Lost in…Norwich

Norwich City v Swansea City

Carrow Road / Premier League / 7th November 2015

(DISCLAIMER: I absolutely adore all things Alan Partridge and so expect this blog to be utterly doused in Alan Partridge quotes and references – like a lot. So for the less educated in Partridge-isms, if something wacky comes up just assume it’s somehow related to Norfolk’s most famous son).

Knowing me Lost Boyos, knowing you the Lost Boyos reader! A-HA! If there’s one trip I was very much looking forward to this season it was the trip to Norwich. I’d been to Norwich away once before back in the pre-Lost Boyos day, but this was my first trip back to Norfolk since that day all the way back in October 2011. Now with a blog at my disposal I’m able to fully express my views on the pedestrianisation of Norwich city centre: originally, I thought it was bang out of the order – people forget that traders need access to Dixons after all.

I left the home of cotton and guns, Manchester, very, very early Saturday morning – like 5.55am early. I was suitably knackered after a full week of work and then a lively evening at Salford City’s giantkilling of Notts County on the Friday evening. I almost didn’t survive the night after some dickhead threw a rogue firework over the fence at Moor Lane, which then decided to come screaming towards us before hitting the barrier in front of us. It could have taken my face off, but I lived to tell the tale.

Being a massive geek, my train journey to Norfolk was soundtracked by my very own Alan Partridge playlist featuring the likes of Level 42, Wings (the band the Beatles could have been), The Police’s gibberish classic De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da and obviously Abba. However, I soon didn’t need such timeless classics for company as brilliantly I was joined by fellow Swans fan Chester Mike on arriving into Crewe and so I had actually company aside from the vocal chords of Hot Chocolate and the like.

Ou rcarriage to Norwich awaits.

Our carriage to Norwich awaits.

On arriving at London we headed straight from Euston to Liverpool Street and did not end up stopping at any of Rejection, Disappointment, Backstabbing Central or Shattered Dreams Parkway. We were making great time though and soon we were on the fairly retro Anglian train heading to Norwich. It was still only 9am which sunk in how stupidly early we’d left.

Anglian trains definitely need to update their trains, as our train rocked all over the place and jutted about as it struggled in the wet and windy climes of the East. We eventually made it though and Norwich was our oyster for the rest of the day.

I spy Carrow Road from outside my hotel.

I spy Carrow Road from outside my hotel.

Sadly, the Linton Travel Tavern – the genius of its location being that it is equidistant between London and Norwich and certainly competitive for a 3 star rating – was unavailable today, so instead I ended up at the Abbey Guest House, itself a decent little guesthouse overlooking Carrow Road itself. On arriving at hotel I made a quick nip to the toilet and do you want the bathroom said to me? Aqua. Which is French for ‘water’. But I after getting myself sorted, I was straight back out the door and heading down the road for my first pint of the day in the excellent Coach & Horses pub. I did consider sodding all that wine nonsense and getting a nice pint of mineral water, but then I decided that the local ale looked far superior. Chester Mike suggested that along with our local ales we invest in some food to keep us ticking over for the day and this proved to be a superb call. The food was immense and incredibly well portioned! My chilli (as hot as the sun) and chips were overflowing the dish and Mike also hailed his excellent burger. Textbook. The only thing letting us down was the fact that we were completely enveloped by Norwich fans and so we figured we’d head down the road and join our own.

Lovely stuff.

Lovely stuff.

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Chester Mike and Upi exiting the Coach and Horses.

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The Compleat Angler.

The allocated away pub in Norwich is the Compleat Angler and it is brilliant establishment – well, apart from two misgivings I have about the place. Firstly, plastic glasses – a rule I come to expect on matchday and one I can handle; however, my second criticism of the Angler was for far more sacrilegious reasons: they wouldn’t let me wear my flat cap. Bitter bastards. I was denied wearing it on entering and then told again to remove it after I had put it back on briefly for a photo to appear on these very pages.

It wasn’t too long until the pub was brimming with Jacks and it was great to catch up with the gang. It was especially good to see Nic again (also prohibited from wearing his flat cap). Anyone moaning of their long journey from West Wales to East Anglia should give Nic a big pat on the back as he had travelled from his adopted home in Washington DC for today’s game; that’s quite an effort – esepcially for the performance we would soon be witnessing on the pitch.

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Me, Nic, Huw and Chester Mike in the Angler.

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More thumbs up fun.

I did suggest that as we couldn’t get the Spice Girls we should head over to the spice museum in Long Stanton, but no-one else was too keen, so instead I began the traipse over to Carrow Road with a plan to meet up with a friend of Lost Boyos en route.

Outside Wetherspoons I found Jack “Talk Norwich City” Reeve and Fake Gibbo – two lads who haven’t graced these pages since that epic January trip to Crawley – along with their two mates Josh and Bradley. Talk turned to the game and predictions and I simply declared that “Swansea will come at them” – not my words, but the words of Top Gear Magazine…I mean Mark Lawrenson. In general the consensus seemed to be that no-one really had a clue what to expect today as the yellow and greenwith both teams stalling badly in the league over recent months.

Suddenly, the imposing yellow and black sight of Norwich City’s home was upon us and I had sort of forgotten how impressive-looking Carrow Road is in fairness. Jack continued to go on about his beloved Dieumerci Mbokani (he has about 30 DIY chants about the striker – no exaggeration), whilst I made all of have a suitable double thumbs up photo in front of the canary-coloured gates of the ground. Lovely stuff.

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Approaching Carrow Road.

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With the Norwich faithful – Jack of Talk Norwich City fame, me, Bradley, Fake Gibbo and Josh.

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Norwich City Football Club.

On arriving at The Jarrold Stand, it was time to enter into the away end and absorb myself into my second encounter with the Yellows here at the Carrow Road – a ground which is never a happy hunting ground for the Swans. To be honest, I think I’d have rather visited the club’s former ground purely because of its superb name: The Nest. The Nest was known for its infamous lack of safety with it being perched inside a pit and literally on a cliff-edge. In fact, the last team ever to play there? Swansea Town, who blew a 2 goal lead to draw 2-2 back in 1935. This is definitely not to say that Carrow Road doesn’t have its own awesome story to tell though.

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Inside the ground from in front of the hotel next to the ground.

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Our home for the afternoon – The Jarrold Stand.

I was not too well-versed in the story of Carrow Road until I came upon a Guardian article this year documenting the miraculous building of the Canaries’ current home (it’s an excellent read and can be checked out here). Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Carrow Road can boast at being built in an astonishing 82 days – all 35,000 capacity of it. Work began in June 1935 next to Norwich’s famous Colman’s Mustard factory (Russell Colman was club president at the time too) and by August the ground was hosting a Second Division game between Norwich and West Ham. The ground became known locally as the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’. Us Swansea fans probably wished the place hadn’t been built at all though with the Swans’ dismal run there over recent years. Today wouldn’t exactly go swimmingly for the Swans either.

Swansea fans faced an Odyssey-esque journey to get from West Wales to East Anglia and so the away end was slightly short of Swansea’s usually healthy away following numbers this afternoon to the extent that we were all squeezed into a small part of the concourse. There was still time for the usually crap-tasting pints you find on Premier League concourses, before I heard the public address system (‘tannoy’ is a brand name) coming to life to announce that the teams were coming out and that today’s match was soon to kick-off.

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I’ve definitely been on bigger concourses than this…

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Almost ready to go here at Carrow Road.

Swansea’s form recently had been bang out of order with only 1 win since the first month of the season and a win would have been very welcome on this autumnal Saturday afternoon. Saying that, Norwich were desperate for the points too, so we were all probably expecting a fairly scrappy game.

I took my perch with Chester Mike at the end of the Jarrold Stand in the corner nearest the Barclay End, where the Norwich fans were just going through the closing bars of their club song On The Ball City. Then the stewards went through the superfluous act of trying to get our fans to sit down to which me and Mike informed everyone near us to just keep looking straight ahead, as the stewards were never going to walk down the row and bother physically sitting us down; we merely just had to feign deafness and snub their calls. They soon submitted and gave up their battle.

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The Barclay End.

Swansea actually started the game fairly okay with the away team generally keeping the ball and forcing Norwich back into their own half. However, Swansea did this a lot during the game and every single time failed to create virtually nothing. That cutting edge, lacking in previous weeks, seemed to elude us once again.

There was one glaring header fired off target by former Cardiff striker Cameron Jerome (scum, subhuman scum) and a fairly decent shout for a penalty (in my eyes at least) on Bafe Gomis for the Swans, but otherwise there was very little to report upon on in the first half. Both sets of fans struggled to really get fired up either.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Half-time: Norwich City v Swansea City.

I really couldn’t be bothered with braving the half-time queues for beer and food and so instead I entertained myself with watching the Norwich sky turn a pretty shade of red and admiring Ceri and his mates’ flag collection behind me; the fact that they had a French flag and an Icelandic flag with them foreboded for me that neither Gomis or Sigurdsson would now actually end up scoring.

I was hoping that Sigurdsson or Shlevey, both players who have feet like traction engines, could perhaps make up for our lack of creativity by just launching a long ranger into the top corner, but the second half proved even more frustrating for the Swans.

Match action.

Match action.

The proof is in the pudding and in this case the pudding was… a football for Norwich City. The game had been devoid of any liquid football, but Norwich had completely changed the game by bringing on the destructive Mbokani. Having endured weeks of Jack Snapchatting various different chants in Mbokani’s honour, I figured the lad must be fairly decent, but I was surprised by just how good he was.

Fabianksi made a brilliant save from a long-range Robbie Brady effort, but then things were to go awry. The resulting corner went straight to Mbokani at the back post, who headed back across goal for Howson to bing-bang stick it in from 2 yards. Fabianski had football pie all over his face, as his effort to block Mbokani’s header proved as comical as the marking in the box.

At least the sky was nice above the ground...

At least the sky was nice above the ground…

From there on, there only looked like there would be one winner as the Swans’ substitution proved ineffective and too late in the day to really change anything. I kept telling myself that we just needed one chance, but one never really came and instead it was the mighty Mbokani causing all the havoc.

And so the game seeped out into nothingness and not for the first time in the past month or 2, Swansea City had produced an unispiring performance. The display had been so boring I would have rather have dismantled a Corby Trouser Press instead.

Full-time: Norwich City 1 – 0 Swansea City.

I exited Carrow Road, portraying a madman, as I left the ground in a quite the angry mood thanks to another frustrating performance from the Swans. Stupidly for me though, I had agreed to go on Jack’s Talk Norwich City YouTube channel post match to discuss the game. On meeting back up with the lads I made sure to calm myself down a bit as to not look like a knob in front of the camera. In my defence, I thought I held it together in the TNC spotlight well, but one particular statement from me has led me to me being dubbed such stinging names as ‘butthurt fan’ and ‘clueless’ by some of the Norwich faithful. What scandalous statement had I made? Had I denounced Colman’s Mustard? Had I sullied the name of the saintly Delia Smith? Had I heralded Ipswich? None of these – instead I had the audacity to suggest that Norwich would get relegated. My case wasn’t helped by the fact that Jack headlined his 4 minute plus video (which only had me discussing Norwich for 30 seconds) as ‘Swansea Fans Say Norwich Are Going Down’. I merely jest of course – I’m a big fan of Jack’s channel and I was definitely thrilled to finally feature on it, as he has graced Lost Boyos on a few occasions in the past. You can check out the video below – and Jack’s channel is definitely worth checking out too for his excellent ‘Matchday Experiences’ alone.

It was goodbye to Jack and the gang and back to the Compleat Angler with my fellow Jacks to drown our sorrows and to perk ourselves up for a night in Norwich.

On sauntering back into the pub, there appeared to be a general mood of ‘oh well, let’s get drunk’ which certainly cheered me up.

“You are that guy who does that blog aren’t you?” came a sudden query from a lad in a Norwich away shirt. Indeed I am. I was soon made to feel like a proper z-list celebrity as he, Tim, asked me for a photo and then began texting his mates saying he had met the ‘Lost Boyos guy’. I’m sure my z-list standing will get me a stint on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here in the near future.

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With Lost Boyosfan Tim.

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A night time view of Carrow Road from outside my hotel.

Much merriment was had in the city of Norwich, but in regards of nightlife…well, there really isn’t too much in it (there was no chance of it turning into an all night rave anyway). I was told not to bother delving too far into the city centre, but I learned the next morning that this part of town was far more to my liking.

I’m not one to stay locked up in my hotel room, so on waking up groggily in my hotel room the next morning and, having had breakfast, I headed straight for…you guessed it: Wetherspoons. Getting there took me right through the heart of Norwich city centre and it was a nice reminder from my trip there a few years ago just how beautiful a city Norwich actually. In fact, the walk through the city centre completely transformed my opinion: I’m now 100% behind the pedestrianisation of Norwich city centre.

Lovely Norwich.

Lovely Norwich.

Behind the bar at the awesome Ribs of Beef.

Behind the bar at the awesome Ribs of Beef.

My morning/early afternoon saw me take in two Wetherspoons near the city centre, but undoubtedly the pub highlight of the weekend was the superb Ribs of Beef (subtitled on Google Maps as ‘the unpretentious watering hole on the riverside’). What. A. Pub. Beautiful local ales, friendly bar staff and locals and a beautiful location alongside the River Wensum. Plus, this pub had the genius idea of having little bowls of salted popcorn on the bar to pick at freely. Jurassic Park!

I could have quite happily hung around here all afternoon and waited for their apparently excellent Sunday dinner, but instead I just had to make do with the 3 pints of a beautiful, golden local ale, Golden Jackal, before I figured I better head to my rail replacement bus to Peterborough and then onwards from there back to Manchester…of course, I fitted in one more pit stop in the Compleat Angler too. And on that bombshell, I shall leave you.

This is no Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, which gets better with every read, but I hope my tale of my trip to Norwich has proved compelling.

Highlights: awesome food in Coach and Horses, Compleat Angler, fan of Carrow Road, making it onto Talk Norwich City, Ribs of Beef pub the next day, Long Stanton Spice Museum.

Low Points: no flat cap policy of Compleat Angler, poor show from the Swans.

See all my photos from my trip to Norwich here.

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