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Emerald Canaries: Rare 'Aul Birds

Emerald Canaries: Rare 'Aul Birds
'Hi, my name's Alan and I've been an alcoh... eh, Norwich city supporter for about 17 years.' This might be overplaying it a bit (oh alright then, it's really overplaying it) but I think it does explain something about how it feels to be a Canary in Ireland.

Incomprehension, indifference, mockery: these are the some of the responses the Irish Norwich fan can expect to receive when he answers the question 'Who do you follow?'.

Sure, a few kindly souls (usually United followers for some weird reason, maybe it's something to do with those bloody scarves) will occasionally give you a supportive pat on the arm and say something patronising like 'Fair play to you anyway mate' before shuffling off to that group of Liverpool supporters who he'll then proceed to roundly abuse by shouting '19' at the top of his voice for five minutes or so.

And I also shuffle off somewhere else, yearning to find some Ipswich fans so that I too might know the pleasure of mercilessly abusing an inferior local rival. At its worst, supporting Norwich in Ireland is the love that dare not speak its name. At its best, it's more a case of the love that no one ever asks about.

To be honest, I'm not sure exactly when it was that I first began supporting Norwich. I know that it was definitely around the time of the 1993 UEFA Cup campaign so it might have been the first or second leg against Bayern or the first leg against Inter (I have a vivid memory of watching these games and hating Walter Zenga so I must have been a confirmed supporter in my own mind by then at least).

When I reflect further on this time though the only thing I'm certain about is that the memory of it makes me feel old (nearly 17 years ago!).

There are many, many potential reasons for why I began supporting them; I was an odd child and was (still am) proud of the fact, my best friend supported Inter (remember, this was around the time of the great AC sides and the reason he supported them was because he liked Toto Schillaci.

Nearly all Irish football fans know the significance of this name. And people think I'm weird? I digress though) so the UEFA Cup tie represented a nice opportunity to get up his nose, my Dad and brother supported Nottingham Forest and Arsenal respectively so I felt that if supporting strange and unpopular sides was good enough for them then it was good enough for me too, I liked the name Butterworth, I thought Jeremy Goss was a good player, they wore pleasant jerseys, they were the plucky underdogs, Bryan Gunn seemed like a nice guy...

Once I start thinking of potential reasons the list seems endless. The fact that in hindsight none of them strike me as being very good is beside the point; I cast the dye as a seven year old and however much I may moan about it I've never seriously regretted the decision. After all, an interesting life involves more than just boundless glory.

As I'm sure you're all aware the intervening years have been a curious story of steadily lurching from giddy highs to muted lows to the crushing nadir against Colchester and then back again to the zenith of the Premier League in two seasons.

When I first made the decision to support Norwich the general response was one of bemusement from grown ups ('You support who? Really? Ah, you'll grow out of it.') and ignorance ('Who?') or abuse ('They're sh*t') from my more bovine-minded Liverpool or United supporting peers in the schoolyard.

Since then we've had the Chase regime, Bryan Gunn suffering cruciate damage against Nottingham Forest (thanks Dad) in January and Norwich subsequently getting relegated, the brief tenure of Martin O'Neill, Keith O'Neill (an absolutely phenomenal player for me during the brief period when I'd only manage Norwich in Championship Manager 97/98.

You gotta keep the faith somehow right?), years in the Championship while Ipswich had their (mercifully) brief moments in the sun, Nigel Worthington, that last day capitulation against Fulham, Peter Grant, that odious little twerp Roeder, the unfortunate return of Bryan Gunn and the glorious reign of Paul Lambert (praised be his name). Sod the haters, it's been a rollercoaster.

A friend, who spent much of his youth living in Birmingham, supports West Brom. For a time I had someone with whom I could occasionally discuss goings on in the Championship ('Jason Koumas is underrated isn't he?', 'Haha, Leeds relegated again, that's gas' that sort of thing). Then the Baggies began enjoying their yoyo-like string of successes and failures while Norwich dropped to League One and suffered that opening day unpleasantness.

We were at our lowest ebb but, as Tony Blair once sang (that's right isn't it?), 'Things can only get better'. And indeed they did. Still though, there was no one to discuss it with.

A solitary Canary was I. Now we're in the Premiership and there's a new Irish Norwich City Supporters Club starting up. Verily, our cup runneth over.

Regardless of how we fare in our first season back on our rightful perch in the Premier League we can at least be sure that it'll be a lot more fun knowing that there are others with whom we can now discuss the slings and arrows of life spent supporting an unheralded, mid sized English club.

Hopefully this blog will contribute in some small way to this process. For that reason I hope anyone who reads this and has anything at all to say about it will do so.

Don't be shy; it's better if birds of a feather stick together.

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Date:Friday June 3 2011
Time: 7:57PM


Alan - Know the feeling about who do you support question - when I'm sked, and its usually expectantly accompanied by one of the top 4, I say "Nah Norwich City the Canaries, anybody can easily support the big money teams" and the usual response is "Who - where are they?." Sometimes I get "Oh there in the Champ - aren't they?" not quite sure or "they went down didn't they" again vague recollection that something happened. On the odd occasion I actually get someone knowing who they are and where they are. Guess that might be a bit more common next season, hopefully.
Steve from Oz
04/06/2011 21:44:00
Alan - you are so right on the who do you support question - I'm Norwich born but living here since '98 so that was always the reason for the support and in the bad days it would be prefixed...... I've no choice, you have to support your home team....! So there are more of us and more than I imagined - I've had the embarrassing experience of seeing a yellow/green shirt or scarf ahead of me in Henry St or somewhere legged it to take a look only to see its Brazil (bit colour-blind, me!) or worse Kerry GAA! Saw an Ipswich shirt on a lad in South Circular Rd after a failed "play-off" campaign for them and hadn't the heart to wallow in his suffering - such was the surprise of spotting it. So I'll keep chasing the yellow and green shirt away in the distance - one day its gong to be one of us!
05/06/2011 19:09:00
We'll be talked about lots next season- and I think most of it positive. Good read Alan!
Candid NCFC
06/06/2011 10:10:00
Hi Alan! I'm Mark one of the Belfast based Canaries! Your blog definitely resonates with my experiences! I've been a fan since the first Premier League season when we did so well and qualified for Europe, purely on the basis that I was an awkward child and had to go against the grain of my Liverpool fanatic family!! So I picked Norwich purely on the basis that I loved that kit (i.e. the one pictured above!). And now I'm not the only one any more!! It's such an exciting time to get the supporters club going (a couple of years ago it would have be more like a support group...) and lets hope in a few months time everyone knows who we are!!
07/06/2011 19:32:00
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