The obvious place to begin this blog is to explain how someone who is now a 39 year-old primary school teacher and Geographer who was born and bred in South-West London and currently resides in Surrey, ended up as a mad Norwich City fan.
Particularly as I’ve never lived in Norfolk and no-one in my family has ever been the least bit interest in ‘The Canaries’.
I grew up as an only child.
My father was never into football, or sport in general. He’d watch the FA Cup Final every year, but other than that, his interests surrounded 1960s music, cinema and theatre. Yet somehow, from of this football free home developed an boy who became obsessed with football, and in particular, obsessed with Norwich City FC.
The first signs of my football fanaticism came as a six year-old child.
To this very day, I remember walking up the stairs of WH Smith in Putney, SW London to discover a display of Panini’s Football ’86 sticker album. This was something I just had to have. Looking through the pages of this album now, some thirty-two years later, it is obvious just how well loved this sticker album was.
Yellowed Sellotape holds it together, with the edges of all the pages seriously wrinkled.
But, I still own it, despite the best attempts of several people (these “non-believers” will be remain nameless, but you can probably guess who they may be…), I cannot ever imagine parting with it. Why? Because that sticker album is the very reason I am a Norwich City supporter.
After a couple of weeks of collecting the stickers, I was struck by something. It appeared that virtually all of the 22 First Division teams (we’re some seven seasons before the Premier League here) and 10 Scottish Premier Division teams wore either red or blue.
Then a turn of the page revealed the Second Division. Included, almost as an afterthought with only a team photo and a mini shiny badge for each of the 22 competing sides.
Yet, it was this section of the album that quickly turned into the centre of my football world. On one never to be forgotten day, I tore open a sticker packet to reveal a team photo featuring a squad wearing yellow shirts with green arrows on the sleeves and green shorts.
It was the most wonderful football sticker that this then 6 year-old had ever seen.
It was different. At that very moment I decided to support this yellow and green clad team. A decision that would shape my childhood in many ways. I had absolutely no idea where Norwich was. Everyone I knew at school supported Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United. Not me.
With neither of my parents having a particular clue about football, I had to rely on my QPR supporting Uncle and Cousin to inform me all about my team.
They appeared to take great delight in telling me that Norwich were “just a second division team from a long way away” who “are not very good”. They suggested immediately that I should support QPR instead, only to very quickly realise that there was no shaking this very determined six year-old.
It was Norwich or no-one for me. I was firmly yellow and green.
Not long afterwards, I was taken up to Central London, a trip that my Dad would probably have envisaged was all about taking me to the cultural sights – St. Pauls, Buckingham Palace and the like. The only thing I remember about that day was walking down Carnaby Street and discovering a shop called Soccer Scene which just happened to have a Norwich City scarf on sale.
Unlike many of the other team scarves stocked, there was only one Norwich scarf. Surely the reason for this, I thought, was because so many people would want to support the Canaries, that they had almost sold out.
I immediately decided that I would not shut up or move anywhere until my Dad bought that one remaining scarf for me. This purchase and subsequent wearing non stop of the Norwich scarf was my first public demonstration of Canary support – over a hundred miles from Carrow Road – this mystical place that this then six year-old had never visited.
Ben Gilbey writes on his Blog ‘Tales From The River End‘, whereby he posts experiences of following Norwich City FC as a Surrey based fan, season ticket holder and member of the ‘Capital Canaries’. A huge thank to Ben for sharing his wonderful blog post with TalkNorwichCity.com.