It has been one of the stand out seasons in Norwich City’s 116-year history, with 26 victories and 91 goals to date earning the Canaries a spot in the Premier League next season.
But what has that success felt like for the partners of some of City’s First Team players?
Canaries.co.uk sat down with Kirsikka Laurikko, the fiancée of Teemu Pukki, Kathryn Brown, Grant Hanley’s girlfriend, Fabienne Klose, Timm Klose’s wife and Brogan Rooney, the fiancée of Kenny McLean, to talk about settling in at Norwich, the highlights of the season and the bonds that have been formed along the way.
Settling in to life at Norwich
All four women had to relocate to Norfolk when their partners signed contracts with Norwich City, and each shared a similar experience on how easy it was to settle in.
Kirsikka said: “We settled in really good, the city is really nice, and we like it here. It’s quite similar to my home town in Finland so it feels quite like home for me.
“When I came here, I didn’t know anything about the city or the team, so I didn’t have any expectations, but it has been really good and I am really happy that it turned out this way.”
Brogan said: “It’s a lot quieter than Glasgow where we are from and used to but we really like it here and the weather is obviously a bonus. We were really lucky because Kenny signed in the January but we didn’t come here until June, so we had a few visits in between to find a house, so it has been great.
Kathryn, who has experienced her second season at Norwich, said: “When you are moving away from friends and family you feel a bit apprehensive, but from the minute we got here everybody at the Club was just so friendly and welcoming. We love everything about Norwich – the city, the team, the people – and I think that is what has helped us settle in so well. The Club has been great and supportive as well so we are very happy.”
Fabienne added: “We have been here now for more than three years and I think we really live here now and have settled in well. We have a lot of friends and everyone has been kind and friendly. The girls who have been here longer like me always try to make it easy for new people arriving and also try to welcome them in a nice way.
“I’ve been working here for more than one-and-a-half years too at Alan Boswell Group in the marketing team and I am very happy there. They know my schedule and they are really good to me when Timm is off for a longer time and when I need to go home.”
On a matchday
Despite being partnered with footballers, not all of the women started out as big fans of the game.
Kathryn said: “I had to grow to like it. It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t like it I just didn’t know what was going on. As the seasons go on and the more time you spend with them you start to understand because football is life – you go home and you’re watching football, you are here and you’re watching football, so you learn to love it.”
Kirsikka added: “Definitely I was the same. There are still things that happen in games that we talk about afterwards in the players’ lounge and we ask, ‘what happened there?’”
Fabienne said: “I watch football but I have to be honest I am not the biggest football fan. If I wasn’t married to a footballer, I would probably never watch a game.
Brogan said: “I was already a football fan. My dad and my brother like football so I did like it before but obviously more now with Kenny as it’s on all the time.”
Spending time with the girls
With the players’ busy schedule and lots of games miles away from home, the women spend lots of time with each other and spoke about the bond they have formed.
Fabienne said: “Sometimes we do have a very difficult schedule and it can be difficult to plan and sometimes we don’t see each other for two or three weeks, especially when Timm is away with the national team. But we are used to that.
“All the girls are very nice and we have got a good group. There are lots of people from different countries now and we all get along well which is nice.”
Kirsikka said: “It’s so good when you have friends that are living the same lifestyle that you are because they know what is going on with your life in a different way to anybody else. All the ladies here are really nice, and they took me in, so it has been really nice to get to know all these ladies.
“It can be hard because you can’t always participate when the ladies are having lunches because you have to go with your child’s schedule, but all the ladies have been so nice, even those without kids, and they try to go with the mummy schedule. Of course, it’s sometimes hard when they are away and they have many games in a week because you are alone but at the same time you know there are the ladies who are willing to do something.”
Kathryn said: “When you are moving away it can be quite isolating but luckily everyone here has been so friendly, all the girls are lovely, and everyone is so supportive. It does help so much, especially around Christmas time when you miss out on so much with your friends and family when you’ve got other people here that you can rely on and they become your close friends and almost like your football family.
Brogan, who is expecting a baby with Kenny, said: “I think it’s more difficult for the ones with children. Us girls tend to go for lunch or dinner together to pass time and keep each other company.”
With such a young team this season and lots of competition for places in the starting line-up, the women spoke about the importance of leaders in the group and how they find dealing with the highs and lows of a season.
Kathryn said: “Grant relishes in that sort of environment [being a leader] and for him it’s always the bigger picture. He absolutely loves Norwich, he loves the team and all he wants is for the team to do well, so the big thing for him just now is supporting the boys. For him he has played in so many Championship games and Premiership games so it’s about helping the boys, encouraging them and giving them the right support."
Fabienne added: “Timm loves to interact with the fans and with the team. I am happy that he makes them cheer and especially for the younger players it is good to have someone a little bit older with a bit more experience to help them and to stay focussed and that’s good for him.”
Commenting on dealing with any setbacks, Kathryn said: “They want to leave everything at the door and your role is to try and cheer them up and be their cheerleader to pick them back up. That’s a huge part of it and that is what we are there for.
Brogan added: “Kenny is really laid back so he’s quite good at getting any emotion out before he comes home.
“His injury was really tough because he was only two or three games into the season so he didn’t really have a chance to play many games. And then he thought he was getting back fit again but he wasn’t, so it was hard to pick him back up again because he was out for a lot longer. But these things happen, and you’ve just got to get on with it and just try your best to keep fit and do what you can in the gym to get back to fitness.”
Remembering a highlight, Kirsikka said: “There was one game this season we were watching with Mo Leitner’s girlfriend and it was like we got a goal, they got a goal, we got a goal, they got a goal, and we were all holding our breath. It ended well and we won the game but there were a few fans behind us who said ‘it will be a long season if you are holding your breath all the time because this is really normal with this team that you never know what happens in the last minutes’ so that’s when we learnt not to stress that much in the first half.”
No Pukki, No Party
He is the Championship’s top goal scorer having netted 28 times for the Canaries this season. And Kirsikka said it has been lovely to see how much the fans have supported Teemu.
She said: “It’s really nice to see but I knew he has a really good work ethic and he’s making sure that he is doing the best he can in the field. I know that good things happen to good people and when you are really working towards your goals some day they will happen. Of course, it’s really nice to see him doing well, and keep up the good work!
“I am wearing the Teemu Pukki T-shirt at home, it’s a really nice T-shirt. It feels a little bit funny because for me he is just Teemu, my fiancé, and when someone is wearing a T-shirt with your fiancé’s face on it’s a bit like what! But it’s really nice to see of course and I am so proud of him.
“Teemu is used to it and he’s really laid back. He doesn’t get too excited about it but of course he is really appreciating all the fans and all the love that he is getting.”
Speaking about the awards Teemu has picked up this season, she added: “We have his awards in our dining room but there’s a joke that I am always saying that all the neutral ones that go with our colour scheme are on the open shelves and the ones that don’t go on the lower shelves.”
Life outside of football
The players spend most of their days working hard at Colney Training Centre, but on their days off enjoy chill time and cheat meals.
Kathryn said: “We’ve got two dogs so our days off definitely involve dog walks – and eating! We love Haggle and Baby Buddha.”
Brogan said: “We just like to chill out and go for some lunch or dinner, and sometimes we like to go into London and stay over just for something different.
Kirsikka said: “We like to go to Five Guys!”
Something we didn’t know about your partner
Kathryn said: “I was told not to answer this question! Grant is actually a big softie. He just loves dogs and he loves playing golf.
Brogan said: “Kenny loves a musical and a glass of red wine, that keeps him happy. He loves The Greatest Showman and he knows every word.
Kathryn added: “Grant is partial to the Lion King as well!”
Kirsikka said: “Teemu more likes a teenage drama. He knows every single drama show that there is and because of that I watch a lot of drama too.”
Fabienne said: “Timm really loves bats and on a cheat day he would also probably go to Five Guys. He is very funny and makes a lot of jokes, but he is also very calm, relaxed and focussed. He likes to make people laugh and that’s what I love about him, his happy nature.”
Sum up the season in one word
Kathryn said: “We are so proud of them all and how they handle themselves. Some people in this position could get a bit ahead of themselves but none of them are like that, they just focus on the football.”
Kirsikka Laurikko, left, Kathryn Brown, centre, and Brogan Rooney, right.