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ricardo

Ricardo Remembers Part 1

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Posted (edited)

I have had several posters ask me recently to write a piece about my early supporting days back in the early 1950’s and as we are in the fairly quiet time between seasons I thought I would give it a go.

This part I call "How it all started"

 

My Grand parents lived in King Street and many years it was the family meeting place before going off to the match. I must have been six or seven years old when I first became curious about “The Canaries” or “Carrow Road”. I think it all started while listening to bits of excited conversation between my dad and my uncles on Saturday lunchtimes in the early 1950’s. The excited tones must have got through to me because I soon began to pester my dad to take me to a match.

My dad was an engraver and sign writer and couldn’t leave the shop on Saturdays so my first trip down to Carrow Road was with my uncle Bert and my cousin Mike. Now many people say they have vivid recollections of their first game but in all honestly I can’t recall very much other than I think it was a pre-season game which they used to call Possibles v Probables. I can’t remember the score or anything other than the surge of noise and excitement every time the ball got near the goalmouth and I was pretty much hooked on it from that first moment.

This was in the decade following WW2 and apart from the football, the cinema and radio there wasn’t a great deal in the way of entertainment. Not that many could afford it anyway, the country was skint and food rationing was only now coming to an end. I think this was the 1953/54 season and although I was taken to three or four league matches I have very little recollection of them now. What I can remember are the names, Tom Johnstone, Alfy Ackerman, Johnny Gavin and Bobby Brennan. I have no visual memories of the first two but the latter two were to become my earliest hero’s.

In the early 1950’s the kick off time was 3.15pm while it was light enough and then 2.15pm once the clocks went back. Floodlit matches didn’t start until the latter part of the decade. We used to head off down King St, past innumerable pubs, shops and factories, the vast majority which have passed into memory. Rouen Road didn’t exist at that time, just a multitude of little lanes and alleys that ran all the way down from Ber St. The whole area was a maze of Victorian terraces, interspersed with the odd open space still evidencing the scale of the bombing that had scarred our City a decade before. As a small boy I found enormous pleasure in exploring those narrow alleys with their flights of steps going up to different levels and with shops and pubs on every corner. The crowds would stream down them on match days and at each junction with King St. hundreds more were added to the ever increasing throng headed for Carrow Bridge, for there was no other way across the Wensum, except at Thorpe Station. 

There seemed to be a pub every fifty yards or so, The Builders Arms, The Tuns, The Ship, The Old Barge, The Wherry, The Ferry Boat, The Kingsway and probably a few more that I’ve forgotten. The abiding smell was of beer from the pubs and Breweries and tobacco smoke because virtually every man had a fag or a pipe on the go and everyone seemed to wear a hat or a cap and a gabardine raincoat. Nowadays it’s fashionable to turn up in the latest replica kit or during inclement weather, a woolly NCFC hat with matching gloves and scarf. Back in the 50’s most fans just came in their ordinary daily clothes and just occasionally you would see somebody with a home knitted yellow and green scarf. For FA Cup games you might see a few rosettes and of course wooden clackers that seem now to have largely passed into history.

The bright modern stadium we see today bares little resemblance to the Carrow Road of the 1950’s. It was then a fairly drab looking structure with dark painted fencing and wooden turnstiles. It looked exactly what it was, something that had been knocked together in double quick time without thought for any long term utility. What will always remain in the memory are the huge green painted iron gates that used to be swung open by groundsman Russell Alison just after halftime. There were always a few who couldn’t afford it and would creep in and see part of the game for free.

The terraces were just large earth mounds covered in grass at the rear with two or three sets of concrete steps leading up to the summit. The fencing at the back of the terracing was simply a line of elongated railway sleepers set on end with the occasional bit of advertising hoarding on top. It wasn’t permitted but at big matches people would climb on these for a better view. We usually entered from Carrow Road into the ground ( I think it was either nine pence or maybe a shilling for boys) and then went up the side steps onto the River End terrace. This was only partially concreted and for many years a large potion of the standing terracing consisted of railway sleepers. We called it the River End for obvious reasons but in reality it was part of “The Ground” as you could stand anywhere right round as far as the corner of the Barclay for the same price. It was all open terracing; the only cover was the Barclay and Main stand.

In the corner where they built the Disabled stand was a curved bit of terracing that stood beneath the old Pinkun Score-board. It was a large black painted structure with letters from A to Z painted on it. At halftime a man would come out of a little door and hang numbers on hooks underneath each letter. If you had a programme you could match up the games with the letters on the board. You may well laugh but that was the state of technology at the time. Mobile phones and the Internet were something out of the Eagle comic and Dan Dare “Pilot of the Future”. You had no knowledge at all of other games and results unless you got home in time for Sports Report on the BBC at five o’clock.

You could not enter the ground from directly behind the South stand because there was a water filled **** that ran up from the river. I think this was still there even into the 1970’s. We used to walk round from the River End and stand half a dozen rows back and directly in line with the penalty area. I think that is why many of my early memories are of goals scored at that end. One that always sticks in my mind is Bobby Brennan’s opening goal against Sheffield Utd in the ’59 Cup run.

After the South Stand was covered in 1960 I used to move to which ever end we were shooting in and change at half time because that decade was mainly a dull time and there was nearly always plenty of room. It was during that time when we said goodbye to the railway sleepers and all of the terracing was concreted. In the early days there was a concrete slope that you could use to exit the South stand if you wanted to leave by the Thorpe End. When the Stand was improved and extended this was eliminated and you could only get out at the corner through a smallish opening that led to a narrow flight of steps. At the final whistle there was a rush for this exit and you were squeezed out above a precarious 30 foot drop. Thankfully there was a strong steel barrier to save the unwary.

The back of the Barclay was just a grass covered mound with steps leading up. There were brick toilets in both corners I think and a large wooden building serving as a bar for half-time refreshment which consisted mainly of bottles of Steward and Patterson’s Light Ale. When the second half resumed there would be hundreds of empty bottles left on the shelves that ran along the front of the bar.

If it rained hard you had the choice of the Barclay Stand and at any time during the match you had the option to pay either three-pence or sixpence to transfer through a little gate in the fencing to get under cover. If I went in the Barclay I liked to stand to the right of goal and it was from here that I have a strong memory of standing with my dad in 1960 the night we beat Southend 4-3 to gain promotion to Division 2. We lived just off Plumstead Road at the time and used to get the 92 bus to Rosary corner. We would walk back and he would tell me stories about the old days when City played at the Nest on Rosary Road . Because of his work he could only get to evening matches so those few occasions that we stood together are especially treasured in my memory.  I remember him taking me to the first ever floodlit match atCarrow Road in 1957. It was a friendly against Sunderland, I still have the programme.

The façade of the main stand was the only brick built structure. The seating was mostly wooden forms with a numbered space. Only the centre block had tip up wooden seats but that was for the toffs and well out of our reach. In front of the seated area was a narrow standing terrace about ten steps wide that was called The Enclosure. You could get a transfer into it from the ground for a small sum. I stood in there a few times but I only ever recall going in the main stand on one occasion. That was on a rather chilly Boxing Day in 1958 when my dad decided it would be a Christmas treat. We played Reading and Roy McCrohan scored the only goal with 25 yard scorcher at the Barclay End. It’s over sixty years ago but I can still see it as though it was yesterday and it still brings a tear to my eye when I think of it.

 

I'm sorry if it's a bit long but once I started the memories came flooding back and I found it hard to stop.

 

 

Edited by ricardo
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Great stuff Ricardo, thanks for sharing.

Didn't the Barclay just stay like that right into the 70s, I seem to remember it exactly like that - unless my memory is playing tricks with me.

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2 minutes ago, Mark .Y. said:

Great stuff Ricardo, thanks for sharing.

Didn't the Barclay just stay like that right into the 70s, I seem to remember it exactly like that - unless my memory is playing tricks with me.

They put a steel fence in front of it because of all the trouble in the early seventies and eventually there was a space left so that opposing supporters couldn't get at each other. But generally it remained the same old wooden structure with the corrugated asbestos roof that that Man U supporter fell through. They also put sliding doors on the back at that time so Police could control the exits.

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Brings back many memories.

I remember the bank at the river end and the concrete steps up the bank. Once over the top the stand was also just concrete steps and railings. The Barclay was very similar with the only difference being the roof, again the south stand was just as the Barclay.

This would be the early 70's with my first match, a cup match i think, against Chelsea which was fogged off.

 

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8 minutes ago, SteveN8458 said:

Brings back many memories.

I remember the bank at the river end and the concrete steps up the bank. Once over the top the stand was also just concrete steps and railings. The Barclay was very similar with the only difference being the roof, again the south stand was just as the Barclay.

This would be the early 70's with my first match, a cup match i think, against Chelsea which was fogged off.

 

Yes that was a match I missed due to being unsble to get a shift change. I was there for the relay when we won 1-0. Steve Govier scored I think.

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I was at that Chelsea game too. Couldn't believe the ref made that call - many because we were winning the fog was pretty bad. Great write up Ricardo, the ground in early 70's was still unrestricted access from what I recall, we'd usually go to the River End but if it rained we'd slink around the corner to be under cover of the South Stand. 

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42 minutes ago, SteveN8458 said:

Brings back many memories.

I remember the bank at the river end and the concrete steps up the bank. Once over the top the stand was also just concrete steps and railings. The Barclay was very similar with the only difference being the roof, again the south stand was just as the Barclay.

This would be the early 70's with my first match, a cup match i think, against Chelsea which was fogged off.

73, if I recall - and quite lively in the Barclay as there were a fair few Chelsea in there

I remember Keelan leaping in celebration in front of the Barclay when we scored, he could see the game as he was on the edge of the box.. we couldn't - the 'replay' had Prince Andrew in attendance with the Bishop of Norwich

the first fence was literally that (around early 75 I think and the away fans were usually in early, leery mate had been gobbing at them and when some crushed up against the fence/railings he took the opportunity of punching a couple... christ the would have murdered him if the fence had give way

that fence ran down the back of the Barclay and allowed the away fans part of the bar - great days, I could get in for 25p (I think) in the OAPS/Juniors, drink in the pub, get home as a half price on eastern counties and get into an X film in the evening

however, thanks Ricardo.....your efforts are appreciated

 

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Thanks for sharing Ricky - it's almost unimaginable for us whippersnappers. My first game was aged 2 and a half, but the first one I have any recollectrion of is when I was 5 - My only abiding memory is of seeing the Villa mascot and being adamant he was waving at me. Shame really, as it was a 3-2 win at Villa park, with Daryl Sutch scoring the winner.

https://www.11v11.com/matches/aston-villa-v-norwich-city-28-november-1992-20964/

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Absolutely fantastic stuff Ricardo

My early memories were in  late 60s Tommy Bryceland years. My Dad worked early morning Saturday shift and drove me and my brother from Great Yarmouth to most home games. If we were early he pushed us to front of Barclay, if we were late he sat us on railway sleepers at the back of Barclay. If the match was poor we used flick silver paper from Rolos into the rims of blokes hats.

Great memories 

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1 hour ago, ricardo said:

grass

A really enjoyable read, Ricardo. Thank you. 

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Thanks Ricardo. That was absolutely fascinating. I didn't arrive at Carrow Road till 1968 so I'd love to read any more of your memories before that, especially the 1959 cup run

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4 minutes ago, dylanisabaddog said:

Thanks Ricardo. That was absolutely fascinating. I didn't arrive at Carrow Road till 1968 so I'd love to read any more of your memories before that, especially the 1959 cup run

I expect that will be included when I get to Part2.😀

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Thanks Ricardo.  So many memories stirred by this.  My first match was in 70/71 season at a similar age to you.  I stood on a stool behind a crush barrier half way up the South Stand level with the edge of the River End Penalty area.  As others said, at that time River End and South Stand weren't separated, so you could wander between them.  I think promotion to the first division in 1972 finally saw them fenced separately.  We used to arrive between 12.30 and 1 for a 3pm kick off.  Time to read every word in the programme, listen to a brass band, and try and figure out what was playing on tannoy.  And no warm up by the players either so must have got bored long before the teams came out.  Also remember the Chelsea fogged off semi.  

Your description of the walk down to the ground is still similar to the walk from my house to Bramall Lane for me now!

Look forward to part 2.

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Wooden stool at the front of the South stand, first game was the cup, league I think, when we won 2-1, mid 70s I think.

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About the same time as that Chelsea match was a relegation game at home v's Crystal Palace. We were in the South Stand and the place was rocking. I know that Palace wore their iconic white shirt with maroon and sky blue stripes down the center. I also know we won 2-1(Suggett and Stringer) although I couldn't see very much - and I know I was scared stiff every time the crowd surged as I was on the "wrong" side of the crush barrier. 

BTW I also just found this link some good video clips in there - 

http://canarieshigh.blogspot.com/2015/07/norwich-citys-first-season-in-division.html

1973 was also the year we joined the EU (EEC back then) 😉  

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Great description Ricardo. I was a River End boy, well youth, and can relate. Two memories from me.

The first being the decrepit press box, a sort of shed on stilts, which sat between the River End and the South Stand. Already condemned as unsafe in the early 1970s I can recall trying to stand on its steps to get a better view of the game v Bristol City at home in 1972. One of the few league matches where the gate exceeded 35,000 and there were supporters everywhere. Unfortunately my enhanced viewing position was terminated early by the boys in blue, no doubt looking after my safety. An end of season match that ended 2 -2 and felt like a real blow to our promotion hopes ( any resonance to last season?), which were eventually realised in getting to the top flight for the first time.

The second relates to a home match v Everton a few months later, I think this may be our first ever match in the top flight. Supporters were not separated in those days and I recall standing close to a group of Everton fans who were getting frustrated at our ability to get the ball in play from a throw in. I tried to helpfully explain that we were not good at quick throw ins only to get a retort of scouse irony that we can not even take a slow one.

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Thanks Ricardo it also brought back lots of fond memories for me also.My first match at Carrow Road was around 1959 I was picked up by my Uncle Stan who had a motorcycle with a side car.We travelled from Wymondham and parked opposite Colman’s factory in a motorcycle area and stood in the Barclay where i was promptly transported down to the front where I had my first taste of watching professional football.Apart from when I was playing the game myself I have been supporting City ever since,as I have told lots of people it’s easy to support some of the big teams who win lots of things but to support your local team through thick and thin is what it’s always been about for me.😊

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Thank you for posting this Rickyyyyy

It's those memories of the surroundings and personal experiences that can't be found second hand.

You'd be great at reminiscence.

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Posted (edited)

Really enjoyed that Ricardo. Must have taken you some time so much appreciated. You have a good memory to bring back the detail like you do. Looking forward to the next part!

Edited by Hairy Canary

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Posted (edited)

Tom Johnstone was the center forward who looked like he had been in the ring with Sonny Liston, do you remember Roy Hollis,Terry Ryder, Don Pickwick and the center half Reg Foulkes, he lived at the back of my school Unthank College on Newmarker Road Remember leaving my bike in Argyle Street for one penny

Edited by daly
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2 hours ago, shefcanary said:

Also remember the Chelsea fogged off semi.  

I was at that (non)game Sheffo, Neaves of Catfield bus  from Stalham and back, was very disappointed it was called off.

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Great stuff Ricky, by the time I got into football we were moving down to London, so I missed the early days. When you look back, it's incredible how things have changed.  My first time at CR was to watch a game between the Army and the Police, would have been 64 or 65, I think my Dad took us because my Mum was working at Whitlingham Hospital and he was lumbered with us. He was in the T.A so I guess he wanted the Army to win. I don't remember much else about the day but it was another 10 years before I went back. You guys who can attend every week don't know how lucky you are. 

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Thanks Ricardo. That was an amazing retelling of some of our club's history through the eyes of a supporter. Roll on part 2.

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12 hours ago, ricardo said:

They put a steel fence in front of it because of all the trouble in the early seventies and eventually there was a space left so that opposing supporters couldn't get at each other. But generally it remained the same old wooden structure with the corrugated asbestos roof that that Man U supporter fell through. They also put sliding doors on the back at that time so Police could control the exits.

Yes, I remember that game, featured on "Nationwide" I think.

We used to get the coach from Gorleston and was a bit of a nightmare for us because we had to come out of the Barclay and get through the away fans to get to where our coach parked.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks Ricardo , it reminds me of situations my father recounts to me , the 50s with food rationing , the start of floodlit matches ,... I've got the book on Newspaper headlines Norwich City ... your heroes are in a few of them...gifted to me by my uncle...

image.png.27ba6b0cb454b426fb8f0ccada59dd4b.png

Edited by ROBFLECK

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