A Weekend in Norwich

Posted on April 10, 2017

As a Reading fan, it took a while to forget the 5-0 hammering dished out by Fulham back in December, however, when my eldest son decided he would like an awayday Reading FC weekend trip for his birthday, my enthusiasm for the beautiful game gradually returned.

So, way back in January, we checked through the fixture list and decided that as we had both never been there before, why not try Norwich City away? Norwich were on a torrid run at the time, with any hopes of an instant Premier League return in tatters, so it appeared that we could go to the game with high expectations, safe in the knowledge our opponents weren’t capable of ‘doing a Fulham’.

My friend Peter and his son Tom decided to join in the party, so we booked the tickets and decided that the train was the best way to a city that is about as out on a limb as you can get in English football.

I say the best way, but there isn’t a ‘best way’ to Norwich, with the options being a drive that includes routes around the M25 and up the A11 that are littered with potential gridlock, or a complex cross country train journey.

So we took the train from Basingstoke to Waterloo (standing only) the tube to Kings Cross, a train from Kings Cross to Cambridge (standing only) then another to Norwich, amusing ourselves by playing ‘spot the hill’ from Cambridge to Norwich, chalking up two minor slopes as we did so.

When we got to Norwich, we checked into out hotel by the River Wensum that was owned by a friendly couple who resembled Eastern European porn stars who had saved up enough from the dodgy movie business to realise their dream of owning a backwater B&B in East Anglia.

From there, we walked towards the stadium and were directed to a pub called The Compleat Angler, which we were told, was the place to go to as an away fan. However, it wasn’t and we were turned away to a chorus of pantomime jeers and a drink thrown at me which missed, apart from half a cube of ice that bounced off my chest.

I could exaggerate the experience, claiming to be the victim of violent football hooliganism, but the perpetrator looked like a malnourished rodent and was carrying all the threat of a rogue grandmother losing her temper at a Woman’s Institute baking competition.

We meandered towards the ground and the bland looking industrial estate surrounding it which, I presume, was once owned by the club and sold off to raise funds. Norwich may have Delia ‘Let’s be ‘aving you’ Smith as their co-owner but it appeared that the supporters, home and away, felt they would get a better deal at the Morrisons store on the acquired land, with us following their lead.

A supermarket next to a football stadium cannot be good for club catering revenue as, for less than a fiver, we had a fresh sandwich and a bottle of Adnams Bitter than came in at a whopping 6.9% proof, making us more buoyant and expectant of a positive result.

After a quick pint in the ground, we arrived in our just in time to see a Norwich penalty hit the back of the net. An early setback, but this was a Reading team that are fourth in the EFL, so it would surely be sorted out efficiently, with Norwich soon regretting having the audacity to strike such a cheeky blow at a team six places above them.

Norwich then proceeded to score at 5-10 minute intervals for the rest of the half, allowing us just enough time in between goals to fantasise about witnessing one of football’s great comebacks before the Canaries slotted home another goal, often in shambolic circumstances. It was black comedy at its best.

It was 5-0 after 35 minutes but in the 39th minute, Reading did got one back through Yann Kermorgant. If only they could get another just before half-time, or maybe even two, Norwich would panic and maybe it could still be an exciting second half?

Norwich made it 6-1 two minutes later and when the referee blew up for half-time, he looked exhausted by it all.


Norwich spent the afternoon camped the Reading half

The second half was made up of shooting practice as Norwich amassed no fewer than 30 shots on target, with Reading offering a little bit of damage limitation resistance but not much else. To make it more painful, we had a bloke behind us shouting ‘You shagged your sister, you shagged your mother‘ about every two minutes.

This was presumably meant to be a dig at Norwich fans for being interbred but as proof that the abused often turn abuser, he himself looked like he had been made up of spare parts courtesy of savage interbreeding in the depths of a west Berkshire dungeon.

Norwich rounded off the game with a seventh and we left the ground for a fun evening of beers, cocktails, curries and Lord knows what else before slumping into our beds, crashing out like floodlights during a Malaysian betting scam.

I awoke early and took to the streets of Norwich, which was at 7:30 on a sunny spring morning, looking wonderful. As you would expect at that time of the day in Norwich, there were some odd folk around but I did getting chat to a nice pair of chaps who were photographing nesting peregrine falcons at the cathedral.

As they were giving me a bit of history of the cathedral and the town as a whole, a chap walked past us in black trousers that were about nine inches too short, white socks, a waistcoat and a haircut that made him look like he was going to a fancy dress party dressed as Bamber Gascoigne attending a fancy dress party dressed as a clown.

He then met up with a strange looking elderly woman in a wheelchair and started having a conversation.

“Strange looking chap”, I said to one of the photographers.

“He’s alright…do you know, him and his mother hold the record for most police call-outs in Norwich. What makes it really funny is that all the complaints are against each other and they live in the same flat…that’s Norwich for you”.

What I sensed from these two chaps was pleasure in self-depreciation and telling quirky stories about their town. They loved the fact they were out on a limb, isolated from the rest of the country and they even bemoaned the fact they had a dual carriageway now, saying they would have in fact preferred a drawbridge.

As I meandered off to explore the rest of the city, I decided I liked Norwich, even if their team had just battered mine 7-1 and it is nearly impossible to get there.

If can get a lift in a helicopter, I might go back one day.

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