So… here is my Norwich City Dream XI, set out to play in an admittedly conventional 4-4-2 formation. Such was, however, their abundance of talents that they could – and would – be able to switch to whatever was needed on the field at the time in order to overcome whatever the opposition dared to throw at them.
Goalkeeper – Chris Woods (1981-1987).
Confident, vocal and a keeper who treated the penalty area as his own personal fiefdom, Woods also had remarkable agility and reflexes, assets that he displayed time and time again in his time at the club – that mix of physical presence and agility is rare in keepers (David Seaman springs to mind as someone similar in style to Woods) and that, coupled with the way he would continually berate, badger, cajole and encourage his defenders throughout a game gets him my vote although this call was as hard to make as any in the final XI.
Right Back – Ian Culverhouse (1985-1994).
One word: consistent. Cully rarely seemed to have a below par game for the club, his speed of thought and anticipation making him one of those oh-so-crucial defenders who rarely stand out by making last ditch tackles or goal line clearances simply because they so often see the potential danger and eliminate it before those moments are needed. A defender who played the game with the ball at his feet and made things happen but also, at heart, a man who stopped the opposition playing. One ex-Norwich player has told me that full backs are rated by the number of times they prevent their opposite man from getting his cross in. Not many got past Cully to do that in his time at Norwich. An easy choice.
Central Defender – Dave Watson (1980-1986).
At around 6 feet, Dave wasn’t the tallest of centre halves, but there were few who could beat him in the air – at the back or in attack where he contributed 11 league goals during his time at Carrow Road. An inspirational captain who was not short on skill and as adept at making a run out of the penalty area, ball at feet and intent on starting an attacking move as he was clearing his lines by any means possible when the occasion merited it.
Central Defender – Steve Bruce (1984-1987).
Plenty of candidates for this role including Jon Newsome and Malky Mackay, however, Steve shades it because of his time playing alongside Dave and the understanding they developed as a partnership. Steve was a traditional exponent of the central defensive art, rugged and no nonsense and prepared to do whatever was necessary when leading the line. Will forever be remembered for his tie winning header against Ipswich in the League Cup semi final second leg in 1985, a goal and dominating performance to be certain, but one typical of him as a whole.
Left Back – Mark Bowen (1987-1996).
Mark often performed his left back duties in the marauding manner that we expect of Gareth Bale today – frequently getting forward to contribute to the attacking cause but always having the positional nous to not get caught out. Whenever an opposition attack was made on the right hand side, it was rare not to see him there – calm, collected, and, frequently breaking down the move and winning possession.
Right Midfield – Martin Peters (1975-1980)
Captain. What hasn’t been said about this man? Creative skills in abundance but also with an element of steel in his game that belied the image of a cultured player, football ‘types’ who are often portrayed as lightweight and shirkers of the tackle. Had that natural talent for being in the right place at the right time – and all of the time. Versatile enough to play in any of the eleven outfield positions – which he did whilst he was at West Ham.
Central Midfield – Jeremy Goss (1983-1996).
Every team needs its unsung hero, the player who, according to Eric Cantona was the ‘water carrier’, he who won the ball and, when he had it, looked to move it on to a team mate able to do something with it – whilst, at the same time, wanting it back. This was Gossy’s game, a player to dig in and get a good shift in all over the pitch, one who regarded the ball as his own personal property and who regarded the opposition having possession of same as a professional insult.
Central Midfield – Ian Crook (1986-1997).
A genius. Quite how Crook was ‘allowed’ to spend the majority of his career at Norwich without being wafted away by a bigger club is beyond me. If it had been Gossy’s job to get the ball then it was the his duty when that goal was achieved to find Crook who would invariably make things happen, play the telling pass that hadn’t yet been invented. To us what Liam Brady was to Arsenal and Glenn Hoddle – who had kept him out of the team there – was to Tottenham at the time.
Left Midfield – Darren Huckerby (2003-2008).
Every team needs a player who gets supporters off their seats when he is even within touching distance of the ball; Hucks was that for Norwich. Combining searing pace with great touch and a mix of tricks that often befuddled opponents and team mates alike, Hucks was blue touch paper in yellow and green. A master of his art and one of the last of his kind, the ball at feet – head down – run like hell wide player.
Striker – Ted MacDougall (1973-1976).
Ted was put on earth with but one task in life to fulfil – to score goals. Nothing else mattered and nothing else needed to be done. It was his function, pure and simple – and would be in this team. The thought of Hucks creating chance after chance for Ted to put away is an electric one with Ted’s power and positional awareness (Hucks would have to do his running as well mind) meaning he’d be guaranteed at least half a dozen good chances in every game – and would always dispatch at least one of them.
Striker – Craig Bellamy (1996-2000).
Hardest pick of the lot. Boyer? Sutton? Drinkell? All were considered but Craig gets it for the fact that, alongside Ted’s rather languid but effective style, his non-stop running and harrying of opponents as well as his overall energy and effervescence would cause problems for them even if he did all that without the ball at his feet. A strike force who would cause myriad problems for even the most organised of defences.
Subs – Keelan, Ryan, Newsome, O’Neill (M), Paddon, Eadie, Sutton.
Manager – Dave Stringer. Coaches – Mel Machin and David Williams.
The midfield is, admittedly, a little tender in places. But I think it would hold firm. This, after all, is a side that would be sent out to win matches and dictate play from the off. And with an eclectic mix on the bench, all possibilities are being accounted for. The only problem with making such a selection of course, is the calibre of the players who miss out – Gunn, Forbes, Neighbour, Reeves, Fashanu, Gordon, Fleck and Ashton to name but a few – in fact you could pick an all time Norwich City XI and then do the same thing again and have two sides of such matching skill and ability, no one could predict the result were they to go head to head.
In terms of the players we have had at the club, we are, truly blessed. We have had some exceptional ones. Will any of the class of 12/13 fit into such a side one day. John Ruddy? Seb Bassong? Wes Hoolahan? Grant Holt? Even, dare I say it, Ricky van Wolfswinkel?
Time will tell. But one thing is certain amongst all the second guessing here, if RVW was to become a member of such a hallowed XI in years to come, then we are all in for a hell of a ride next season!
Who would your chosen XI be?