that!
With everything riding on the Bristol City game, I couldn’t repeat my Bolton sleeping stunt, so once again I was sat awake at stupid o’clock to watch City’s latest triumph.
It was an exhilarating contest to say the least, with both cities showing desire to win and playing some decent football.
With City twice trailing, only to prevail in the end, it was a pretty big struggle to get back to sleep. The match finished at pretty much 3.30am dead for me, but it was long after that I managed to nod off again. An obvious drawback.
By the time City step into the Lions’ Den I will be back in Blighty and, I tell you what, the 3pm kick-off will certainly be welcome.
Mind the gap?
Safe at last!
We can finally say it – Norwich City are safe from relegation.
The 3-2 victory over Bristol City placed the Canaries on 66 points – 36 clear of the drop zone.
With 22nd-placed Rotherham and 21st-placed Reading playing out a draw at the weekend, both sit on 30 points, with 36 left to play for. This, essentially means they are unable to overtake us. Rejoice.
I Tweeted this out after the game on Sunday/Saturday, very much tongue in cheek.
However, behind this jokey point sits a serious one. Isn’t it excellent that we are able to make these types of joke? It shows how far we’ve come in the last 12 months.
At this stage last season there were 17 points between City and the drop. Not exactly precarious, but also, far from safe.
Now, there is almost the same gap between us and seventh. And long may that continue.