Norwich City was always near the top of my groundhopping wishlist. The Canaries were original members of the Premier League. They remained in the top flight for many of my formative years of watching football. The ground is also close to the City’s main train station which means it’s a fairly easy in-and-out trip for a Saturday afternoon. On this particular Saturday they were up against Preston, who had two points more than them in the Championship.
Refreshments: £2 (tea)
Star man: Josh Murphy
Who are ya, Norwich?
Norwich City was founded in 1902. The club was deemed a professional organisation in 1905 are were removed from the local amateur league. They played in the Southern League until 1917, when the club was liquidated. The club was reformed in 1919 and elected into the new Football League Third Division in 1920.
Norwich’s famous nickname, The Canaries, dates back to 1907. The Chairman at the time was a keen breeder of the birds and described his players as ‘The Canaries’ and changed the club colours to yellow and green.
Norwich has never been lower than the third tier since joining the Football League. The club’s highest ever position was third in the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1993. Norwich has been champions of the third tier twice and the second tier on three occasions, most recently in 2004.
Norwich’s greatest achievements have come in the League Cup. They’ve won the trophy twice. They beat Rochdale in a two-legged final in 1962 and beat Sunderland 1-0 in the final at Wembley in 1985. The Canaries defeated eternal rivals Ipswich in the semi-final of the 1985 triumph.
- Norwich were relegated following their League Cup win in 1985, along with fellow finalists Sunderland. They were the first English club to be relegated and win a major trophy in the same season.
- Norwich were the recipients of one of English Football’s first million pound transfers when they sold Justin Fashanu to Nottingham Forest in 1981.
- Norwich were denied entry to European competition three times in the 1980s due to the ban on English clubs following the Heysel Stadium disaster.
- Norwich were the first British Club to beat Bayern Munich at the Olympic Stadium when they knocked them out of the UEFA Cup in 1993.
This fixture came as both sides were experience a downturn in form. They only had one win between them in the last five games. Norwich had lost four of their last five league games and Preston had lost three with just the solitary win.
The two sides were only separated by a couple of places in the table prior to kick-off. Norwich had lost their last outing in mid-week at Nottingham Forest. The Canaries were beaten by a single goal, despite a good performance. Preston won at Bristol City in mid-week. An impressive win against a side in the play-off positions.
The Norwich City experience
Train: Carrow Road is a five minute walk from Norwich Station. Take a left out of the station and you’ll be able to see the ground on the other side of the retail park. Norwich is just under two hours from London Liverpool Street.
Car: The ground is in the middle of town next to Riverside Retail Park. Parking at Riverside is for shoppers only, and there didn’t seem to be much parking around the stadium.
Carrow Road is visible from the train on as you pull into Norwich Station. The traditional looking stadium has modern touches and might be the central attraction in the city. It’s the most noticeable part of the view as the train slows to a stop. Once you leave the station and turn left the route to the stadium is easy to find. Some fans took a detour towards Frankie and Benny’s, but most headed straight down the A147, towards the retail park.
In a potential slight to Delia Smith’s stadium catering more fans seemed to be drawn into the nearby Morrisons for their pre-game nourishment. Just past supermarket a lonely programme seller was set up next to some traffic lights. I don’t recall seeing many programme vendors as far from the stadium as him, but he seemed to do a good trade, in directions as well as programmes.
I was in the upper tier of the Barclay End, and had to make my way up a seemingly deserted stairwell that reminded me of an office block or hospital building. At the top of the stairs was a couple of tightly contained concourse bars, separated by a thin corridor. The regulars seemed relaxed, but far from excited as they kept warm and watched the end of Leeds v Barnsley.
The view from my seat was good and framed in a near perfect rectangle by the sloping roof. I couldn't quite see the scoreboard in the corner, or so I thought. When Norwich scored the large screen rotated, so all the fans in my stand could see the replay. Sadly the screen only had the one chance to show-off its rotation abilities.
Carrow Road has two-tiered stands at both ends and good-sized single tier stands down the sides. The South Stand, that also houses the away fans, looks modern and is reminiscent of the newer sections at Vicarage Road. Most of the Canary’s loudest fans seemed to be in the lower section of The Barclay End, and they were singing for the majority of the game. I was impressed at how full the stadium was, despite it being a game between two mid-table sides. Around 500 Preston fans had made the trip but were largely drowned out by the home support.
Norwich survive bizarre finish
Both sides took a while to find their feet in the game.Preston had some good possession early on but couldn’t create any chances. Norwich then began to settle and looked the better side. Josh Murphy’s movement was creating space for Hoolahan to pick out some penetrative passes.
Murphy had the best chance of the first quarter when he was played through on goal. He managed to flick the ball past the onrushing keeper, but he was denied by Fisher, who blocked his shot. Norwich were now playing well and soon took the lead. The home side won a free-kick on the corner of the Preston penalty area. Maddison looked like he was going to cross the ball but curled a delightful set-piece into the top corner.
Norwich then seemed to take their foot of the gas, seemingly content with a one goal lead. Preston came into the game. Browne came close for the visitors when his speculative overhead kick hit the crossbar. Barkhuizen also had a good chance, but his header was off-target.
The visitors continued their improvement in the second half as Norwich struggled to regain their fluency from earlier in the game. Woods had another chance for Preston, but his header was saved by Gunn. They were soon level, however, as Barkhuizen flicked in a header from Gallagher’s corner.
The game then lost its momentum just as it appeared as if there would be an exciting finish. A series of stoppages for injuries and fussy refereeing drained it of life. One of the linesmen then picked up an injury, and the game was stopped for 10 minutes while the officials searched for a replacement fourth official. Luckily a qualified Norwich fan stepped up, changed out of his Yellow home strip and raised the board to signal 10 minutes of added time. The cold seemed to have spread to both sides by this point and the game finished all square.
Final thoughts and ratings
There was an odd finish to the game and this left the experience feeling a little anti-climactic. The match was a good contest for the most part, and I enjoyed my visit. Carrow Road is an attractive stadium, and the club are clearly well supported.
On the pitch the team are currently frustrating their loyal followers, but they have a sprinkling of quality players and should be closer to the play-off places at the business end of the season.
Ticket availability – I bought my ticket online, and it was a smooth, easy experience. Most of the ground was full but there would have been a ticket or two available on the day. 8/10
Website/social media – the website has some interesting information for visitors, but is the usual Football League design. 6/10
Travel – the ground is very close to the station, but it did seem like parking may be an issue unless you wanted to do some shopping before the game. 7/10
Ground – Carrow Road is a very good stadium and has lots of character. There are plenty of options for a good vantage point. 8/10
Food and drink – a good selection of food and drink available, and it was all suitably priced. 7/10
Programme – Norwich have a very well designed programme, and there are some very interesting articles and information. 9/10
Atmosphere – the atmosphere was good for the majority of the game, and the stadium was largely full. The end of the game spoilt the atmosphere slightly. 8/10
Football quality – both sides were quite similar and tried to play. They both, however, lacked a little bit of quality up front. 6/10
Cost – £25 for my ticket wasn’t too bad for a Championship club, but that was the cheapest adult ticket available for that game. 6/10
Matchday experience extras – the spinning screen was very impressive, but I only got to see it once. 7/10