Football Fandom – it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it…
Trying to put a positive spin on the mundane – The trials and tribulations of the PR man that supports a disappointing football team.
Alongside working in one of the world’s finest press offices, Harry Baker happens to be a life-long fan of his local football club, Norwich City. So when he’s not reading up on the latest industry literature or firing out a press release, you’ll often find him at Carrow Road watching the men in yellow and green – alternating between shouting vociferously and viewing in pained silence.
For this young man, the relationship has been one often of attrition; it’s entailed occasional joyous points, a fair few dismal days, and an awful lot of mediocrity. It’s a love affair that started back in the early days of the Premier League, with the maiden match a victory against that season’s title-winners Blackburn (a result that created unachievably high expectations), and has at times almost veered towards divorce but somehow he keeps getting roped back in.
This season has been a particularly trying experience. After a number of years of financial splendour and safety generated by the riches of the top flight, the club went for a new approach this summer: wherever possible clearing out the squad’s highest earners and implementing a continental structure of a sporting director and head coach. The man charged with heading up the new regime was Stuart Webber, the chap responsible for recruiting the now much-heralded David Wagner at Huddersfield. He hired another relatively unknown German for the Norwich job, with Daniel Farke becoming the Canary’s first non-Brit boss. Much was promised with an exciting off-season of scouting and securing hungry, talented players, and, after a couple of patchy opening match day performances, a nine-game unbeaten run during the campaign’s formulate period looked like the club was on to something. However, since an extra time League Cup defeat to Arsenal on 24 October, the team haven’t tasted victory…
This winless six week period has in reality exposed the shortcomings that single-goal wins and goalless draws manage to mask; that the current crop aren’t actually capable of terribly much, and that this brave new football world quite simply does not exist.
So just why does Harry keep going? And after over 20 years of attendance, what is it that continues to lure him in despite often being offended by performances?
In recent years it has been the away days rather than trips to Carrow Road which have retained his interest. Living in Leeds and being in such close proximity to second tier northern clubs, it has meant that Harry didn’t have to battle his way out of Norfolk on a Saturday, and could enjoy boozy terrace afternoons with decent pies and good company. Alongside this, during his time as a fan, Norwich have always managed to have an outstanding individual talent who carries the team on, until they are sold for a pittance or leave in acrimonious circumstances; which does tend to keep things interesting.
However, it is the historic days of excitement over the past two decades that continue to make it all worthwhile – the ‘I was there’ moments. These include the elation of victory and the pain of defeat in equal measure, isolated moments of true class and unforgettable quirks and gimmicks. Some of these memories are predictable, mainstream ones, like seeing Grant Holt net a hattrick in Norwich’s 4-1 derby day victory over Ipswich in 2010, watching the legendary last minute City comeback from 4-1 down to 4-4 against Middlesbrough in 2005, and in 2015, finally grabbing a victory at Old Trafford. Other incidents might only happen once in a supporter’s lifetime, and be unrelated to the play on the pitch. While some of the opposition players on show have included a youthful Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry and Luis Suarez in their prime, and a much past his, Neil Shipperley.
So, why DOES Harry keep going? We think that however you approach it, you’re a one-team football fan for life. Once your chosen club gets you hooked there’s no way back, you can either embrace it, accepting the responsibility it brings and enjoying the good times or remain in denial, resenting the hours wiled away – which option do you think Harry has chosen?!