Spud’s back - and he’s lost that Christmas feeling...
- Credit: PA
Usually, when the fixture list is released, I have the buzz of excitement, like a kid on Christmas Eve.
I’d be looking at when we were playing our bitter rivals Ipswich Town, or visiting grounds I like, such as West Bromwich Albion.
But this season I knew when the fixtures were released, it just wouldn’t be the same.
Even though neither Town or West Brom are in our league, but there were still plenty of games I could look forward to, none more so than Brentford away. The Bees have left one of my favourite grounds, Griffin Park, for a new home, the Brentford Community Stadium. Like many others, I was looking forward to ticking off the new ground.
As I’m sure many of you guys know, one of the things I’m very passionate about in football is the stadiums. After many years of travelling up and down the country ticking off the grounds, I finally completed the 92 in the Premier and Football League in 2008 when I visited Morecambe’s old Christie Park when they beat Brentford 3-1. I became a member of a club famous among football fans – the 92 Club. At the moment, I’m up to 135 Football League grounds, with ex-league clubs and grounds that no longer exist.
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Normally when I am ground-hopping and visiting a new ground there are three fellow Norwich fans travelling with me, who are also season ticket holders – my wife, Hayleigh, who is approaching 50 grounds, and two others who completed the 92 in the 90s and have visited overall around 150 Football League grounds.
We normally plan our ground-hopping trips for when Norwich are not playing, so at times it can be frustrating working around City – and having other commitments such as family or work.
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Each year, bar one, we have had a new ground or two to visit – either a new club entering the league or a new football stadium being used. This season we had four grounds to tick off; as well as Brentford, I have AFC Wimbledon’s new stadium and two new clubs who have been promoted from the National League – a return back to the Football League for Barrow and Harrogate Town’s first ever season at that level.
It’s hard to fit in new grounds at the best of times, let alone now, with the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. With no fans allowed at games, or stadiums being restricted to just season ticket holder, it’s going to be difficult. I normally want to visit the ground in the home end and I very much doubt we will be able to tick off Barrow, AFC Wimbledon or Harrogate Town until 2021, due to limited number of fans permitted.
I’m sure I am not alone in my eagerness to tick off Brentford’s new home this season, and I was hoping we were going to play them away later on in the season, when there would have been more chance of away fans being allowed on, so you can imagine our collective disappointment when the fixture list was released and the game in west London was scheduled for October 27.
As we know, the government is planning for football fans to return in October with what looks like to be around the 25pc of capacity mark. Just before lockdown I believed Norwich City had sold just over 21,000 season tickets. I’m not sure what the final total is, but with the permitted 25pc, it looks some fans will still face the disappointment of not going to every home game – and it’s even worse when you know there will be some fans inside the ground.
I also believe Brentford have sold a record 10,000 season tickets for their new home, which will hold 17,500. Away fans won’t get the opportunity to visit it when we travel there.
So not only will it be painful because we still can’t go to every game at Carrow Road, it will still be painful come October 27 because we can’t attend the away fixtures. Sadly, we have to accept it’s the times we live in.
Norwich and Brentford will just have to win promotion to the Premier League together come next May and hopefully us fans can then get the opportunity to tick the ground off.