Meet a City fan series - No.5 'USA special'

Meet a City fan series - No.5 'USA special'

What prompted to become a City fan?

I struggled to settle on an English team for years, I just kind of followed teams that had an American on the roster. For a few years, I had been a nominal Fulham fan, as Clint Dempsey was having a wonderful career at Craven Cottage. However, when he left Fulham for Spurs at the end of the 2011-12 season, I lost interest in the Cottagers and refused to follow Tottenham.

It was February of the 2012-2013 season that I finally became a full-time Norwich City fan, after Grant Holt slid a stoppage-time winner past Tim Howard to beat Everton 2-1 at Carrow Road.

I watched the game live with the understanding that whoever won would be my team. I was kind of torn between both, despite the fact that the only American to feature for Norwich (that I can recall) had left the previous season (Zak Whitbread).

Ultimately though, as odd as it sounds, I chose Norwich because our family had emigrated from Norwich to what is now Boston in 1630. My grandfather had done our genealogy (Americans are obsessed with being anything other than American, it's strange) and discovered that our earliest American ancestors had left Norwich during the Great Migration. I figured, hey, all the other teams I support stateside are where I'm from, and Norwich is about as close to "being from" England as I could get. So here I am. My friends think I'm nuts for choosing Norwich.

How do you keep up to date with what’s going on at the club?

I follow the club's social media accounts, have subscribed to a couple of fan channels on YouTube, and participate - probably too much - on a few Facebook forums. I even read the Eastern Daily Press online and the Pinkun! I'm a bit obsessed.

What TV build up and game coverage do you get access to?

The Premier League is covered by NBC Sports in the US, and they do a remarkably good job with in-game coverage and their morning show.

ESPN covers the Championship, but that coverage isn't nearly as good.

Problem is, unless we are in the Premier League and playing a top-six team, they generally don't air games on live TV. So I have to shell out whatever it costs to get full access for the season to make sure I don't miss a minute.

I'm thankful we live in the age of the internet as I'm not sure I'd be able to watch as often as I do otherwise! With the time difference, most games are on in the morning, so it's become my weekend morning ritual to watch live matches.

Is the appetite for home based football in the US growing? How much interest in the English game is there in the states?

Without a doubt, it's growing, which is fantastic. As a kid, people who enjoyed the sport were looked at as oddities. Nowadays, our domestic league has managed to eclipse basketball and hockey in popularity, based on in-game attendance, so we've come a long way.

Major League Soccer's popularity has increased as the quality of play has improved - even if the talent is lagging behind that of Europe. Oddly, the biggest catalyst for MLS's growth, and perhaps the growth of the sport in general, was - believe it or not - David Beckham coming to Los Angeles.

Because let's face it, outside of our best-in-the-world women's national team, we are not a nation known for our footballing prowess. Except for keepers. We seem to be okay on that front.

As far as the English game, the Premier League is wildly popular here. There is a local sports bar here in Albany called Wolff's Biergarten that is packed out every weekend for games. The plurality of fans (at least in Albany) back Liverpool, and all the big six teams have local supporters groups who get together to watch games.

In terms of the order of popularity, it probably goes Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Everton, Arsenal, and then Manchester City - but there is no accounting for good taste.

Have you played the game yourself?

I have played since I was a child. When I was a kid we didn't have anything close to the opportunities to play that you have in England, so most youth soccer teams and leagues are run by volunteers and parents.

Not great for development, but still a lot of fun and a huge impact on a kid's life. I played in High School but didn't try out for my college team, instead opting to play in organized recreational leagues. I started out as a centre back and midfielder when I was young, but have been playing keeper for most of my life. I still play when I can. Oddly enough, Albany has a massive indoor adult recreational league, the largest in the country so I've been told!

Have you connected with other Canaries in the US and if so, how does it work?

All of my interactions with fans here in the States have been on forums. It seems like most US-based fans are British ex-pats. I'm yet to meet another American-born Norwich City fan in person, but I'm still holding out hope. I know there are at least a few more around.

I'm hoping City's partnership with the Tampa Bay Rowdies will help grow their brand here. There is a supporters group in New York City about 150 miles south of me that I've been meaning to meet up with. Hopefully, I can get around to that soon.

Have you watched the boys play live?

Yes! Twice actually. My first game was in April 2016 against Sunderland. I was taking my first trip to England, and my first stop was Norwich. I dragged along a friend who was just starting to appreciate the beautiful game in the hopes that a good performance that day would gain me someone to banter with back home. We lost 3-0, and much to my chagrin fellow-American Deandre Yedlin played a solid game, hindering us down the wing. We got relegated, and my friend decided following Norwich wasn't for him. It was still a fantastic experience to be at Carrow Road for the first time!

The other game I attended was our home opener this season against Newcastle. I had booked a trip over without actually having acquired tickets. Thankfully, I got lucky and won a pair of seats in the Barclay through a charity auction run by the Farke Knight. I ended up taking a friend who lives in Norwich and had never been to a match before, and the rest is history. I'll remember that Pukki hat trick for as long as I live.

Do you get involved in following other, basketball, gridiron, ice hockey etc?

I watch many of our domestic sports leagues. I follow the New York Giants for American football, the New York Rangers for hockey, the Yankees for baseball, and I even follow NYCFC - in spite of their Man City ownership group. I don't follow professional basketball, but I do watch a lot of college ball. I even had season tickets to my alma mater's team.

Fandom for other sports is different here. There aren't really any sing-alongs or coordinated songs, and supporters groups don't really exist outside of soccer. People are just as rabid in their fandom, they live and die by the results, but supporting a team isn't nearly as organized. It's more of an inefficient, controlled chaos type situation between fans. I think the fan experience at Premier League matches is superior to games here, save for our tailgate parties. You can't beat a good tailgate. If you ever get the chance to attend one, do it.

Who is your favourite all time City player and manager and why have you selected them?

Unfortunately, the sum total of my Norwich City support is fairly limited, so this answer is going to be pretty current. I really appreciate and admire player loyalty. Having had Wes Hoolahan on the team for most of my fandom and Alex Tettey in the club since I started supporting Norwich puts them on top. But Wes edges out Tettey in terms of being my favourite. He's such a class act, and you could see the emotion and dedication on his face every time he stepped out on the pitch.

As far as a manager, it has to be Daniel Farke. He's the only manager I've seen who seems to have a consistent game plan and identity, and I love his cool demeanour. What he's done to reshape the team has been nothing short of extraordinary. Regardless of what happens this season, I really hope he remains at the helm.

Dead or alive, who would you select to sit next to at a City game?

Timm Klose. He seems like a truly nice guy and looks to be the life of the party every time he gets in front of a camera or does an interview. I have to imagine sitting next to him at a match would make the experience a thousand times more exciting.

Finally please describe who you are, a brief pen picture.

I'm a 34-year-old native New Yorker. I was born on Long Island and grew up there, but I've lived in the State's capital of Albany for the past 16 years. For context, Albany is about as far away from New York City as Norwich is from London. I work for the State of New York and manage financial policy for the State's economic development programs. It's a mix of politics and policy and keeps me incredibly busy.

When I'm not working absurd hours I like to travel and have based most of my international trips around soccer matches and hiking. Last year, in addition to the NCFC/Newcastle match, I went to Cardiff v Huddersfield, Aston Villa v Everton, and Man U v Crystal Palace. I managed to find time to hike Pen y Fan and Mt. Snowdon (among other mountains) while I was in the UK on that trip.

I'm also the Vice President of the Albany Chapter of the American Outlaws, which is a supporters organization for the Men's and Women's National Teams. The group was founded in 2007 to help grow the sport in the States, and at last count, we are up to about 205 chapters!

Norfolk holds a very special place in my heart, and I can't wait for my next opportunity to visit. Of all the places I've been to, East Anglia has by far the friendliest and most engaging people I've met. It feels more and more like home every time I come back.

Follow City of Yellows

Like what you see? Help us share our love for Norwich City by following us #OTBC