The term ‘Norwich City legend’ is bandied around far too freely. It’s a cliché but it’s true. But, for an elite few there is no more apt description.
There are many ways said title can be earned, but for one gent (in every sense of the word) it was many years in the making. And culminated in one golden, halcyon spell that only kicked in over a decade after it all began.
On the eve of the launch of his book, Gossy – The Autobiography, Jeremy Goss kindly took time out of his busy schedule to chat with MyFootballWriter about the book and his football career in general.
With his biographer being none other than our own Ed Couzens-Lake the stripes for the gig were handed to yours truly. And it was a pleasure, as indeed I’m sure it has been for Ed to work alongside Jerry in writing the book.
We began by discussing why now was the right time to commit his career to print.
“Well, to start with it’s been 20 years since Munich – I gave up football in 2000 – and a while back, when we were working together on an article for Backpass magazine, Ed suggested it. At the time I didn’t pursue it, but we’ve spoken since and with him being such a wonderful writer and biographer he gave me many reasons to write a book.
“I wanted it to be something with substance that showed me, the person, rather than just focus on the football. A book that told the story of this shy, reserved lad who suffered rejection along the way but through his love of the game, and the training, was able to push the disappointments to one side and concentrate on achieving his dream.
“This isn’t a book about victory, FA Cup Final wins or trophies on the mantelpiece because I have none of those. It’s a book about determination, commitment and, as I said, a genuine love of the game. And it was about me wanting to show the Norwich City fans, who have always shown faith in me, that I was a good player who could contribute to their team.
“The book was a good opportunity to get many things out in the open and let people know the hard work it takes to overcome rejection”.
The conversation organically turned to the UEFA Cup run and that goal in Munich but, in his usual self-deprecating way, Jerry was quick to play down his own particular role in that glorious spell of the club’s history.
“Munich, and the entire UEFA cup run, wasn’t about me or Mark Bowen or Bryan Gunn – who made that brilliant save in the dying seconds – but was about the whole team. It was a squad of brilliant players, quality friends and a team spirit that was quite simply the very best.
“Yet the two-legged win over Bayern won us nothing except a game in the next round against Inter Milan. No trophy, but that achievement was equivalent to an FA Cup Final win. “To be the only team to beat them (Bayern) in the Olympic Stadium was a fantastic achievement.
“And at the time we thought it was only the beginning. We believed we would go on to be continually successful, but upon the departure of Mike Walker it all ended very, very quickly. Before we knew it (Chris) Sutton had been sold (to Blackburn Rovers) and Ruel Fox had also gone (to Newcastle) and the side was dismantled.
“It was a great shame but we left a legacy and I’m proud that I was part of a team that put Norfolk and Norwich on the footballing map.”
So, that was the high point, what about the lows?
“I was at Norwich City from 1981 through to 1996 and played over 240 league games, but people often ask me why I didn’t play more. And it was simple. Look at the midfield players I was up against. Mick McGuire, Martin O’Neill and Mike Phelan for starters. Then Ian Crook and Andy Townsend came along and I just couldn’t force my way into the side. I had to be patient and it took a long, long time.
“Eventually, after having played under him for many years in the reserves, Mike Walker decided to build a team around me; he had ultimate faith in me and I’d like to think I repaid it.
“But along the way I had three chances to leave. Firstly, Mel Machin – when he was manager at Manchester City – wanted to sign me and, at the time, I wanted to go. But ultimately that move never came off. Then, Mel Machin again – this time when he was manager at Barnsley. On that occasion Dave Stringer – who has been something of a mentor for me throughout my career – convinced me my future was at Norwich City.
“The third opportunity came when I was playing on loan in Sweden. The team I was playing for wanted to sign me but I decided to stay at Norwich.
“So, three chances to leave but there was one big occasion when I seriously considered giving up the game. It was due to the continual disappointment of being stuck in the reserves – which at the time was a waste of people’s time, the graveyard of football – but after having conversations with senior people at the club I decided to stick with it.
“I think I still hold the club record for the most games in the reserves, and was sub for the first-team on 18 consecutive occasions, but in the end I just couldn’t leave because I loved football too much.
“It was never about big houses and flashy cars for me. I genuinely loved the game and loved the training. Simple as that. My biggest regret was just that it all happened so late for me”.
Interestingly, of the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1982/83, Jerry went on to carve out the best career in the pro game even though he considered it all happened at the back end of his career.
“Yes, perhaps, although many of the lads made their first-team debuts before me – I was 19 before I made mine. But there are so many things than can affect whether a player makes the grade or not and it’s not all down to your ability if you succeed or fail. Lots of factors count and sometimes it just takes being in the right place, right time.
Finally we talked managers, and who he rated most highly.
“I’d class Ken Brown, Dave Stringer and Mike Walker in the same bracket. Ken because he was the first one to give me a chance, Dave because he believed in me and for the mentoring he has given me throughout my career, and Mike because of the ultimate and absolute faith he had in me. If you asked me to choose I’d have to say Mike Walker for those reasons, but they were all brilliant”.
Alas, we ran out of time – which was lucky for Jerry but not for me.
A good footballer, a City legend but, above all, a gentleman. Jeremy Goss is all of those things. And I wish him well for the book and the future.
Tomorrow morning, Jerry and Ed will be in Norwich’s Jarrold’s bookstore at 11am for the official launch and book signing.
‘Jeremy Goss – The Autobiography’ is published by Amberly Publishing and can be purchased from Jarrold’s online store for £15.99