Winning at Wembley was a romantic, emotional way to end a strange season of true ups and downs. On the pitch this season has been one to remember but for me this season has been made by the off-field happenings that has affected me and my relationship with Norwich City.
The season started with anticipation and excitement, the first game of the season is always a strange day. I can remember sitting in my old house with my Dad and watching Wolves play us off the park live on TV. I was gobsmacked, this season was meant to be the one that excited us and our club legend Neil Adams would lead us back to the Premier League unbeaten. I could not have been more wrong.
I was left disappointed and frustrated after that game, I felt let down by our club again and felt like the whole world was against us. After the previous season of enduring Hughton’s tactics I was still slightly out of love with football. I can remember sitting with my Dad after that Wolves game saying ‘Dad, why am I investing so much time and money into football, there must be better things to put it into’. My Dad never really had a proper answer, he just said ‘I know, it’s crazy isn’t it’.
Lets skip back a few years to my early teenage years. My family are a golfing family and I was playing at a decent level representing my county and winning a lot of competitions. Golf is a very self-centred sport where it’s just you and the course, you learn a lot about yourself. I hate to think how many hundreds of hours I spent trying to perfect my swing with only my self and my clubs to keep me company. After about 5 years of constant golf I decided enough was enough, I had fell out of love with the sport and I knew it wasn’t for me. My Dad had always wanted me to turn professional and breaking the news to him that I didn’t want to play anymore was something I dreaded. When I finally told him though his reaction amazed me, he said ‘OK son, do what you enjoy’. I couldn’t believe it, I felt free and the world was my Oyster.
Giving up competitive golf was the best decision of my life. It had freed up my time and allowed me to explore what I enjoyed in life. I dabbled with a few different sports and realised I was no good at any of them to play seriously, what was next best? Watching sport. I attended my first Norwich game back in 2005 and loved it but never returned as I didn’t have spare time at the weekends. After giving up golf I had time to fill, this is where me and Norwich City fell in love. After attending a few games in the League One and Championship seasons Dad treated me and him to a season ticket. I was excited, I was going to be watching my team every week and we would have our own seats!
Back to this season. I was contemplating why I was investing so much time and money into a club that for the past 2 years had let me down more times than made me excited. I was bored of enduring defeats against bang average teams and seeing players under perform under a monotonous tactical system. Then I had one of those moments where everything made sense. I supported this team because I was surrounded with people that loved the same thing as me and all wanted the same thing- success. I fell in love with this team because of the fans, not necessarily what was happening on the pitch, my first ever game back in 2005 was a 2-1 defeat, I didn’t care, I just loved what I was surrounded by.
Let’s skip forward once again to late January and my Dad was really ill. The football wasn’t great either. I was in a bad place and scared what was going to happen. Dad had stopped going to the games due to illness so I was going with my mum instead who at the time had no interest in football whatsoever. Every Saturday and the occasional Tuesday provided a break for me and my Mum to escape seeing my Dad in pain and watch Norwich. We weren’t watching the greatest of games but the fans were still coming out in their tens of thousands and I was surrounded by people I could call ‘family’.
One night I remember better than any this year was 24th February. It was the night my Dad was admitted to hospital and also the night Bradley Johnson scored a screamer to win us the game at Blackburn. I can remember being emotionally drained at kick-off but being full of life at the full time whistle. 24th February made me realise that this wasn’t just a game, it was my life. Football was providing stability and excitement in my life when there wasn’t much else to shout about.
My Dad had always wanted to watch an East Anglian derby live and so had I, 1st March was going to be the day we both ticked something off the bucket list and watch the game we had been looking forward to so much. Sadly my Dad wasn’t fit enough to attend but he was on the mend and you know how the game finished! Life was incredible once again, my Dad was returning to good health and I had just witnessed my team beat our arch rivals, it was beautiful.
25 days later and I was woken up with the line I never wanted to hear ‘Jack, I’ve got some bad news, Dad has passed away’. From sheer jubilation to pure dread. The two emotions I felt 25 days apart from each other were at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I was devastated.
After the worst day of my life I broke the news of my Dad’s passing on Social Media. The response was something I will never forget. Condolences came in their hundreds, the majority of them from the Norwich family. I had never felt so loved in my life, hundreds of people were offering to help and provide a shoulder to cry on. It made me realise exactly why me and Dad had purchased that season ticket 4 years ago, we loved what this club was all about and the people we were surrounded by.
My Dad’s passing has made me learn a lot about myself and life in general. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me but from it I’ve found strength I never thought I had and I feel I’m a better person from it.
This season has not only been a massive success on the pitch but also off the pitch, I’ve met people because of Norwich City that have changed my life and created memories that will stay with me forever. This season has epitomised why I love Norwich City, we have the best fans in the world. They have given me and my family strength and been the people I have leant on when things aren’t so great.
So lets celebrate our fantastic fan base and remember through the thick and thin we will always be here no matter what supporting the same team and each other. Thanks to every single one of you that has been there when I have needed you and sang ‘On The Ball City’ until your voice is gone to get our boys over the line.
Here’s a special mention to a few people who have helped me a lot over this past season.
Chris Reeve – Someone I am proud to call a close friend and provided me valuable advice and strength when I needed it most.
Seb Ward – One of the most talented individuals I have ever worked alongside. A close friend and the rock that holds Read Norwich together.
Callum Rivett – A good friend and another talented member of TheCarrowCrowd who has provided many laughs throughout this season.
Dexter Levick – Another person who I was made aware of through Norwich City. One of the funniest individuals I have ever met and has had me in fits of laughter on many occasions this season.
Simon Thomas – My idol and someone who has given me guidance and opportunity that I could once only dream about.
Jake Humphrey – Another idol of mine and someone who has given me a helping hand this season. A credit to our club.
Rob Butler – A good friend and superb host of the best show on the radio – Canary Call. Another wonderful person I have met thanks to Norwich City and has since provided great support.
Chris Goreham – A real inspiration to me due to his incredible commentary skills and somebody I have been lucky enough to spend time with this season.
Michael Bailey – A talented all rounder when it comes to reporting on the Canaries. A kind hearted man and someone who has put faith and time into my journey.
Neville Townsend – Someone I met through the Barclay End Projekt and we’ve been friends ever since. A truly great man and who has helped me a lot.
Mick Dennis – Another man who has given up his time for my benefit and provided support whenever I have needed it. A good friend and a legend among Norwich City fans
Kieran Miles – My agent and good friend. Someone who has listened to me ramble for hours and invested time and money in me providing opportunities I never even dreamed about.
Ed Couzens-Lake – A truly superb writer with a heart of gold. Given me wise words along the way and continues to make me excited with his writing and plans.
Jon Rogers – Hands down the funniest person associated with our wonderful club and someone who has provided reassurance and guidance throughout this season. Also, he wrote the best song to be released this year, hear that here
Robin Sainty – A man who has been there from the very start and put the belief in me that I needed.
Chris Elliott – Someone who has given up a lot of his time for my benefit and provided insightful words throughout the season on this website. A genuinely great chap.
Neil Thompson – Co-founder of the Barclay End Projekt and all round nice guy. He’s given up so much of his time for the benefit of our club. Without him and the other chaps at Barclay End Projekt we would’t have the atmosphere we did this season.
Josh Larner – My best mate and Norwich season ticket holder. Someone I am privileged to spend a lot of my time with
My Mum – Now a Norwich fan but more importantly the rock in my life that has given so much for me. My hero.
My Dad – Now with my in spirit and taught me so many lessons in the 17 years I was lucky enough to spend alongside him. My role model.
Sorry if I have missed you off this list, you all mean so much to me. I love you all.