In the second part of his interview with Rob Newman, Ed starts with affairs of the stomach…
What did your pre-match meal usually consist of?
I had chicken and beans. And brown toast. But, back then, you put your order in and that’s what you had. If we were late, or there was a rush on, I’d just say, ‘forget the chicken, I’ll just have beans on toast’. But now, well, it’s the norm to prepare much more thoroughly before the game. On a couple of occasions I was at the Manchester City hotel before a game – once the players had their fill, we’d go into the room and have some food ourselves. Well, Ed, you have never seen so much food in all of your life, it was unbelievable. Pasta, fruit, chicken, rice puddings. This is all fuel before the game; never mind what they had to take on after the game. When we played we’d be up in the bar after the game. But this is all before a match, an enormous amount and variety of food. And the waste…
You’ve trained. You’ve eaten your pre-match chicken and beans, you’re playing. You were known as a versatile player, but what was your favourite position?
It was right midfield. I’d played as a defender as well, and could play in attack, but Norwich bought me as an attacking central midfielder. Then of course, as now, if a player can play in more than one position, then he’s a good player for Norwich to have. And I could just about play anywhere – but yes, right midfield was my favourite, the one I enjoyed the most. Although, perhaps, defence was my best position? I enjoyed playing up front as well – I did for one game at Bristol City alongside Mick Harford, brilliant player. At Norwich though, it was mostly midfield. Me, alongside Chippy and Gossy. It was hard on Gossy, I think, when I signed. He’d been there a long time, getting small pay rises and not so many games as he should have. Then someone like me who plays in his position comes in, big transfer fee and what have you. But he didn’t have a problem with me, it would have been with the management.
He (Gossy) nearly left the club on a couple of occasions, didn’t he?
Yes. It was, like I said, hard for him. And for me as well. He was my best mate at the club; we used to go out together, me, him and Mark Walton. We all got on very well. I think, with me in midfield, I couldn’t really run, get up and down the pitch (unlike Gossy who could run all day) but I could pass the ball. Ian Crook and I used to see who could hit the best ball, the longest ball. We loved it Then, when Mike played the back three system, with Ian Culverhouse as a sweeper, I loved that as well – I’d get the ball from Gunny, ping a 60, 70 yard ball to Darren Eadie, I’d be knocking up to him, Chippy might be doing the same to Foxy . I always used to say to them, look, if I hit a ball up to you and it goes over your head and directly out of play, that’s my fault, I’ll hold my hands up and apologise. However, if it goes over your head and then bounces just ahead of you and then goes out – that’s your fault.
You all went out to play and you all knew what was going to happen didn’t you, who was capable of doing what and when?
Yes. For example, Chippy. If you gave it to him, you knew he’d do something with the ball. He’d find someone, some space. I’m sure he and Taff (Mark Bowen) had a mental telepathy thing going on, time and time again you’d see it, Taff would play the ball into Chippy, he’d do a reverse pass, over the opposing right-back’s head and find him again, every time. Teams would expect it, they’d have been told about it, but they still couldn’t cope. You watch footage of those games, you’ll see them do that, time and time again, we were a passing side, all of us were comfortable in possession, and all of us could pass the ball well.
When I joined Norwich I was ‘introduced’ to the training routines for the first time, David Williams – a fantastic coach and player – had them as warm ups, short, sharp passing drills, and Ed, for the first three months or so, I couldn’t do them…
Didn’t you have similar training drills at Bristol?
No, it wasn’t that they didn’t do them there; it was the gulf between the top level, where we were and those below. The difference in class. I’ve since taken similar drills on and use them in training myself, players love them, it makes them think. Training has to be interesting and you need to know not only how to pass the ball and where, but what to do after you’ve passed it, it’s about knowing what to do, awareness and speed of thought.
Is that one of the ‘differences’ between someone like you, whose played at the highest level and someone like me, a village team footballer – in that you can have ability, and I think I had some, but if you don’t have the footballing intelligence, to know what you’re doing, to have that speed of thought within the game..?
It’s an important distinction. Now, if we’re out playing, and I get the ball – even as the ball is coming towards me, I’m thinking either, ‘right, I’m passing this on to Gossy, to Darren Eadie, Neil Adams…’, and when I’ve got the ball, doing that, immediately, one touch, without having to look and then being ready for what comes next, just knowing without looking… with you, it’s here comes the ball, okay, hope I can control this, one, two touches, right, got it, look up, where is everyone, whose in space, whose being marked, what options do I have…
… I’m too slow aren’t I?
Yes. And that’s one of the big differences between the varying levels of the game, speed of thought as well as capability.
You’ve got me thinking here, Rob. The old saying that football is a ‘simple game’ – I don’t think it is.
It is and it isn’t. Great players make it look simple. But no, it isn’t really.
Like I said, good players make the game look easy. Look at Gossy, he was a great player. He’d get the ball, move it on, hit a great ball, to feet and move on, ready for what he had to do next. He was a great runner, an energetic ball winning midfielder. But he could hit a great pass. That, as I said earlier, was the thing about that side, good players, intelligent players, all of whom knew how to play the game. You combine that with the team spirit that we had and you can begin to understand why that team did so well that season.
It’s silly isn’t it, depending on the player and team, a 40-yard pass is either a ‘long punt up the park’ or a ‘superb, defence splitting pass’?
Yes, it’s either one or the other. We played through Chippy because he could produce those passes though, he really could put it on a sixpence.
He was unlucky at Tottenham wasn’t he, having Glenn Hoddle in front of him?
But would he have made it at Tottenham even if Glenn hadn’t been there? He came to Norwich, a team with no superstars, just a bunch of lads that got on well and wanted to play good football.
Who all got on really well – no cliques or similar?
None at all. The best way to illustrate how it was then is to show how it is today and when we get together. It’s only now and again, but, when we do everything clicks into place, just as it did when we were playing. Everyone gets on, the chat and banter; it’s there, straight away. Another thing: you might need someone’s help with something or support. Not a problem, we’ll all help each other out, all support one another. It only takes a phone call. We had the team spirit then and we still have it day, get on as well now, as we did then.
Did you ever play alongside someone you disliked?
No, not really. I wasn’t too happy about Jon Newsome coming here and taking my place but it wasn’t personal. He was, perhaps, a little quicker than me – but I was a better passer of the ball.
He cost a lot of money, so he was always going to play, wasn’t he?
One thing about Jon, when he made a mistake, it wasn’t down to him; it was down to someone else, somewhere along the line. When I made a mistake, it was my mistake.
Did Newsome fail to appreciate the team spirit that you had there?
Well, he came in a little late for that – a lot of the first-team players who I’d been playing alongside were in and out of the side. Others had all gone, whilst others weren’t getting so many games, else were in the reserves or on the bench. You didn’t ask for a run out in the reserves at that time, you were told. So it had changed by the time Jon came along. It was different with the young players coming through as well, they didn’t learn the ropes like we did, there wasn’t so much cleaning of boots anymore and stuff like that. The game was changing as was the club.
Did you clean a player’s boots?
Yes I did. And woe betide you if you didn’t knock on the dressing room door. I looked up to and did chores for Gerry Sweeney for two years, you didn’t mess with him. But, for me, and the others, after that two years was ‘up’, you were in the club and someone would then be looking after you. You appreciated what you had that way. When I was at Southend and Cambridge, the players would be issued their kit at the start of the season – there you go, two shirts; two pairs of shorts, socks, slips-look after them, keep them clean yourself. If you asked even an academy player to do that now, well, club’s now, with academy players, young players, they neither want or have the time to develop them as players, they want the finished product, the player that they can take on and develop from there. If that was how it was done when I had been coming through – well, I wouldn’t now be sitting here talking to you, I wouldn’t have made it.
So if you were just coming into football now, you don’t think you would have had such a good career?
No, nowhere near. The opportunities aren’t the same. Like I said, clubs aren’t investing in the players, development wise, as they did, nor time wise. And they look for different things in players. Someone like me, for example. I could, I can, pass a ball well. But they’d look behind that. ‘Can he run, is he strong?’ I might have been out just because of that. Players coming through now, they’re fit, yes, but can they play the final ball? If you’re looking to impress somewhere, you’ll run in relation to a player with the ball, you’ll go for where you know or hope he should be putting it – but what if he shanks the pass, or skies it, then you’ve ran all that way to get the ball and everyone’s going to be looking at you and saying, ‘what’s he doing there?’ So you end up looking as silly as him, even though you haven’t done anything wrong.
I never got the chance to play international football. Obviously, I was ‘qualified’ to play for England, but that didn’t happen. There were relatives that could have meant me playing for any of the other home countries either. So missed out there and regret not having the opportunity.
Did you ever get the chance of a move from Norwich?
No. And I wouldn’t have been interested. To be fair, I was as settled at Bristol City, I didn’t ask for a move from there. But the club accepted the bid from Norwich, told me about it, an opportunity for me to play at a higher level. So I took it. They’re both similar sorts of clubs, I was very happy at both.
Do you envy players’ lifestyles today?
Not at all. I had a good career, made a good living, had a good lifestyle, got some fantastic memories. No, I did OK, I don’t envy today’s generation.
Rob is now the international scouting and recruitment manager at Manchester City where he has been for since December 2008.
The Sky Blues are clearly very happy with the work, input and advice they are getting from the one time Bristol City teenager who cleaned Gerry Sweeney’s boots!
To celebrate the launch of his books – ‘Norwich City: The Eighties’ and ‘Never Mind The Canaries’ – Ed invites you to join him on Friday 11th September (Jarrold’s Pantry Restaurant, 6:15 for 6:30) for a fun-packed evening of quizzing and Norwich City facts, insights and gossip for the Great Norwich City Quiz!
Teams of celebrities, fans and media personalities, including former Norwich star Peter Mendham and the EDP and Mustard TV’s Michael Bailey, will battle it out for the title of ultimate Norwich City egghead.
Tickets are £5 includes a glass of wine or soft drink. £3 is redeemable against purchases of any of the books at the event and there will be an opportunity to have any book purchased personally signed.
For more information or to purchase your ticket/s please call 01603 660661 or visit customer services on Floor 2 or alternatively click here to buy online.