Posts tagged ‘Newcastle’

Why… Norwich City?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The Why…? series of articles will discuss how fans became supporters of particular football teams. First up: Norwich City

Bright lights, big city, massive head: our hero rocks some seriously thick woollen tights on the streets of Islington

I was born in Islington, London, during the late 60s to a lower middle-class family who had absolutely no interest in football whatsoever. I think they thought it all a tad beneath them and a bit, you know, shouty, sweary and Bovrily. This was a household which wouldn’t allow me to watch ITV because it was a commercial station (read common) so I guess it’s not surprising they’d frown upon professional footerists.

When I was three my dad landed a job with a public relations company in Norwich so we sold up and moved to a quaint little Norfolk village. I don’t remember too much about our early east of England days but I did quickly notice: the accent was ‘a bit’ different; there were a lot of fields filled with combine harvesters; two men were employed to walk around the village digging deep holes and then filling them in (why?); our village had a blacksmith; there was a massive open cesspit at the end of our garden.

Despite clearly suffering from culture shock and completely unadjusted to our new surroundings my parents packed me off to the village school aged four and a bit to answer two years of questions along the lines of: “Oi Adam, why dew yew tarrrrrrrrrrk waaaared?” and “dew a carkney voyce or yew’ll get a bunch o’ foives”.

To appease my playground persecutors I could often be found practicing cheeky cock-er-knee kicks and skipping around the playground with my thumbs pointing towards my nipples shouting, “Please don’t kick my cobbler’s awls with your Daisy Roots it ‘urts so it does”. Such words and actions usually fended off the potential for a home time “Bundle!” at my expense, but I could never be sure.

Nevertheless despite being a walking, talking Dick van Dyke cliché I had began to take more of an interest in football though I was a bit ‘easy.’ As in I spread the love and was still not yet a one team boy. I flirted with Chelsea, batted my eye lashes at Liverpool, even winked at Leeds, I think, but never Norwich. Indeed me and my best friend of the time, Richard Inwoods, made a pact never to support NCFC because we felt they were a load of old squit. Thank God such childish fantasies were not to last and it wasn’t long before I learned the error of my ways.

The change began via a high-profile team’s star player and another house move. Not long after I started school my dad set up his own PR company, Communication Council, and my mum had restarted her journalism career and was regularly writing for the Eastern Daily Press and The Guardian – things were on the up. They felt they had outgrown our village surroundings and wanted to move back to the hubbub of the urban grind. A new location was required that felt more consummate to their blossoming media careers.  Family life once again needed the push and pull, ebb and flow of the big city: shove lightweight London, we needed hardcore Norwich.

Now whether you’re from Nottingham, Newcastle or Norwich it’s really difficult for anyone under the age of 20 to understand just how little football there was on TV back in the 70s and 80s. There were only three channels and as mentioned I was banned from watching one of them. When footy was featured it always felt like it was Liverpool as they were the most successful side of the age.  As a great City fanzine once used to state: Liverpool are on the telly again! As a result of their televisual dominance I became Kenny Dalglish’s biggest fan. My bedroom wall was adorned with his cuddly strawberry blond image. I liked Liverpool, but I loved King Kenny. In fact I thought about becoming Scottish to show my solidarity but mum talked me out of it. (This nationality changing thing was to take an unexpected twist a few years later when overnight I decided I was Welsh. No, I don’t know why either and suffice to say it didn’t last). It was whilst I was still going through this directionless stage of my football supporting life that my brain held on to a fact I had hitherto missed – Norwich City had a World Cup scorer and winner in their midst: Martin Peters. Epiphany! Eureka! Tubular!

My love for Martin Peters was profound, deep and has lasted to this day. At the time I desperately wanted to have a practical side parting just like him. Indeed I regularly emptied a cannister or two of my dad’s Cossack hairspray trying.  These “firm hold” CFC spray marathons always ended in failure with the polar icecaps coming off particularly poorly.  In the school playground I tried to emulate Peters easy going playing style (he was knocking on a bit by then), but with limited success on account of being a bit rubbish. But as luck would have it I was quite good at something football player related – being a goalie. This was double bubble because the Norwich goalie was Kevin (The Cat) Keelan.  Keelan was a tanned, heavy smoking sportsman (EVERYONE smoked in the 70s), who like Peters gave good hair (black bouffant, quite possibly dyed). I wanted to be The Cat as well as Martin; he seemed really cool, super brave and as well as his hair I really coveted his green, long sleeved goalie jersey.

Two final pieces of the jigsaw cemented my green and yellow allegiance. On Sundays, normally after another nuclear-sized family argument around the dinner table, I was unexpectedly allowed to watch the Anglia regional football programme Match of the Week. My dad had been weakened from continually shouting at my brother for continually shouting at me over flavourless, flaccid, anaemic 70s era roast chicken. I guess allowing me to watch MotW was a small concession in his endless battle to enforce increasingly redundant middle class values on kids that were more punk than Puccini; more importantly it shut me up for a while. I wasn’t allowed to watch anything else on ITV, mind, but I didn’t care. I was now able to watch Peters, Keelan, Paddon (great beard), Boyer (blond, a bit of back-combing for volume?), McDougall (thick, luscious Scottish hair) and the rest doing their follicle footy stuff instead of gazing at static Panini stickers.

About this time I (finally) managed to persuade my parents to buy me my first ever NCFC football strip and that was most definitely that: I was now a genuine up and down diehard City fan. Before long I was going to every home game and turning an interest into something verging on an addiction; a chronic habit that has continued to dominate everything despite my life turning full circle and returning to live in that there Islington, London, over 20 years ago.

Adam Orton

Adam is not only business manager of Debra Orton Illustration but also runs design and print company Ortonomous Ltd. He would like it known he is not a hairdresser or some kind of hair perv.

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