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Originally published 2018
By Jaiden Durrant
It began in 1935, when the Canaries’ old stadium, named ‘The Nest’, was deemed to be inadequate for the number of fans wanting to watch the matches, as well as being noted as unsafe by the Football Association (FA). Which had prompted the club to relocate. The Nest was located on Rosary Road, and had been their home for 27 years – but moving didn’t take long… 82 days later, Carrow Road was constructed. The stadium was famously quoted as “miraculously built in 82 days” and “the eighth wonder of the world”.
Norwich Football Club were called the ‘Canaries’ because of the history of when the birds had come over with ‘The Strangers’ in the 16th century. The birds sang to the workers when working on the machines, as when the machines would make noise – the Canaries would reply, and almost act like ‘medieval radios’ and would keep the workers company throughout the night of work. Not only does this inspire the well-known nickname for the club; it also influenced the kits colour, and badge of the team. This is shown by the distinct ‘Yellow and Green’ attire that they wear when playing, as well as having a Canary standing on a football; which also relates to the fan’s jingle ‘On the Ball, City!’ being known as the oldest football jingle in the modern day.
Moving forward to the year of 1956, the club nearly went into bankruptcy after spending £9,000 on floodlights – which would have cost £64,093.61 in the modern day. Many of you are probably thinking “why would they be so willing to spend such a huge sum of money?” which is a good enough question, especially if they were in some murky financial water. Luckily, the club’s cup run into the semi-final, where they were knocked out by First Division side Luton Town, spared their financial blushes. However, one of the biggest tragedies in Norwich City’s history happened in 1984, and almost put the club into bankruptcy again. This happened when the Old City stand was partially burnt down after a fire had been started accidentally by a former employee. This led to the stand being completely destroyed in 1987, and being rebuilt in the same year, branded as the ‘New City Stand’.
The all-new Carrow Road was quoted as “like going to the theatre – the only difference being that our stage is covered with grass.”
In the last 25 years, Norwich City Football Club have been relatively successful, and had bragging rights over all other English teams until recent times, as they had been the only team to beat Bayern Munich away from home. At the time, this was a huge feat considering Norwich were huge underdogs for the match; 18th October 1993 will be forever remembered for an age by Norwich fans. Although 1993 was a famous year for the Canaries, the following years wouldn’t be as kind to them. In the 1995/96 season, Norwich were relegated from the Premier League, and once again faced bankruptcy. This was until Norwich City legend Geoffrey Watling bought out former chairman Robert Chase, and saved the club for the third time. After he had bought the shares, he sold them onto Delia Smith, and husband Michael Wynn-Jones, who are still majority shareholders of the club to this day.
On 16th November 2004, Geoffrey Watling died peacefully at the age of 91 – a day that cast a dark cloud over Carrow Road. Chairman at the time, Roger Munby quoted… “Everyone is deeply saddened – were it not for Geoffrey, this club may well not be in existence now.” For someone who was a huge part of the club for over 40 years, the death was incredibly hard for some supporters; especially those who had grown up and seen the impact that he had made towards the club – even when you see how he put his hand in his pocket to save his beloved football team. That’s something that not every person would be willing to do, and it shows how much of a humble, ambitious, and charitable man he was.
On more of an upbeat note, Norwich have had a lot of positive memories that outweigh the negatives, and that can be shown by the club’s history – and silverware that they have won in the past. These include three EFL Championship’s in the 1971-72, 1985-86, and 2003-04 seasons, and being playoff winners in 2015-16. They have also won the EFL League One on two occasions. These happened in the 1933-34 and 2009-10 seasons.
As mentioned earlier, Norwich were the first ever English team to beat Bayern Munich away from home – a feat that has now been matched by Chelsea in the Champions League Final in 2012. Although that feat is remembered in the minds of old-school Canaries fans, that were lucky enough to watch the game, they will hold one thing closer than this: That is the fierce rivalry they hold with local neighbours, Ipswich Town. Known as the ‘East Anglian Derby’ to football fans, it’s a highly-contested match, where tempers flare and fans clash. The derby has been quoted as being ‘the second-biggest derby in England’ and even though Ipswich have won the most derbies between the two (60 to 57), they haven’t beat Norwich in the last 11 meetings between the sides, showing Norwich’s local dominance in recent years.
Present day Norwich City and Carrow Road haven’t really changed incredibly since that famous Bayern Munich win. The club has been in a poor financial state, ever since they dropped back out of the Premier League in the 2015/16 and lost all parachute payments at the start of the 2017/18 season (money that is received to help with the relegation from a Football League to keep the club’s finances in check for around 2-3 years). Although this sounds like another ‘Road to Bankruptcy’ case, this actually has helped Norwich more than anything else. It has enabled the club to cut back on the excessive spending on new players (which was the sole reason they were in this financial state), stadium upgrades, and has led to the club funding community projects – and providing new and improved services to youth players, young Canaries, and others that are part of the community – which finally shows the progressive reuniting of the fans to how the relationship used to be between the two.
In conclusion, Norwich’s past has been something of a spectacle to someone in the current day. What has been achieved with the club in general has been nothing short of sensational. A new stadium built in 82 days, upstaging one of Europe’s most coveted clubs, and the more recent dominance over your local rival can’t be bad, right? Especially when you look at the club being born in 1902, being in huge financial pressure for around 20-30 years, but still the club was able to pull together and stay afloat – albeit for the generosity and heroics of the legend, Geoffrey Watling. If the future is anything like what the last 116 years have been, then I, as a fan, would take that any day of the week, but it’s hard to tell so early on. Especially when the club is going in a new direction – and collaborating with the community more than previous years. And yes, before some people think ‘it’s not that influential – it’s just a football team’ for some, it’s a way of life. They have lived through the highs and lows of the club. It’s a huge factor of the city, and should stay that way for the foreseeable future.