Norwich were enjoying a rare share of the footballing limelight at the start to the 1972/73 season. Following the 1-1 draw against Everton in their opening game, the Canaries made the short trip down the A140 to play close rivals Ipswich Town and registered their first Division One (and away league) victory in the process by two goals to one; Terry Anderson and Jimmy Bone scoring.
A further seven league victories followed in the time leading up to a League Cup clash at Arsenal, with victory over West Brom just three days before raising the Canaries to the giddy heights of sixth place in the First Division table. It was a mere five points behind leaders Liverpool, who they had drawn with just three weeks earlier. Heady times for all at Carrow Road.
Despite Norwich’s good start they were not expected to trouble Arsenal, not least because the prize for the winners was a place in the competition’s semi-finals. This was a time when the League Cup was taken seriously by all the top clubs who would field the strongest sides available; the concept of resting players or “squad rotation” one that was still a good few years down the line.
And Arsenal were on a roll, trophy wise. At that time they were the leading side in the country, having won the Fairs (now the Europa League) in 1970 and the League and FA Cup ‘double’ the following season. They followed that up by finishing as runners up to Leeds United in the FA Cup final a year later.
The League Cup was, therefore, unfinished business at Highbury – with two consecutive defeats in the final in 1968 and 1969 adding to the Gunners incentive to secure a clean sweep of the three major domestic trophies in English football within two years.
The two clubs had already met in the League, Norwich’s 3-2 win at Carrow Road on 23 September handing Arsenal only their second league defeat that season; a game that was a personal triumph for two goal Canary hero Terry Anderson.
Anderson had joined Arsenal as an apprentice, winning England Youth honours whilst he was still at the club, as well as featuring in the very first episode of Match of the Day. He had looked quite the prospect whilst he was at Highbury, scoring seven goals in 27 appearances. But, as is often the case with a talented young player, Anderson found his path to regular football blocked by another, equally talented young player – or, in this case, another three, namely George Armstrong, Johnny MacLeod and Alan Skirton Like Anderson, all three were right sided wingers.
So, choosing to let the other three fight for the right to first team football at the club between them, Anderson moved on, joining Norwich in February 1965 for £15,000; swiftly becoming a important and versatile member of the side under Ashman, Morgan and Saunders who preferred Anderson on Norwich’s right to fan favourite (and promotion winning season top scorer) Kenny Foggo.
That decision was vindicated by the two goals against Arsenal; a win that kept Norwich in the top half of the table and maintained a momentum that continued right up until that West Bromwich game, where Anderson’s pace and trickery on the right gave West Brom left back Ray Wilson all sorts of problems. It was clear that as both Norwich’s reputation and momentum in Division One grew, so too did Anderson’s. He was a player who was being talked about, with bigger and better things ultimately expected of him.
Anderson’s steady rise to prominence in the Norwich side that season, aided and abetted by that two-goal starring role in the league victory over his old club, was shared by two of his team mates: Jimmy Bone and, in particular, goalkeeper Kevin Keelan.
Keelan, to be fair, was probably always going to be a star. His background was the sort of thing that sends journalists into raptures. He was born in Calcutta to an Anglo-Irish Father and Indian-Portuguese Mother; the eldest of six children whose father was an officer in the then still occupying British Army.
Having unsuccessfully plied his trade at Aston Villa, Stockport County and Wrexham, he signed for then Norwich manager Ron Ashman from Wrexham for just £6,500 (Ashman later called it the “bargain of the century”) in July 1963. Fame had been a long time coming for Keelan who commenced the 1972/73 season with Norwich only a few months short of his testimonial!
He was a late but deserved arrival on the big stage. He did not, unlike Anderson, have the background of either a big club or a conventional upbringing but, with his good looks and physique to match – as well as a very snappy sense of dress – he was certainly one of the first ‘celebrity’ footballers; a popular figure who was at ease in any social situation and who inevitably had his fair share of female admirers.
Yet Keelan was a complicated character and a man not afraid to express his opinion, especially on the pitch. In 1965 he became the first Norwich goalkeeper to be sent off when he threw a punch at Northampton’s Tommy Robson – for no other reason than the opposing striker was annoying him!
This darker side of Keelan’s character is recalled by Norwich fan and blogger Andrew Harrison who describes him as a “…fiery figure, almost tormented in his struggle for perfection. In many a match he gave the impression he was in a fiercely bad mood – like all the best keepers, he was not afraid of firing off a round of verbal advice to his defenders…but often, he only had to look at them, seething glances would be enough to tell a full back he had been wrong to concede a corner. He guarded his goalmouth with such aggression and determination, no fool was ever allowed to mess it up. He cut a princely, almost romantic figure with both supporters and the national press, but with a burgeoning reputation as one of the very finest keepers in the land…”
In Keelan, Norwich City finally had their own budding superstar; one who, as Andrew has noted, would soon be regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the country. And, together with the flamboyant Anderson and fiery Bone, Norwich had three players who were known to more than the football fans of Norfolk; three players who had made an exceptional contribution to their promotion and the fine start the club had enjoyed.
And now, with Christmas barely a month away, the Canaries sat in a respectable sixth place in Division One, with a glamour Cup quarter final at Highbury beckoning. Could it get any better at Carrow Road?
Here was, surely, the moment for Keelan, Anderson and Bone to shine, to finally, irrevocably; to make their mark on the season and English football as a whole. The scene was set for them, the lush green Highbury turf and nearly 38,000 people in attendance. Which Canary was going to shine the brightest of the trio?
None of them as it turned out. The game was clearly an opportunity for someone to make a name for himself – but it wasn’t the charismatic goalkeeper, Arsenal old boy or aggressive Scot, although they all played on the night. Instead it was a 22 year old midfielder, signed for £25,000 from Coventry City three years earlier.
His name? Graham Charles Paddon.
Paddon was lucky to be at Norwich in the first place. Saunders had identified him as someone who could bring a touch of class to a midfield that could, at the time, have best been described as ‘honest’. But, despite Norwich’s interest, he had no intention of leaving Coventry, where he had made five appearances, scoring one goal. And that could have been that.
Saunders only wanted players who wanted to play for him, while Paddon was questioning whether leaving Coventry, at that time a progressive Division One outfit enjoying life under an equally progressive young manager in Noel Cantwell, would be the best thing for him. Leave all of that for a team that was stumbling its way around the darker regions of Division Two? No, that didn’t really appeal to Paddon who thought his career would be better served by staying where he was.
But Saunders was patient, selling his vision and ambition for the Canaries until Paddon’s resistance began to give. And, when Coventry displayed their faith in the man they had signed from school by accepting Norwich’s opening offer, the deal was done and Saunders had his man.
He made his debut in Norwich’s 3-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers on 4 October 1969, taking the place of Charlie Crickmore – and played in every league game until the rest of the season, scoring two goals. The following campaign saw Paddon in from day one, missing just the one league game as Saunders steadily put a side together in his image; Paddon’s mixture of flair and energy in midfield the perfect accompaniment to the more solid efforts of his midfield partner that season, Trevor Howard.
Inevitably, in the promotion season that followed, Paddon began to get noticed. Saunders was beginning to play Doug Livermore in the midfield alongside Paddon and the disciplined role that Livermore played gave Paddon a little bit of freedom to express the attacking flair that Saunders had seen in him at Coventry. His return of ten league and cup goals, including two in a 5-1 thrashing of Blackpool, perfectly illustrated his growing value to the team as a central midfielder who combined hard running and a great work ethic with the ability to do the unexpected and chip in with a few goals.
When Norwich commenced their first season in Division One in 1972 against Everton, Paddon was one of only four players in the Canaries side who had played at that level previously. Yet he took, like all of his team mates, to the higher standard of play as if he had always been destined to do so, scoring against Derby County (the reigning champions), Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Leicester City in Norwich’s opening games.
He had, irrevocably, become an integral part of Saunders’ side, but was happy to, as the old cliché goes, “let his football do the talking” and let the likes of Keelan, Anderson and Bone take the plaudits.
But the progress he was making as a footballer, a top level one at that, was steady and relentless. He was 22 and years from his peak, and, if Anderson had, perhaps, reached his football plateau with the two goals in the league game against Arsenal, Paddon had a way to go yet. And, with his long blond hair and beard, he was easy to pick out and a pleasure for his team mates to play alongside.
He was also, maybe, a rival in the popularity ranks for Keelan; long used to being the main footballing man about town, himself. The League Cup quarter-final at Highbury would be the making of him; a match and performance that eventually led to bigger things. It was to earn him a move to West Ham and an FA Cup winner’s medal, as well as a spell playing alongside Rodney Marsh for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the US.
One match. One man. Talk about the game now to any Canary supporter of the time and they will immediately say one word. “Paddon”. He gave a midfield master class at Highbury that evening, dominating midfield and match, rendering the efforts and influence of his illustrious opponents to the roles of supporting cast; his hat-trick, scored in just over half an hour of play still one of the most famous and talked about of any Norwich player.
Paddon cut quite the dash at Norwich alongside Keelan. But, whilst Keelan was happy to play out his career at Carrow Road, Paddon was never going to do the same after this game and was always going to ply his trade at a bigger club. One surprise is that it took so long for one to lure him away from Norwich. Another is that it was ‘only’ West Ham, and not one of the bigger clubs – yes, an Arsenal, or a Leeds or Liverpool.
The biggest surprise of all, however is that, at a time when players like Emlyn Hughes, Colin Viljoen and Tony Towers were all being chosen to play for England, a player with the flair and artistry of Graham Paddon never got a look in at international level.
He should, without doubt, have been the first Norwich City player to have played for England. The fact that he still wasn’t considered, even when he was winning the FA Cup and reaching a major European final with West Ham is a footballing travesty.