Since Ed joined the MyFootballWriter team back last November, Wednesday has slowly morphed into ‘nostalgia’ day; Mr Couzen-Lake’s wonderful ability to tell the stories behind the Norwich City story striking a chord with many.
His weekly sojourn into the City archives – along with his insightful comment on the here and now – has proved a hugely popular addition to the site; the trips to yesteryear often offering a tinge of comfort when City’s latest iteration have failed to do justice to the shirt… last Saturday a perfect example.
Alas the great man is unwell and for this week only you’re stuck with yours truly.
In the absence of a memory bank that comes even close to poorly Mr Ed’s the best I can offer you by way of a trip down a Canary-lined memory lane are a few musings borne of my own Norwich City story.
We all have one; this is how mine started…
Although my official debut was City’s 1-1 draw with Everton, on 12 August 1972 (City’s first ever game in the top division), I had already been indoctrinated in the way of the Canary with a series of reserve games. The memories of said games are understandably a little hazy but they did occur on Saturday afternoons, when the first-team were playing away, and were viewed from the comfort of what was then known as the Main Stand (now the Geoffrey Watling stand). Alas I’m unable to recall whether or not I was granted the comfort of one of the infamous cushions; dad also unable to recall if we were afforded the luxury.
The games themselves have naturally long since been forgotten, but I can distinctly recall a bright young prospect by the name of Trevor Francis lining up for Birmingham City Reserves just prior to him exploding on to the scene in the Blues’s first-team. Whatever happened to him?
Once I’d served my reserve team apprenticeship and had been promoted to the first-team, Jimmy Bone et al, my dad made good on his promise to take me along to all Saturday games (midweek games out of the question apparently!) ; the front of the South Stand, level with the edge of the Barclay end penalty area our new home (Note: Pre-‘Jarrold’ and even pre the red and blue plastic seats).
Luckily, for me at least, my dad was a carpenter by trade and rustled up an ingenious foldable stool that permitted me a near-perfect view of the action regardless of who stood in front. None of your overturned milk crates in the Gowers household…
The stool served me well during the early to mid-seventies, the legs being shortened each season to ensure my towering above others was only confined to a few inches, and it did at least give me an early idea of what it would be like to be Peter Crouch.
The seventies were the formative years of a ‘top-level’ Norwich City just as they were for a third-generation City fanatic – my dad having been indoctrinated similarly in the post-war years by his own City-mad father – and for all of the awe and wonder it provided, there were also less savoury moments that still stick in the mind.
One particular such memory pertains to a home game against Arsenal when our South Stand location gave us a perfect view of the away fans, who were then housed – depending on the number of visiting fans – in one, two or three separate ‘pens’ in the right hand corner of the Barclay.
On the day in question the Gooners travelled in huge numbers (Beccles must have been deserted that afternoon) and filled all three pens, meaning the only thing separating them from the City ‘boys’ in the Barclay were a couple of banks of high iron fences. All well and good and little chance of direct contact until the Arsenal fans somehow managed to release a barrier from the concrete posts holding them. With said barrier being used as a battering ram – the ramming occurring in the direction of the Norwich fans – there was carnage aplenty; certainly more than a seven/eight year old Gowers junior had ever witnessed in his short life. That particular image remains as vivid to me today as it did forty years ago.
For good measure, that same afternoon was rounded off by witnessing an almighty punch up that ensued in front of the Pineapple Pub (now the Trowse Fire station)with the red, white, green and yellow merging – from memory – into one huge mass of fists, boots and 70s mullets; the walk back over Trowse Bridge far more tranquil these days.
My footballing hero from that era was one who Ed has already graced with a piece of his own. Ted MacDougal was everything young lads at the time wanted to be: a lean, mean goalscoring machine who delivered a City goal almost every other game. How much would that make him worth today?
While I can’t recall him being the hardest worker in the world – more Morison than Holt – he did tend to come alive in the box; his ability to give a keeper ‘the eyes’ from the penalty spot and gently role the ball in the opposite corner of the net something that has stayed with me to this day.
Other than a thumping 5-0 win over opposition unknown (Blackpool possibly?) that I witnessed – for the first time – from the comfort of those red or blue South Stand seats (I have no idea how or why I ended up in a seat and/or why the seats weren’t yellow or green), the other standout event on the pitch from that era was the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace – the one that secured City’s Division One status in 1973. While not as crystal clear as I’d like, I can recall the enormity of the occasion and the noise; the presence of my mum at Carrow Road that night oddly sticking more in the mind than Dave Stringer’s late goal!
In keeping with the tone of the early seventies, and the seedier side of the game that had been laid bare to me in the form of some long-haired and bell-bottomed Gooners , another moment that can be recalled as if it were yesterday is the sending off of Mel Machin for punching a West Brom winger called Willie Johnston. For those who are too young, Johnston was a fiery Scot who blotted his copybook further still later on in his career by being sent home from the 1978 World Cup courtesy of some illicit, performance-enhancing tablets.
The game against the Baggies had been of the robust variety and amongst several personal battles that were raging that afternoon was one between Johnson and his ‘marker’, Machin. Thanks to my bespoke stool I had a prime view of the City full-back finally ‘losing it’ and, with the ball nowhere in sight, turning and cracking Johnston (deservedly I’m sure) flush on the chin; my close proximity to the action affording me the sound of knuckle on jaw. Even minus two wired-up assistants and a fourth official, the referee still spotted the infringement and sent Machin packing, but alas – even with cries of “off… off… off…” ringing around Carrow Road – Johnston was spared the long walk; no red cards back then, but instead a finger in the direction of the dressing rooms.
And that’s it… the extent of my early-1970s Carrow Road experience summed up in just over 1,000 words. Not a detailed account by any means, but one that in writing it has brought back incidents and moments by the dozen which can wait for another day.
I don’t think Ed’s got too much to worry about…
FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR EARLY CARROW ROAD MEMORIES…