Then something unexpected happened. As this new season got under way, a chap my father knew (through work, racing pigeons and the pub) mentioned to him that he went to watch City most weeks and that he would take me to the games. I didn’t see the point in that. As I explained in my previous article in this series, I was a fledgling Barclay Boy. I certainly didn’t need taking to Carrow Road!! I would no longer be living on the edge. And I had also laughed at lads my own age when I saw them holding their Dad’s hands to and from the ground. No thanks.
It wasn’t every game because my friend worked shifts so couldn’t always make it. But it was quite often, and for the games in between I went back to the Barclay. The task of cushion selling was easy enough. From about 1.30 onwards we had to be stationed on the concrete landing under the Main Stand, and in return for what I think was sixpence (two and a half pence in modern currency) we handed over a splendid green cushion. The seats in those days were not plastic but wooden. In fact they were really just wooden benches with no backs of course. After two hours your backside needed the comfort of a cushion that is for sure.
He never left me alone too long with the cushions – it was actually quite a busy little job, and the guy really was kind hearted and generous to a fault. As three o’clock arrived the ground would start buzzing. We used to hang around on the staircase, reading the programme he got free with the job (he always let me keep it and bought one for himself as he collected them). We couldn’t go to the seats until the game had started, so in truth I used to miss the first thirty seconds of every match. By then he would have sussed out where there might be an empty seat he could plonk me down at. He was entitled to a seat anyway, so if push came to shove, I used his and he crouched down in the aisle. It was fantastic for me.
I studied tactics, and listened to all the opinions from those seated around me. It was worth being huddled tightly together, with bony knees digging into my back. It was worth having cigarette smoke blown in my face. I watched as City gloriously won their way through to first flight football for the first time in their history and I shared in the hopes and dreams of the other faithful Canaries supporters. It couldn’t really happen could it? Not to Norwich City.
The next season I was back to witness the survival against relegation, and the following year when we didn’t make it. And finally, as far as the Main Stand was concerned, 1974-75, and a second promotion year from Division Two. After that I drifted away from the cushion seller. We had no fall out, it was just a case of life moving on. I don’t know what happened to him, but he had two young sons and I suspect that by then, the oldest one at least was ready go to games and act as assistant cushion seller. I owed the guy lots. My time in the Main Stand was to prove to be vital to my footballing education. I did get to night matches, and I went to some away games with him too, on Red Car Service from Bell Avenue, with pocket money saved from not paying to get into Carrow Road.