Thursday, 26th Apr 2018 13:37 by Tim Whelan
We visit Norwich City on Saturday, with the kick off at 3pm, for our final away game of the season before we get time off for good behaviour.
Carrow Road is about a mile to the south-east of the city centre, and if you're coming by car, the best way is to travel around Norwich on the A47 till you reach the A146, then take that road into the city. At the traffic lights turn right and follow the outer ring road, then go left at the next roundabout.
Turn right at the next lights and follow the inner ring road round to the right, over the river and the ground is on your right. If in doubt follow signs for the railway station until you get to the river (where the rail station is off to the left and ground on your right).
The nearest streets to the ground are all residents only for parking, but you can invest £8 to park at the County Hall. This is well signposted and close to the A47 exit, and holds 2000 cars. If you're parking here it's best to get to arrive before 1pm to get a decent spot, otherwise you may get stuck in spaces at the back, and it would then take ages to get out at the end of the game.
The ground is approximately a five minute walk from the railway station. You need to turn left outside the station and walk along Koblenz Avenue, which will take you all the way to Carrow Road. This goes past a new leisure complex called the Riverside, which contains plenty of bars and fast food outlets, though this is predominantly an area for home supporters and most of the bars there will not admit fans in away colours.
The main away fans' pub was the 'Compleat Angler', which is by the river opposite the railway station. But since we last came to the ‘fine city’ a new owner has decreed that it is now for home fans only, though further along the same road is the ‘Prince of Wales’, which is now an official away
Two other options on Thorpe Road (around a 10 minute walk away from the ground) are CAMRA listed ‘Fat Cat and Canary’ and the 'Coach and Horses', which brews its own beer. Though I’m told that to get into either of these pubs you will probably need to be in small groups and not wearing colours. There is also a new leisure complex called ‘the Riverside’ going towards the city centre, which includes a Wetherspoons Lloyds No.1 outlet.
Carrow Road now holds 27,220 fans, and it has been virtually re-built since the early 90's, with all four sides of the ground having new stands. The redevelopment was completed when the old south stand was replaced by the new Jarrold Stand during the 2003/04 season.
Norwich's official website promised that this new stand would "make Carrow Road one of the country's finest grounds". In total that stand holds 8200, and to make sure that the really important people were looked after they included 297 Premier Seats in the centre of the stand which are padded for extra comfort, as well as 15 new executive boxes.
The away allocation is 2,400, and we get a corner of the in the Jarrold Stand, close to the most vocal home fans it the Barclay stand. The facilities and view of the playing action are good, with plenty of leg room. But at some games the stewards try to order away supporters to keep seated throughout the game, which could cause a few clashes during our visit.
The ticket prices are far more reasonable than last season’s £40. This time around they are £30 for adults, with various categories of concessions at £20, £15 and £10. Norwich have five different price categories for different games and it looks like the cheaper tickets are a result of our relegation from category A+ opposition to category B. Home non-season ticket holders in the same stand will always be paying the same amount as us, whatever the category.
Our allocation was originally sold through the ‘attendance tracker’ system, with priority given to those who had been to the most away games, but as of today a limited number remained on the official site. I’ve no doubt there’s been a good take-up from the East Anglian whites, so there has obviously been a certain amount of apathy from Leeds fans elsewhere, with our disappointing season meaning that nothing is at stake in this game.
Norwich seem to have sold all the tickets available in home stands, as nothing is showing as available on their official website. After a bit of bother a couple of years ago, this has become one of the few grounds where the fans are still segregated by the police as we exit the ground, with Leeds fans marched either to the railway station or their coaches.
A few years ago Norwich announced they were considering a scheme to replace the Geoffrey Watling City Stand with a new 12,000 seat stand, with an option to also add an additional tier to the Jarrold (South) Stand, where the foundations are already in place. If both these improvements were carried out the overall capacity of Carrow Road would be increased to around 39,000.
But this is on hold for the time being, while the canaries languish around mid-table in the Championship. I’m reliably informed that “We struggle to sell out now, and even the season ticket waiting list has gone, such is the growing rift between fans/small shareholders and the club's board of directors. Our on-field ambition is now perceived to be that we aim to finish above Ipswich and not have to worry about going back to League 1. Promotion is only spoken of in mythical terms.”
So it’s likely to be a while before additional capacity is required. But Norwich are hoping to get approval to introduce a safe standing area, and have some support for this in parliament, though they would still have to get the government to agree to a change the current policy for the top two divisions. Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch MP recently turned down a similar request from WBA, despite the success of new standing technology at Celtic and in Germany, so we will just have to hope that the government will have a change of heart at some point in the future.
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com, and many thanks to Norwich fan Richard Woods for helping me with his expert local knowledge.
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