The stirring victory at Sheffield United was followed by their supporters abusing Norwich directors, assaulting our fans and tweeting incendiary messages. I’ve reported the worst Tweets to South Yorkshire Police.
And, as the Yellow Army mustered three days later at Brentford — where the only danger was that those of us in the upper tier might get hit by a home penalty — I reflected on the fundamental truth of being a City fan: we’re in this together. We have far more that unites us than divides us.
That is what I had in mind when I set about the task of compiling another volume of Tales From The City. I want to add to the fund of shared Norwich City experiences — to introduce some fans and re-introduce others to people who have written the history of our club with their deeds. And I want the Tales of four fans, who took very diverse routes before finding themselves at home at Carrow Road, to demonstrate that, for all our differences, we are united. Well, no, we’re City, but you know what I mean.
I was particularly happy to include two of the chapters. Ken Brown was manager for more matches than anyone in Norwich City history — and his spell in charge followed seven years as assistant manager. It’s time his story was told properly.
Duncan Forbes is simply the captain against whom all other skippers of Norwich City must be judged and Tales Three carries his own account of his momentous contribution to our club. How that can be true, when he is so ill these days, is explained in the book.
And here is a flavour of some of the other nine chapters. I’ve abridged the excerpts and made some changes so that they make sense in this shortened form:
Gary Megson wanted the ball played long and into the corners, and I have a lasting memory of an exasperated Ian Crook reluctantly smashing the ball down towards the corner flag at the New Den — to where no one was waiting. He looked across to the dug-out. He had, ‘If that’s what you want, there you go…’ written across his face.
Crook preferred chipping a more careful ball into the galloping stride of Mark Bowen as the fullback burst into an opposition penalty area. Bowen, too, had a big falling out with new manager. The heroes of Munich and Milan were desperately unhappy and so were supporters.
There was the infamous day when Carrow Road echoed to the sounds of horses’ hooves as a ‘Chase Out’ demonstration became so heated that a four-strong mounted police detachment was needed to clear the street outside the ground.
Something had to give. And it did. Chairman Robert Chase exited stage left.
I have a memory of one ‘snatch’ photo him leaving his office for the last time in May 1996 — not quite being bundled out of the back door, but near enough. His fall from footballing grace and favour was complete. It was an undignified end to a period that had seen the club storm some of the greatest bastions of European football, playing some of the most compelling football.
The hotel the England under-21s were staying in was near the Toulon marina, Gazza was saying, ‘Come on, let’s go out. Come on.’ And in the end we did. We just walked out in our England polo shirts and tracksuits. Of course, we just happened to see a little cocktail bar, and its lights were twinkling and it drew us in. A few Sambucas later we thought it was time to go back to the hotel, but Gazza and Steve Sedgley went off to get a kebab, so the other four of us strolled back without them.
So it’s me, my Norwich team-mate Rob Rosario, and a couple of Ipswich lads: Mark Brennan and Jason Dozzell. Jason decided to jump from boat to boat, and we all knew nothing could possibly go wrong. How could it? But each time he jumped, the boat he landed in rocked wildly, and the water was getting more and more disturbed. But Jason wasn’t at all disturbed — until, for some inexplicable reason, he misjudged one jump and went straight in the plonk. That was when he remembered that he couldn’t swim.
One of the coaches pulled a few of the lads and told them they had to go and train with the youth team. I was one of them. There was no explanation or discussion. It was the start of a nightmare period for me at the club.
The manager, Glenn Roeder, didn’t say anything at all, so after a few days I asked to see him. He just said, ‘You are not part of my plans, I don’t want you here and I don’t want you around my team’.
It was a bleak time. And it must have been hard for my wife, Jill, to see me miserable. She was unbelievable throughout it all. She used to come to watch reserve games. I would look up and see this lonely figure sitting in the stand — the only member of the Norwich City Reserves Away Supporters’ Club.
One day at home it all got to me, and there were a few tears shed. But I kept training with the kids — all week with no big game on the Saturday. And it was the same the next week and the next, and on it went.
(Bryan Gunn replaced Roeder) We had a team meeting on the day before the game at Birmingham and Gunny said, ‘You have been waiting for your chance…’ He turned the board over and I was in the team. Honestly, to this day, I get choked up thinking about that moment.
It was 16 months since my last Norwich first team appearance and my family knew what that meant to me. Jill must have been keen to see the match as she ended up reversing down a motorway when she flew past the exit she was to take!
It was a 1-1 draw (Cameron Jerome scored for them), and afterwards I went over to the fans. They’d always been great to me and I think they sort of understood I had stayed about because I wanted to play for Norwich so much.
Paul Lambert said, ‘Look, I want you out of the door.’ I’d been there six years by then, been relegated twice, and he wanted to change things. It wasn’t a nice conversation to be in, but I thought it was fair enough that he was being straight with me.
We only won one of the next five League One matches. I say, ‘we’, but I wasn’t involved at all. Me and a few others, including Wes, had been told to train with the youth team. The manager actually went public and told the local Press that I didn’t figure in his plans at all. But I look back with some pride, because I continued to work hard, alongside the kids, and tried to be professional.
Then, before a Tuesday night home game against Orient, he called me into his office and said, ‘Look, I’m not coming cap in hand to you, but I would like you to play in this game. I’ll understand, though, if you don’t want to in the circumstances here, where you might be leaving.’
I said, ‘I want to play.’
We smashed Orient. Wes had got back in the team a couple of games earlier and the manager kept me and him in the side for the rest of the season. And we started winning game after game. By the turn of the year we were in the top two, and when we went to Colchester and won 5-0 he said to me, in front of all the lads, ‘I must have been out of my mind to drop you.’ A lot of managers would not have been big enough to say that.
When the local media and supporters talk to me, they want to hear about Norwich City’s 1959 FA Cup run — when we were in the old Third Division but got as far as a semi-final replay.
There was an inch of snow on the Carrow Road pitch for the third round game against Manchester United, but they just swept the lines clear and marked them blue. We played with a bright red ball. The police had put a restriction on the crowd of 38,000, but that was more than enough to create a tremendous atmosphere and we won 3-0. Terry Bly got two and Errol Crossan got the other. It was a really tremendous result against Matt Busby’s famous ‘Babes’ and the Pink Un headline was, ‘Bly, Bly Babes’.
The connection between the fans and the players was even more special in Norwich, I believe, because it was a relatively small city and a tight community, and between games we mixed with the supporters all the time.
As a team, we used to walk to the ground down Riverside and the fans would be walking to the ground at the same time. You just chatted to them and they chatted to us.
When we reached the last eight, and were drawn at Tottenham, more than 20,000 City fans travelled to the capital by road and rail. The team went by rail and, from time to time, when we could spot the road, we would see all the cars and coaches with Norwich flags waving out of the windows.
The attendance was close to 75,000. I hold all sorts of scoring records for Norwich but only scored once in the Cup that season because I was playing more of what today would be called a holding role. Matt Crowe slid in a very well weighted pass, just behind the centre-half, for me to run on to. As their goalkeeper, John Hollowbread, came rushing out towards me, I tucked the ball away quite easily with my left foot.
Of course, there was no kissing each other, or sliding along the floor, or elaborate celebrations. You just walked or jogged back to your own half and you might get a slap on the back from one or two of the team, but I never got carried away when I scored. It was just part of my job.
We drew 1-1 and when our train got back to Thorpe Station there were probably 3,000 people waiting to welcome us. They were crowded onto the platform and we couldn’t get through. The railway people had to put us on the luggage trolley and wheel us through the crowd.
There’s so much more I could let you see now, but I’ve got to try to flog the book and plug the launch night. Talking of which…
To pre order Tales from the City volume 3 click here
And to book your tickets for the event… here