Ted MacDougall broke my heart.
Way back in the earliest years of my football loving life, Ted was this fledgling Canary’s first footballing superhero.
He just looked mean – meat and drink to an impressionable schoolboy with stars in his eyes. Ted was Clint Eastwood swathed in yellow. I could imagine him bearing down on the goal, ball at feet, that bad ass look on his face as he dismissed the fearful goalkeeper obstructing his path to more glory….”I know what you’re thinking: ‘Does he shoot left? Or right? Or straight at me?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve lost track myself. But being I’m Ted MacDougall, the most powerful striker in the First Division, then, whichever way I go, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”
Most opposing keepers were anything but lucky when it came to a one to one with Ted. He invariably came out of it on top. His road there however, had not been an easy one. His first big money move, from Bournemouth to Manchester United had ended abruptly with a falling out with new manager Tommy Docherty who’d made it clear to Ted, signed by his predecessor, Frank O’Farrell, that he was not his type of player. The Doc’s idea of a goalscorer was the nimble, fleet of foot striker who worked hard for both his goals and the team – think Lou Macari or Stuart Pearson, both Docherty signings.
Ted was neither. He was a goalscorer, of that there was no doubt. But did he put a shift in with it? Maybe not. And for that reason, his career at Old Trafford was never going to end in anything other than disappointment. Ted was a strong character – but fewer in the game at that time were as forthright or headstrong as Docherty. The big fee that United had paid for Ted and the fact he’d barely had time to settle at Old Trafford meant nothing to Docherty. Ted was excess baggage, unwanted and unproven. Someone else could have him. Norwich were, at that stage, rumoured to be interested but nothing came of it and Ted moved onto West Ham.
But if Ted had thought his move to Upton Park might have given him the chance to settle down and return to being a big fish in a relatively small pond again however, he was mistaken. The “Daddy” in the Upton Park dressing room was the grizzly and uncompromising Billy Bonds who brokered no nonsense from anyone, not even a World Cup winning Captain in Bobby Moore. Ted, therefore, was meat, drink and coffee with mints to Bonds who, after a 5-1 defeat at Leeds United, took exception to some of Ted’s post-match observations. A fight between the two ensued, and, with Bonds unchallenged in his role at the club, that meant the end for Ted who was soon informed he would be on his way for a second time in a year.
Two high profile moves, two equally high profile fallings out. MacDougall was perceived as a failure, the thought being that, if he had been a good player, the clubs would have retained him despite the baggage. But, with neither Manchester United, a struggling team at the time who would eventually be relegated, or West Ham – themselves mired in bottom third mediocrity – seeming to regard Ted as the answer, the question raised became just who would.
Had Ted’s chance to shine in the top division gone already? Or was there a possibility that the new Norwich Manager would look to make him his first signing at the club?
The last ten games under Saunders had seen the Canaries score just four times with two of those being own goals. If Norwich were to stay up they needed goals and, with David Cross having left for Coventry City just prior to Saunders departure, Bond desperately needed a replacement. Might, the rumour mill postulated, Bond choose to have a reunion with the man who had done so well at his former club?
Ted’s previously explosive brief encounters with the game at the highest level were all the evidence that his doubters needed. He was a loose cannon, a maverick, an opinionated and argumentative individual who had to get his own way and who wanted to be the number one, the big name at his club.
In other words, not the sort of player you wanted at Carrow Road?
Which is where you’d be wrong. Because it was for precisely those reasons that John Bond stepped in and, as many had predicted he would, signed Ted for Norwich.
John Bond was many things, both as a man and a manager. Deeply idiosyncratic he, nonetheless, harboured a footballing brain that would not have disgraced the England team had the FA approached him when he was at his pomp. He had swiftly reasoned upon his arrival at Carrow Road that his new team had a proclivity to be bullied out of games, no more so than the fixture that had heralded the end of Saunders’ time at the club. Bereft of the aerial power and presence of Cross, the Canaries had still, against the run of play, gone 1-0 up early in the second half. That should have been a cue for consolidation but it cued capitulation instead. Everton equalised just two minutes later and, from then on in, the Canaries were always going to lose, which they did, 3-1. The Norwich attack, which, for that game had been 20 year old Paul Cheesley and the keen but awkward Ian Mellor had simply been bullied out of the game by an Everton back four which included sage old hands like Terry Darracott and Roger Kenyon.
Bond knew that his own frontline needed its own bully and that MacDougall was available, albeit at a price – and that was the problem. Ted’s last two moves had both been for around £200,000, a sum roughly equal to £2.3 Million today – in other words one that Norwich City, then, as now, would not only be reluctant to spend, but be very unlikely to be swiftly able to raise in the first place. Despite that however, Bond was resolute. The time to rebuild and refashion Norwich had to begin immediately and if it meant that a sacrifice or two would have to be made for the club to get the man he wanted, then that would be the case – with the sacrifice in question being Graham Paddon.
Now, place yourself in the mindset of the typical Norwich City supporter from around forty years ago if you will.
The manager who not only guided you to your first ever season in top flight football – and who kept you there against all the odds, one who also took the side to its first ever final at Wembley has gone. Not only that, but David Cross, the clubs leading goalscorer from that memorable season has also departed, as now has, at the behest of the new manager, the Canaries second highest goalscorer and midfield talisman in Paddon. And for what? The arrival of a temperamental new striker who had flopped at both his previous clubs and, but for Bond, might already have been on his way back to Bournemouth.
It’s perhaps fair to say that, even if the knives weren’t out for Bond straight away – after all, he had played no part in the departure of Cross and would likely have wanted to keep him – then the kitchen drawer was certainly in the corner of most Norwich fans eye. Those Norfolk eyebrows were raised after Bond’s first game in charge, a defeat at Burnley, one that consigned the Canaries to bottom place in the First Division. Both Bond and MacDougall, who had made his third debut at this level at Burnley, had a lot to prove.
Ted scored his first goal for the club in the Boxing Day fixture against Ipswich Town. It was a typical MacDougall goal, seizing upon a half chance before anyone else could react in order to, by whatever means, force the ball into the back of the net. Yet Norwich still lost the game. It was their third defeat in four games since Bond had taken over and a winless run of a further five fixtures was to follow, including a 4-2 reverse to West Ham at Upton Park; Paddon scoring twice against his erstwhile team mates and looking the complete midfielder as he linked up with Trevor Brooking. Yet MacDougall had also scored twice, taking his tally to four goals in three games – and, slowly but surely, was beginning to look the part.
Bond’s great gamble was paying off. He had spurned offers from previous clubs before he succumbed to the advances of the Carrow Road hierarchy, yet was still joining a side that looked set to struggle and which, inevitably, dropped out of the top division at the end of that season. Not only that of course, but in dispatching fan hero Paddon to West Ham in order to bring MacDougall to the club, he had hardly endeared himself to the Norwich support early on. All that and eventual relegation – yet, by the end of that season, both he and MacDougall were firm crowd favourites if, maybe, not always so in the Boardroom – though it would have taken a brave chairman to interrupt the momentum which Bond was now instilling at the club.
Forever a wheeler dealer with players, Norwich had seen it through with a total of 32 different players – nine up on the previous season – being used, of whom, only one outfield player, Dave Stringer, played in all the clubs league games. Indeed, such was the turnover of playing staff throughout that season that fourteen of those players started in less than ten league games. MacDougall himself had started 25 league games, scoring eleven goals, comfortably ending the season as the clubs highest goalscorer. And, with Bond returning to Bournemouth that February in order to reunite Ted with his old Cherries strike mate Phil Boyer, hopes were high that the two would combine the following season to get Norwich back in the top division – which they did, scoring 41 times between them as Bond repeated his predecessors achievements in the same campaign, that is, a promotion and a place at Wembley, again, in the League Cup Final.
John Bond liked to live dangerously – but it had paid off – and how. His faith and tolerance in MacDougall was paying off, and never more so than the following season, the one which saw Supermac steal my footballing heart away, laying the foundations for that upset to come.
Because he made the game look easy – and he played it like we all did at the time. All he wanted to do was score goals. So he pretty much made sure that was all he did do. He was, indeed, the classic goal hanger, waiting for the ball to be delivered to him, doing little in the game or even the move itself except finish it off – which he did, with aplomb. We stood near the jumpers, Ted by the goalposts.
He further endeared himself to me, during a lull in play in one game at Carrow Road. There Ted stood, hands on hips, near the opposing teams penalty area, waiting for the game to get on without him. This infuriated my watching Father so much that, in sheer frustration, he yelled out, “…come on MacDougall, put some bloody effort in!”, to which Ted, slowly, languidly, glanced over to where the shout had come from and replied, simply and with feeling, “f**k off”.
Dad had a point. Effort was not Ted’s thing. Not unless it involved scoring a goal. That made him a force of nature. But, other than that, his part in the game was often peripheral. I think of the stick Steve Morison got from many at Norwich for a perceived lack of effort on his part and smile, Steve was a second Gary Holt in comparison to Ted who, on some days, you would half expect to take to the pitch accompanied by a deckchair and his newspaper. But it didn’t really matter because he did what he was paid to do in abundance – as well as have the hardworking Boyer alongside him to go his running, making quite a few of his goals in doing so as well as scoring a few for himself.
Ted wreaked havoc during the 1975/76 season. He scored a hat-trick in a 5-3 win over Aston Villa at Carrow Road in late August, then, no doubt wanting to stick one up to anyone who had dared suggest it was some kind of one off, did exactly the same thing again in Norwich’s next home game, a 4-2 win over Everton. That particular purple patch saw him score fifteen goals in ten league and cup games, a phenomenal rate then and one which, if repeated in the Premier League by any player today would have his name in lights and said with rightful acclaim.
He ended that season, with Norwich finishing tenth, with 23 league goals from his 42 league starts, the highest goalscorer in the top division, the only time a Norwich player has (or probably will) ever ended a league campaign with that accolade. It included the two hat-tricks already mentioned as well as a brace in games against Burnley, Leicester and Leeds – plus Manchester City in the League Cup, five more goals coming in both cup competitions.
Admittedly, the game today is vastly different to what it was back then, but, despite that, the skills needed to score goals – and score them in such abundance – remain pretty much the same, and it is sobering to think of what the value of a player might be who has the ability to do that in today’s game might be. We are probably looking at Robin Van Persie or Luis Suarez as a modern day comparison in terms of sheer numbers of goals scored for one team and their overall importance to same – and yet, back then, we had a player at Norwich who did, and was, just that: a pure goalscorer.
What would Ted have been worth in today’s game – and how long would we have been able to keep hold of him before one of the “big clubs” came calling?
As it was, of course, it wasn’t a big club that came calling at all. It was Southampton, our opponents this Saturday. For, suddenly and without warning, the Saints, then in Division One, made Norwich an offer of just £50,000 for Ted the following September, near enough a year to the day since he had scored that hat-trick against Everton, part of that astonishing run of goals in the early part of the previous season.
£50,000. For Ted MacDougall. The man who had scored 66 goals in 138 games for Norwich City, the player who everyone wanted to be in the school playground, self included, the one whose name would have been adorned on the back of hundreds of replica kits were such things in vogue at the time. A man at the peak of his game and a certainty to go to the 1978 World Cup finals with Scotland the way he was playing, no question.
Yet Norwich accepted the bid and Ted was, suddenly and without warning, on his way south, happy to return to his adopted home after his adventures in what were, to him, far flung places – Norwich included! Viv Busby joined on the day that Ted left, but it was never the same and, for some reason, it has never felt the same since then because, even now, I still can’t believe we sold the man who did all that he did with the Canaries for just £50,000. And that he ever wanted to leave in the first place.
Which is why Ted MacDougall broke my heart.
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