Paddy Davitt: Try curbing the cynicism and remember your very first love
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The passage of time may cloud the details and dull the memories but we all remember our first game.
That sense of excitement, maybe even awe, at the sight of a football team or a football stadium through young eyes; a bond, a special connection that will last the rest of your life.
The childhood idols, the wonderful pictures and sounds, the colours, the goals and victories. The noise and energy of the crowd, a pride in your area and a tribal sense of belonging.
Then you start to age and a growing cynicism crowds out the innocence. The first crushing disappointments from losing big matches, relegations and dashed dreams. The realisation you will suffer again and again as the seasons pass. Or simply a resistance to this modern phenomena where the Premier League is omnipotent, dwarfing everything in its path, fostering a culture where football becomes less about romance than hard finance.
That influx of huge wealth from television broadcasters and billionaire owners has transformed stadia, helped England's top flight attract some of the best talent on the pitch and in the dugout and projected the 'product' into a global circus but it also threatens to break that link between the impressionable young fan and his family who is increasingly priced out of the experience. Not forgetting those disillusioned with the vast, bloated sums of money and the perceived power of players and agents which makes it increasingly difficult to forge a connection and a shared identity.
Norwich City have three games to retain their Premier League status. To reap all the financial dividends and bask in that global exposure or to wrestle, like the rest of the top flight, with those issues over ticket pricing and retaining the loyalty of the generations to come after the ones who still flock to Carrow Road in enviable numbers.
Manchester United's pivotal visit this weekend will be the first since Sunderland; a painful antidote to the joy and ecstasy of beating their north-east rivals Newcastle United.
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When Duncan Watmore rounded John Ruddy in the final seconds to add a third goal for the visitors there was almost a funereal sense that hung heavy on the final whistle. Home fans who had not already departed, unable to linger any longer, stood for the most part in stunned silence.
Too often the loyalty of a football supporter is taken for granted with condescending appeals, fanned by clubs and media alike it must be said, to play your part. To be the 12th man, or woman, to make the difference. But football fans do not need clap banners or public appeals to show their affection. That support is unconditional, forged in captivating youthful episodes where the horizons felt boundless.
It is not blind faith but it is a form of devotion. Rest assured should Norwich lose this fight and sink back there will be a thirst for answers and action. But they will be there again next August, whatever division the Canaries occupy, full of hope and optimism and ready to back the boys in yellow and green.
Carrow Road can be an intimidating, raucous theatre but Alex Neil and his players need to provide the spark this weekend. That should be their part of the bargain. For the rest of us, try to suppress the cynicism, the frustration at a season which has run away from the Canaries for all manner of reasons, and remember those first, faltering wide-eyed steps of becoming a football supporter and what your club means to you.
This has never been about finance, it is not even about league status, it is about a sense of belonging and an enduring love affair.