Since Ed Couzens-Lake joined the MyFootballWriter team in November 2012, Wednesday’s have gradually morphed into ‘nostalgia day’ – a day when our readers, regardless of City’s current day trials and tribulations, can wallow unashamedly in some Norwich City memories of yesteryear.
Ed’s pieces on the here and now are equally as insightful and thought provoking, but it’s his ability to transport us back to days when Carrow Road had a rather different feel that sets him apart from all other Norwich City writers.
Whether you were there – and have your own recollections – or were not even a twinkle in your father’s eye, Ed’s heartfelt tales have, for many, made his Wednesday column a must-read. Google Analytics tells me as much each week….
And which is why his fourth book, Norwich City The Seventies – which he officially launched in Jarrold, Norwich on Tuesday evening – is another one that City supporters, and football supporters in general, will find a fascinating read.
Amidst his hectic week I managed to catch up with Ed to find out a little more about the book and the man himself.
Tell us a bit about your own Norwich City ‘history’. Where did it all begin?
I’m immensely proud to be from Norfolk – like Nelson. I rejoice in it and will share my love of the county with anyone who will (or won’t!) listen. Supporting Norwich just came naturally, like a ‘quickening’. I feel that supporting a team because you feel you belong for that reason must be so much more satisfying than doing so because ‘they’re there’. Where is the connection with someone has been born in Norfolk with Liverpool or London? Where is the heart and soul in that?
Norwich City are part of me – if they bleed, so do I. Many friends think I’m barking mad to have, or feel, such an affinity with my home county and City, but that’s how it is and, mad or not, I don’t have a problem with it – indeed, I’d feel empty without that connection.
I remember the 71/72 promotion season well, although I was still at primary school. Even in Brancaster there was some excitement at what the team were achieving and I sat through the results on a Saturday evening eager to hear how we’d got on.
Likewise the first season in the top flight and, in particular, the 3-0 win at Arsenal in the League Cup Quarter Finals, courtesy of a Graham Paddon hat-trick. That is my first great Norwich memory; the result, Paddon – who remains one of my NCFC heroes and should have been the first Canary to play for England – and the disbelief of the BBC Radio 2 Sport on Two team at the result. We weren’t reckoned to be up to much then as we aren’t now. The more things change…
It took ages before I got to my first ‘proper’ game – getting to Norwich from Brancaster was a nigh on impossibility on a Saturday at the beginning – but I finally broke my duck for the Division 2 game in Jan 1982 against Rotherham when we won 2-0 (Bertschin and Deehan). My first away game was a Club Canary trip to Coventry, Duncan Forbes was on our coach and entertained us all the way there and back again. We lost!
Where did your love of writing come from?
Well… football and the Canaries helped keep me alive in a way! I write full time now. It all came about in 2006/07 when I was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing radiotherapy for a tumour on my neck. I was told that if I quit the treatment, or if it didn’t work, such was its size and speed of growth I had, potentially, “weeks” left.
Thousands of people will have had moments like that; readers of this site almost certainly. One of those “…if I get out of this, I’m going to change my life…” moments. I decided if I did – no, when I did – I was going to do what I wanted in life, which was to write; my one real and constant love since I can remember.
So I did. My writing is far from flawless – it often rambles and comes far more from the heart than the head – but I love it and I love football so when the opportunity came along to start writing about the Canaries everything clicked.
I do a lot more professionally other than write about Norwich/football, but I love doing so and hope to be able to do so for a long time to come, whatever else I may be doing.
You obviously interviewed some interesting City folk during the writing of this and your other books. A dream come true?
I’ve been really lucky to meet, else talk to so many people connected with the Canaries over the last few years for this one and the previous three books. Bryan Gunn, Darren Eadie, Ian Butterworth, John Polston and others were all, without exception, absolute gents with their time and raconteurs with their stories.
Paul Kent was a great subject for this book – his career with Norwich was, he’ll admit, modest – but he came in as an apprentice under Ron Saunders and the stories he had of that time and for working alongside ex-groundsman Russell Allison were fantastic, hugely entertaining – and revealing. Can you imagine the Murphy twins or Harry Toffolo being asked to clean the changing room WCs or the bath after a game?
I managed to get in touch with Kevin Bond through fellow MyFootballWriter scribe Mick Dennis. Mick said he was a lovely, genuine chap and so he is. I specifically wanted to talk to Kevin about his Dad, the late and very great John Bond. We met in Southampton and spent an entire morning talking all things football including his Dad; hugely enjoyable.
There were many stories from him and Paul didn’t make the final proof – mostly because I wouldn’t dare use them or they told them to me in confidence.
Other than the interviews what were your main sources of information?
Rick Waghorn’s book 12 Canary Greats is my personal favourite amongst Norwich City related books – the interviews with the players are all retold in great depth and are very revealing and often very personal. I’d like to do a sequel; pick another 12 players and repeat the format, 12 More Canary Greats to include Kevin Keelan, Ted MacDougall and Holty, amongst others. (So, if any publishers are reading this….!)
Most of my research comes from Norwich and football related books old and new, old programmes, Rothmans Football Yearbooks (they haven’t been as good since Sky Sports took over), ancient issues of Shoot! and other magazines and newspaper archives.
I prefer original printed material to digital stuff – Wikipedia and the like. I’ll give a good home to anyone who wants rid of any Norwich City material. One long term fan has just donated to me over 800 photos he has from his time supporting the club; an astonishing collection.
Who were your personal City favourites from that era?
I could wax lyrical about Graham Paddon all day… what a player. He was a combination of Ian Crook and Jeremy Goss – the vision and skill of Crook as well as the energy and passion of Gossy.
Ted MacDougall is another. He was a proper old fashioned number 9 – he scored goals and that was about it. He’d never track back or run the channels like Holty did. And he expected the ball on a plate. But, when he got it, he delivered, time and time again.
John Ryan is another favourite – the Gareth Bale of his day, a wing back who scored lot of goals – he’d be priceless today.
Any specific games/players that stick in your mind above all others?
The 3-2 win over QPR towards the tail end of the 1975/76 season is one favourite – if they had won on the day, they would have ended up as Division One Champions. They haven’t liked us since. Peter Morris scored a howitzer of a goal on that day, the look of shock on his face as he celebrates is pure gold.
Trevor Hockey is a player who sticks in the mind – a warrior footballer, brought in as a short term fix, did the job without fuss and moved on. A players’ player.
On a professional level, what’s next for Ed?
Working very hard on a Jerry Gossy book right now. It isn’t going to be the traditional footballing autobiography. None of the usual “…then we played so and so and won 1-0, I scored, then we drew at bla bla bla, the gaffer was mad afterwards, I then got a pay rise and bought a new car before going out on the lash with the lads before the game at etc etc etc…”. Far from it. Gossy’s story is one astonishing, astounding highlight in a career that had many more downs than ups – as the book will show. That comes out next year and there’s huge interest already from many sources and individuals – it’s quite a story.
I’ve been asked to think about doing Norwich City: The Eighties, as well as a Norwich City Miscellany Vol.II – but they can wait for a while! There are a couple more books in the pipeline and a novel. I am working on something aimed at children with a fellow writer and friend at the moment.
Also I’d really like to do more ghost-writing in the next few years. That’s the longer term ambition.
John Bond or Ron Saunders?
Bond for me. Ron Saunders worked wonders for Norwich but he had his time and when he left he had, I think, outgrown the club – there was nowhere for the two to go together and we were struggling, as was he. After he left he won a League Championship and helped built a squad that won the European Cup, albeit under a different manager. He was a good manager but, like Paul Lambert, he’d gone as far as he could with us. We had progressed as well.
John Bond set up the club’s schoolboy and youth system. As far as the latter were concerned, the authorities wouldn’t permit Norwich to join the South Eastern Counties League as they said that Norwich was “too far away”, geographically, from all the member clubs. John Bond said, “fine, we’ll play all our games away from home then” – which got them in and, what’s more, they went on to win it eventually!
Ted MacDougall or Jimmy Bone?
Ted. He was his own man, he didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone really, he just wanted to score goals. And because he did, you couldn’t help but admire him. He’d be the number 9 in my all-time Norwich XI – whoever played alongside him would have to do a lot of running!
Jimmy was a terrier, he just made a nuisance of himself all over the pitch. Great player and immortal as the scorer of our first ever goal in top flight football.
Duncan Forbes or Tony Powell?
Tony Powell, he was a very good player – versatile in defence or midfield when needed. But Duncan was Duncan – was, is, always will be. A leader of men, an inspiration, someone who, as the saying goes, you’d follow anywhere.
I wrote a piece for MyFootballWriter a while back about statues outside football grounds – I wasn’t, and aren’t, that keen on them – but if we ever did have one, Duncan would, for me, be up there as a candidate to be immortalised in bronze. The statue probably wouldn’t be as hard as he was though! A complete gent and far removed from his onfield persona.
Seventies or the Lambert years?
Its unfair to compare the two really – the Seventies was an era that saw so much change at the club and in the game as a whole – more TV and media coverage, more personalities in the game, more money, bigger and bigger transfer fees. The record British fee on 1 January 1970 was £165,000, the record on 31 January 1979 was £1,469,000 – and by then clubs were already struggling to keep up as a result of that.
People argue that the Premier League made football the commercial monster it is today. I disagree. It merely sped up what had started over two decades earlier.
Norwich caught the mood and the growth in the game at exactly the right time for us and we have, with a few blips along the way, been progressing ever since.
You also have to look at the influence and passion of men like Sir Arthur South and Sir Geoffrey Watling because they saw where the game was going, even before then and knew that it was important for Norwich to be part of it. It’s a huge decade footballing wise and was especially so for us.
It’ll be a great project for someone to look back and write about the Paul Lambert era in 40 years or so though – wonder how we’ll look back at it then and this decade in particular? Norwich City-The 2010s? You never know!
Thanks to Ed for his time and filling us in on where own Norwich City journey began. If you have any particular Canary memories of your own – players, games, managers – that deserve the ‘Ed’ treatment please get in touch and, while I can’t promise a book on the subject, I’m sure Mr C-L will do his best to entwine it in one of his Wednesday articles.
ED’S NEW BOOK ‘NORWICH CITY: THE SEVENTIES’ IS PUBLISHED BY AMBERLEY AND IS NOW AVAILABLE FROM ALL GOOD BOOKSELLERS.