Following on from yesterday’s column, Ed gives us his City ‘Disappointing XI’…
1. Michael Theoklitos
Michael was signed, amidst no little fanfare, prior to the start of the 2009/10 season by Bryan Gunn, a man who, we thought, must know a keeper when he sees one. He came highly recommended. A succession of clean sheets, club success, international recognition. And, hailing from the nation that had previously given us Mark Bosnich, Mark Schwarzer and Brad Jones, amongst others, it seemed as good and canny an investment as we could have made. His debut and sole Canary appearance in that 1-7 against Colchester is now part of the clubs history – a game and team performance which is now seen as the catalyst to everything that has happened at Carrow Road since. For Michael, it was simply too much. He was not match fit before the game and was certainly not ready for the comparative bear pit of League One football in England-the pressure and expectation from the home support or the sheer, unrelenting presence of Colchester on that day, pace and power-plus a defence in front of him that gave new definition to the term ‘porous’. His lack of fitness shows in this laboured responses for the first two goals and, by the time Clive Platt bundled in the third, Theoklitos was ‘gone’. My own reaction would have been able to go off, get out, go home and never return – he didn’t have that luxury. He saw it out, but, in all honesty, his Norwich career was over by half-time. But a poor goalkeeper? No. But one who made the wrong career choice and, having made it, should probably not have even been in contention on that day or any subsequent one? Yes. Championship, Premiership and Cup honours have all come his way since back in Australia, together with personal awards. He has, unquestionably, his niche and place in the professional game. It just wasn’t ever going to happen with us.
2. Jurgen Colin
Colin pre-ticked many boxes prior to his signing for Norwich in 2005. He’d signed for Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven at just 7, making his debut for them shortly after his 20th birthday. As is tradition in Europe, he was then farmed out on loan to continue his footballing education, winning a Belgian title winners medal whilst at Genk. He eventually signed for NAC Breda and was soon rumoured, having performed well for them in Holland, to be of interest to Everton. It was Norwich, however, who eventually signed him, making his debut on August 11th 2005 against Crystal Palace-as a right back. This seemed a curious positional choice for Nigel Worthington to make, Colin having impressed during his spells in Holland and Belgium in the centre-back position. Not unnaturally, he was a player not used to going forward and had no real pace to speak of, with his natural reading of the game tending to lend him to wandering out of position, Norwich frequently being exposed on that side as a result. He soon lost confidence in himself and his game, losing his place under Peter Grant and eventually leaving the club having never fulfilled the promise and potential that he had brought with him-albeit as a centre half. He ended up signing for Ajax, thus again making you think there must be something about him, regardless of his unfulfilling time in Norfolk. He now plays for Anorthosis Famagusta FC in Cyprus – as their first choice centre half.
3. Patrick Boyle
I’ve included loan signings in my Disappointing NCFC XI because they can often show that when needs must, a club will go out and sign whatever is available just to make up the numbers-a policy that rarely works out for either party. Boyle, however, was not an example of that. Like Colin, he had a seemingly impeccable footballing pedigree. He’d signed for Everton’s Academy squad in 2003, performing well, earning himself a one year professional deal at just 18 and a full debut against Chelsea before earning first team experience in Everton’s 2006 pre-season. A bright footballing future seemed imminent with Everton choosing for him to continue to develop at Norwich by sending him here on loan where he made his debut, ousting Adam Drury in the process, against Crystal Palace on September 16th 2006. Two appearances and two substitutions later, he was gone, his third and final game for us being the 4-1 defeat at home to Burnley that saw the departure of Nigel Worthington soon afterwards. New man Peter Grant restored Adam Drury to his rightful place and Boyle, his premature departure hastened by a back injury, left the club as quietly and without fanfare as he had joined. He spent part of last season on loan to non-league Gateshead.
4. Darren Kenton
Kent’s inclusion should be proof enough to anyone that this isn’t an XI of “bad” footballers but players whose time with us has been one of disappointment, frustration and let down. Never have I wanted a Norwich City player to succeed with the club quite as much as I wanted Darren Kenton to. A player who seemed to be a natural centre half – he was not the tallest but was tidy in the tackle, good in the air and impressive with the ball at his feet – he was shunted into the right back position on frequent occasions, playing, in some occasions, on the left or in midfield. This meant he could never settle into an established role anywhere, let alone the one that might have been his best position and this perceived versatility seems to have been his downfall with his subsequent clubs all using him as a utility player. He now works as a male model in London-so good for him! A pity he never got quite the same chance to walk the spotlight as a footballer for Norwich City.
5. Steve Walsh
Walsh was a footballing giant at Leicester City. Nearly 400 first team appearances, play-off success, a League Cup winners medal. He seemed an obvious choice and an astute one at that when Bryan Hamilton brought him here in 2000 but, after just one appearance, a 4-0 defeat at Southampton, it was clear that he was not up to the task of holding Norwich’s mediocre defence at the time together and he looked out of place and out on his feet from the beginning. Three well spaced substitutes appearances followed but did no favour to either Walsh himself or the club. He would have been a majestic signing and player even two years earlier but was way past his best when he came to Norwich and maybe both parties should have realised that at the time.
6. Drazen Muzinic
John Bond broke our transfer record to bring Muzinic here in 1980, the £300,000 paid to Hadjuk Split was thought to be a bargain and the prospect of having a man who had won a whole host of domestic honours – four league titles and five cups with Split, as well as 36 caps for Yugoslavia, including appearances at both the 1974 World Cup finals and Euro 76 – lining up alongside players like Graham Paddon, Justin Fashanu and Joe Royle clearly – and understandably – excited Bond. Muzinic was described as a “utility” player, a description that is usually taken to mean he can play in a variety of positions. Sadly, for Norwich, it seemed more a case of him not being able to play in any position. Whilst his footballing pedigree was unquestionable, Muzinic did not settle at Norwich, and, desperately trying to find a place for him in his team, Bond played him in several roles, with Muzinic ending up wearing seven different numbered shirts (this at a time when your shirt number signified the position you played in). In all, Muzinic wore the numbers 9, 7, 4, 3, 8, 5, and (perhaps as a compromise?) the number 12. To add to the problems, Muzinic could not speak English and the club had to hire a translator from the University of East Anglia to help get the message across. Following Bond’s departure, Brown commenced the 1981/82 season by giving Muzinic the left back slot in the opening game at Rotherham. Norwich lost 4-1 and Muzinic did not start another game until November. He played a further four league games before being substituted in Norwich’s 3-1 loss at home to Luton. Two FA Cup appearances followed, but Brown had seen enough and in July 1982 Muzinic’s contract was cancelled. It later transpired that the player had been signed without the Manager having even seen him play, which led to the unforgettable quote from Justin Fashanu that the club hadn’t signed Muzinic, but his milkman!
7. Raymond de Waard
De Waard had a reasonable enough career in the top divisions of Dutch football to suggest that Bryan Hamilton might have secured a bargain when he signed him from SC Cambuur in 2000. For whatever reasons, he never got the chance to show it here and serves as a salutary reminded to perhaps not sign a player on video recommendation alone. That he was competent was not in doubt – he’d performed consistently in Holland without ever reaching the heights – but the same could be said of the squad of players he was joining at Hamilton’s Norwich, amongst them Jim Whitley, Brian McGovern and the afore mentioned Walsh. De Waard seemed prone to injury concerns almost from the moment he joined the club meaning he never made a full appearance for the Canaries, all six of his league games for us coming from the bench. Those injury worries became so constant and maybe contrived in such a regular manner that Nigel Worthington, a man who didn’t suffer fools at all, let alone gladly, made the swift exit of de Waard a priority when he took over at Carrow Road. A case, it would appear, of a player not wanting to be here and being quite happy to prove it – and more off the pitch than on it.
8. Paul Peschisolido
The man who is now perhaps more well known as “Mr Karren Brady” turned up here in 2001, one of three clubs he joined on loan from Fulham that season. We thus became one of ten English clubs that ‘Pesch’ has played for in his career-and the only one of those ten who he failed to score a single goal for. Yes, he was here for just five games – but he’d managed two goals in five games for Sheffield United prior to joining Norwich. Shortly after he left us, he scored 20 goals in 91 games for Derby County – so he knew, as the saying goes, where the goal was. A case it would seem, of good player and the right player – but very much at the wrong time.
9. Dean Coney
Poor old Dean Coney. One, famous goal for Norwich and it went in off his backside. He’d made his debut for Fulham at just 17, scoring 19 goals in his first full season with them and earning a call up to the England U-21 squad. A move to QPR followed, his new Manager Trevor Francis showing that he knew a good forward when he saw one by playing Coney in midfield – where, it would seem, his knack of scoring goals and his confidence dried up. Maybe Dave Stringer should have seen the signs before he paid £350,000 for Dean in 1989; he’d played just sixteen times for QPR that season and had failed to score. He managed to do so just once for us – that famous ‘in off the backside’ effort against Aston Villa – but had clearly brought his lack of confidence to Norwich with him and soon asked for a transfer, claiming that the “fans have it in for me”. On reflection, maybe both our and his ire should have been deflected towards Trevor Francis who has, inconceivably, signed a deadly and potential rich young striker and immediately deployed him in midfield.
10. Gaetano Giallanza
Oh would could have been – well, that’s what we were thinking at the time when the likeable Gaetano left the club in 2002. He had been a somewhat ‘leftfield’ signing for the club at the time of his arrival, joining from Nantes on a free, but having had most of his senior experience playing in Switzerland. Crucially, however, he had some experience of playing in England having had a spell with Bolton Wanderers. As a free he was, therefore, of minimal risk financially as far as the club was concerned and, after some lively appearances at the end of the 1999/2000 season, he got his chance again at the beginning of the 2000/2001 campaign, scoring against Blackburn and Huddersfield in the league as well as adding another three in the League Cup, including two against Blackburn. He was quick, technically adept and looked as if he was going to make a real impression for us playing alongside Iwan Roberts-until the injury. GG suffered a serious leg injury in October 2000 meaning he missed the rest of that season as well as all of the subsequent one, and, despite some hope along the way he would recover, it never happened and he was released at the end of the 2001/2002 season. Very much a player who might have impressed had it not been for that injury and a disappointment for that reason.
11. Adrian Leijar
Adrian has, for me, become a symbol of the chaos that was surrounding the club throughout the 2008/09 season. A centre half by trade, I’ve lobbed him in here in midfield because, quite honestly, if the club could adopt, as it did at the time, a scattergun approach to signings – he was our 40th loan signing in a little over four years – then I sure as hell can with where I choose to play him! Once again, his ability as a player seemed good. Capped by Australia at U17, 20, 23 and full international level as well as being considered one of Fulham’s most promising young players. Yet, during his stay with Norwich he made just four appearances, three of them from the bench. Why? Why bring in these young and clearly promising young players if you have no real intent of playing them? He finally made his first start in the last game of the 2008/09 season, that humbling 4-2 defeat at Charlton that confirmed our demise into League One but, even in that game, was hauled off to be replaced by Cody McDonald. I have considerable sympathy for him, a clearly decent and capable player who was thrown into a footballing version of a Munch’s The Scream, that sympathy shared with his Norwich Manager at that time, the very decent and honest Bryan Gunn, who tried to make sense in all of the chaos around him. Norwich used a total of 33 players during that disastrous season, fourteen of whom were on loan – the same number who made ten or fewer starts during that 46 league game season. Leijar is now back in Australia with Melbourne Victor and their Captain. He probably remembers little of his time at Norwich. You’d like to think he might have had the chance to have made an impression here but was never given it. It remains, for me, one of the stranger signings, loan or otherwise, the club has ever made.
So there you have it. I know there are legion who I have missed out. Indeed, given the very loose parameters that determines selection this is, if anything, a harder choice to make than that of choosing a Best Ever XI. But it’s thought provoking stuff all the same and I welcome your own thoughts on players you would choose – and why. As I stressed earlier, none of the eleven I have picked here are, or were, in my opinion, bad footballers. But it could be that either their or the clubs decision to join us was, at the time the wrong one. With some, Steve Walsh for example, you wonder just what sort of an impact he might have made had he been recruited a few years earlier. Or had Gaetano not had that terrible injury. Or if Darren Kenton had got a run of games at centre half. Thought provoking stuff. But that’s football for you.