In the fancy seats

This piece was published in the matchday programme for the game against Brentford on 27 October 2018. The whole programme is really great and it is worth subscribing imho. You can do that here.

Have you ever looked up at the director’s box just before the teams come out and wondered why all the directors aren’t in their seats? Has your attention ever strayed while waiting for a sub to come on and wondered if the directors eat very fancy food at halftime? Or asked yourself why they all seem to wear suits?

I have. And if have too, I have good news. Because, dear reader, for Norwich’s visit to Nottingham Forest, I sat in the director’s box with the very important people, and here follows a special sort of away game report a bit like what they used to publish in Liverpool Are On The Telly Again.

It all started with a blunder. A failure to get away tickets from the club. My brother lives in Nottingham so we always try and get to this game. I was tasked with the simple task of remembering our customer numbers so we could buy tickets. Like a lumbering Rob Newman chasing down Dennis Bergkamp, I was just too slow, and the tickets were sold out.

We frantically pulled all the strings we could, Facebook groups, even high-level contacts at the club. No joy. So I messaged an acquaintance I knew from work but hadn’t spoken to in years. We’d kept in touch but only by seeing each other’s tweets. She replied pretty quickly and said that as she happened to have two seats in the director’s box she couldn’t use, did we want them. I tried to leave it as long as possible before nonchalantly saying yes please and thank you. Didn’t want to be too excitable.

This means that instead of being in the pub before the game before cramming into the away concourse, I was entering the ground through the club reception, wearing a shirt and tie, and trying as hard as possible to seem nonchalant about the whole thing.

So here’s the important stuff. The food is excellent (a roast beef buffet no less). The beer is complimentary. Some people were drinking champagne. They give everyone a free programme (which was good, but not a patch on OTBC.) The shirt and ties are obligatory. The director’s box doesn’t fill until just before kick-off because of the roast beef and complimentary drinks. The seats are comfy, being literally cushioned like at the cinema. The queue for the loo is short.

All in all, it was a very agreeable matchday experience. But the game itself is where things got a little weird. I don’t watch many games from the side of the pitch and it takes a lot of getting used to. But the really weird thing is the quiet. We were surrounded by quiet, respectable, Forest fans. And if that wasn’t weird enough, a 100 yards away, 2,000 absolutely magnificent Norwich fans were belting out On The Ball City. We didn’t join in.

It’s only when you can’t participate that you realise how just how much watching your team is a participation sport. Especially away from home. And especially when the team comes back from 1–0 down to record a truly cracking win. Every ball won, every shot on target, that Hernadez chance that hit the woodwork… it all resulted in stifled shouts, tensed up muscles as I forced myself to not leap up.

I was surrounded by Forest fans. And if truth be told, I out of my element in the fancy stand. So I kept my mouth shut, and I stayed in my seat as much I could. But I have to report to you that there were a group of unruly Norwich fans not far away from me. They were boisterous, visibly upset when Forest scored, and there were limbs when Klose got his second. Ed Balls, Tom Smith and the other Norwich directors were having the sort of away day experience I am more used to. At the end of the game, they absolutely belted out an On The Ball City. It all made me rather ashamed I’d been awkwardly keeping myself quiet.

Being away from the main fan action, sitting with the Forest fans gave me a chance to sit back in my comfy seat and take it all in. We travelled in great numbers, and apart from an opening ten-minute wobble, the support was absolutely magnificent. Watching such a mass of fans in yellow belt out songs was bordering on art. To then have the Norwich directors join in was a real champagne moment for a weird but wonderful away day.

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