I’m not really a religious man, but I still say thank the gods for football. Without the game, I doubt my generation and that of our kids would have anything at all in common.
Me and my dad would often spend time together as we shared pretty much the same interests, like birds egg collecting (tut tut!), fishing, train-spotting, model aeroplanes, TV comedy shows, and – of course – football. My kids are more or less the same as all of the others of their generation, heavily into social networking, online gaming and puerile music. At least my son likes his football, and that’s our main connection.
We have managed to drag them to some pretty interesting parts of the world for holidays, just as my folks did in the days where you found out the best places to stay by clipping adverts out of the classified sections of newspapers. One of my favourites destinations as a child was always the Norfolk Broads, mainly because I could dangle my float out of the houseboat window and pursue my passion for angling without having to get out of bed. If I ever got bored we would always nip into Wroxham and spend my holiday money on Airfix kits or Action man outfits in the toy shop there.
Like everywhere else in Wroxham in the 1960s, the shop was owned by Roy. Never met the man, but I know he was the boss because his name was spelt out loud and proud above virtually every business in the town.
Despite my passion for the area, I’ve never really been back much in recent years, although I have had Wroxham on my radar since the town’s football team made it to Step 4 a couple of years ago. Two previous attempts to visit Trafford Park had ended in frustration; the first because I overslept and missed my booked train, the most recent earlier this year when my poor health led to a (sensible) decision not to travel.
No such problems today as I’m up on time, feeling good, and ready for a four-hour journey to Norwich via Nottingham & Peterborough. Wary of the fact most Norwich pubs traditionally don’t open until Midday, I set off first to two pubs I know trade earlier, the first of which being The Bell Inn, a Wetherspoons where I can get some brekky, washed down with an excellent pint of Black Panther. My walk to the pub takes me down a scruffy part of town called Rose Lane, my opinion of which takes a sudden turn for the better when I spot a blue plaque recording that the Beatles once played a gig nearby before queueing with fans to buy food from a chippie on Rose Lane. Walking in the path of legends!
After the Bell, it’s a short hop to the Gardeners Arms, known locally as the Murderers. This multi-level pub has something for everybody, including one of the best pub sports TV set-ups I’ve encountered. I plump for a Wolf Brewery ‘Granny Wouldn’t like It’, a 4.8% darkish beer which sadly disappoints. A noisy bunch of students in fancy dress persuades me to eschew a second drink here, and walk across town to the Ketts Tavern, home of the Norwich Bear Brewery. The pub is empty save me and the barmaid, who informs me they have four golden ales and just one that is the right colour for a beer, this being called Legend. Sadly, it doesn’t live up to its name, tasting very much of home-brew.
So my last watering hole prior to catching the train to Wroxham is the Compleat Angler, a large corner pub just outside of the station. The beers are not local, but the Cottage Black Five is a reasonable pint, even if it isn’t exactly black.
Wroxham’s ground is about a 20-minute walk from the town’s railway station and right on the edge of the conurbation, down a pathless track, not recommended for pedestrians in the dark. There’s a modest main stand with seating, and some roof support pillars to peer round. Behind one goal is a small covered terrace. The rest is flat standing, with most of the fans preferring to congregate in the area in front of the clubhouse. The bar, sadly, sells nothing interesting in the way of beer, and the snack hatch is of equal disappointment to the vegetarian.
Today’s game is between two sides who are desperate for points, both hovering as they are at the wrong end of Isthmian Division One North. Visitors Romford are in slightly the better league position, but both teams manage to serve up a turgid first half which is shared with a penalty apiece. It picks up appreciably after the break, with the game far more stretched, Wroxham having the advantage of possessing two or three players not afraid to pick up the ball and run directly at the opposing back four. It seems to all be in vain as they go behind to the visitors, but there’s enough time to level it and snatch a winner before the end.
This being their first win in seven, the home players and fans are like kids in a toy shop. Being Wroxham, that shop would have to be Roy’s and – yes – I can confirm, the centre of the town is still dominated by that name, almost 50 years since I bought my last Airfix kit there. Maybe I should take one home for my lad. But then again……
Programme: Oh dear. Photocopier reproduction worse than the fanzines I used to produce back in the 1970s. One advert is completely unreadable. There is quite a bit of reading matter in there, should you attempt to pick out black wording on a near grey background. 4/10
Floodlight pylons: 6
Birdlife: A large flock of geese seen feeding in a field outside the ground, take off during the first half and honk their way over the pitch. Later spotting roosting for the night in the middle of town (outside Roys in fact!)
Club Shop: No
Toilets: In the clubhouse.
Music the players run out to: No
Kop choir. A huddle of home fans behind the goal but no singing.
Away fans: Ditto above
What’s in a Name? Wroxham keeper Luis ‘The Cat’ Tibbles