Meet a City fan series - No.4 ‘Real ale special’

Meet a City fan series - No.4 ‘Real ale special’

Born in Long Stratton almost 58 years ago and lived there until moving to Norwich in 1991, Today’s featured top fan Michael Phillips now lives a 10-minute walk from Carrow Road. He provides us with great insight into all things Norwich and beer!

In his younger years, Michael started watching from the middle pen of the Barclay but then moved to the River End before heading to the Snakepit and now the County Lounge with many other retirees. He has been a loyal home and away season ticket holder for many years.

He has seen a competitive game in all league grounds, with 81 of those watching Norwich City. Michael’s other sporting passion is horse racing having been to every racecourse in the country and now has shares in six racehorses.

How did you become a City fan?

Being born 10 miles south of Norwich it was a no brainier. I spent my early teenage years at school in Diss at a time when we were on the wrong end of the odd hammering at the hands of our local rivals. How things have now swung in our favour and long may that continue!

Do you remember your first game? Who did you go with?

My first game at Carrow Road was on Saturday 23 March 1968 and a 3-2 victory against Bristol City but can’t remember the goal scorers. I went to the game with my father and sat on the front row of the main stand. My season ticket today sees me a few rows behind in a newly built stand but in an almost identical position in line with the 18-yard line.

What is your fondest memory as a City fan?

There have been many but for me, it has to be the Milk Cup 1-0 victory against Sunderland. It has so much meaning to me having attended every game in that cup run. From a finger of fudge at Preston, the fog at Aldershot, snowball fights on Cleethorpes beach and a wonderful Steve Bruce header along the way.

Who would you most like to watch a City game with? Past or present?

For me, the answer is very easy. It would have to be Geoffrey Watling, a legend at this football club. Without his help and generosity, we may not have a football club today.

Who was your favourite manager and why?

Difficult question. I have to mention Ken Brown for the Milk Cup triumph, Mike Walker for the European adventure and Daniel Farke for the stylish football gracing the hallowed turf. However, it has to be Ron Saunders for me. He took us to the top flight of English football for the very first time and the following season took us to Wembley.

Who was your favourite player and why?

I guess I have always had admiration for Craig Bellamy and his dyed hair in the East Anglian Derby but the vote goes to Dale Gordon. Dale was a great homegrown talent making over 250 appearances and scoring over 40 goals and provided great entertainment. His skills never ended there. I always remember a visit to Bournemouth when Mel Machin and Dale Gordon were in charge. Dale spotted me with my Norwich jacket as I got out of the car. I was there because Bournemouth had moved their ground around so Norwich were not playing. Nonetheless, Dale called me over and minutes later a complimentary ticket was in my hand.

What is your typical pre and post-match pub visits for a matchday at Carrow Road?

For a few years now I have not gone for a pre-match beer at home games. After evening games I will normally head to my local, the Fat Cat and Canary. After 3 pm kickoffs, I normally go home to watch the evening game before heading to the Fat Cat and Canary.

What is your typical pre and post-match pub visits for a matchday at away games?

Since retirement four years ago I tend to spend a few days away in conjunction with games. I am a member of Capital Canaries and meet up with them before away games and most of us are ale drinkers so we are always searching out suitable venues. Occasionally we will all stay overnight in which case a few ales are often complimented with a good curry otherwise a beer before their train home.

Taking one team from each of the current top four divisions, which opposition club would you want to visit based on the pubs within the vicinity of the ground?

Having followed Norwich City for 50 years I am always looking for good performances and results. However, as the grey hair takes hold the philosophy of don’t let football spoil the day or there will always be beer has more meaning.

Premier League - Sheffield United

Ironically the last trip before lockdown. I spent two nights in London for the cup tie against Tottenham before heading to Sheffield for three nights. What is not to like about Sheffield if you enjoy your ale. Three nights is never enough really but the Kelham Island area is a firm favourite.

Championship - Nottingham Forest

Once again this is another fantastic City if you enjoy pubs and ale. Always make time to visit Beeston whilst there. I have to congratulate the fixture panel in 2018 who very kindly arranged our fixture at the City Ground to coincide with Nottingham Beer Festival. Not only did I get to sample some fine ales it culminated in a 2-1 victory.

League One - Sunderland

I still have a bit of a soft spot for Sunderland after the Milk Cup even though it could be a tad intimidating at the old Roker Park before they moved to the Stadium of Light. Sunderland has six good ale establishments and is only half an hour on the tram to Newcastle and its six micropubs.

League 2 - Cambridge United

Whilst the ground is a brisk stroll from the pubs, Cambridge has plenty to choose from. The other advantage is that it is only an eighty-minute train journey home.

Is there a standout perfect day you have experienced based on a City victory and top beer?

A few I guess but one very enjoyable day was at Brunton Park, Carlisle on Saturday 10 October 2009. Once again the fixture committee had very kindly arranged our fixture to coincide with Carlisle Beer Festival. A small festival held in the same hotel as the team were staying in. I guess we would find out how well behaved they were later. You had to register on arrival with branch and CAMRA membership number. The lady on the desk as I registered said that is strange as you are the 11th person from Norwich today and seems a long way to travel. I didn’t have the heart to explain why so left her in suspense. The day was rounded off with a Wes Hoolahan goal and 1-0 victory and then the long journey home.

What is your analysis of the season?

We have played some of the best, pure, easy on the eye football ever seen at Carrow Road. Sadly some of our defending has been naive and finishing somewhat lacking at times. We were unfortunate with central defensive injuries losing both Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmerman to very poor challenges.

The main frustration and this is not just the case this season is our ability to perform against the top teams but then underperform against teams that we need to take points from. We were unlucky not to do the double over Leicester but whilst it was enjoyable to witness the Man City game I would rather swap it with the Villa result.

Basically, it has been enjoyable at times but also incredibly frustrating.

What is the ideal outcome to complete the season?

Personally, I would just flip the table as would look much easier on the eye. Seriously though at this point in time it is more important to save lives and football should only return when deemed safe to do so.

I am not keen on finishing games behind closed doors. We only need to look at Spain and Italy. Valencia were forced to play one of their games behind closed doors. The result was that thousands turned up outside the ground. The same happened in Italy.

One of the first games to be played following the resumption is Everton vs Liverpool and I don’t see people not turning up at the ground. For people who can’t get tickets for games many watch in pubs as they will not necessarily have Sky or BT. I think it is too dangerous to risk playing behind closed doors. We just have sit tight with the season in pause mode for the foreseeable future.

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