We are forever discussing the lack of opportunities that many of our promising youngsters get in the first-team at Carrow Road, and at least being given the chance to be considered as worthy an option for a place in the first-team as any of their more illustrious peers at the club.
Cameron McGeehan has gone. Yet I would bet good money that he will eventually play in the Premier League during his career in the game. Ditto either of the two Murphys whose long term Norwich careers will look shaky at best should we hold on to our Premier League status in May. Then there is Declan Rudd, 24 now, and on the club’s books as a professional for eight years with just 10 league appearances to show for it.
With there seeming little chance of a major club wanting to prise John Ruddy out and away from Norwich in the near future, does anyone think that Declan will still be here at the start of the 2016/17 season? No, me neither. He needs to play. They all do.
Which is why we have, at the time of writing, eleven players out on loan to other clubs at the moment, five of whom are graduates of our successful 2012/13 FA Youth Cup winning team.
But, frustrating as this may be – to players and supporters alike – it’s hardly a new problem for either to have to contend with.
Terry Allcock signed for Bolton Wanderers three days after his 17th birthday on December 13th 1952.
He’d shone as a young player, with Bolton one of several in the chase to sign him as an apprentice. Allcock had initially impressed at both Yorkshire and national schoolboys level, playing, and starring, in games between other young hopefuls; one a North England versus Southern England clash, the other whilst playing for England Schoolboys against a team somewhat dismissively known as The Rest.
Make no mistake about it. Allcock was hot property; a must have; a 1950s version of Wayne Rooney; a powerful, athletic all-rounder with as a good an eye for a pass or goal as he had for a tackle. A genuine contender – a man, no, a boy, in demand.
Perhaps it came as no surprise that he eventually opted for Bolton, even though he had been born in Leeds. Bolton were, at the time, one of the giants of English football, even if their trophy haul didn’t match their reputation and status within the game – big, bold, sometimes brash, occasionally beautiful and always threatening to deliver.
A bit like modern day Tottenham.
You can hardly blame a starry-eyed schoolboy for fancying his chances there, much in the same way you can understand why, given the chance of likely obscurity at Chelsea or Manchester City over a very real opportunity of first-team football within a thicker fog of anonymity at Crewe or Mansfield Town. Said modern day peers, the latter day Allcock’s, will more often than not look to steal a glimpse of glory with one of the behemoths rather than run the risk of never feeling it at all at a football club where the onus is on the football.
Allcock may, in truth, have had a chance of making it at Bolton. It wasn’t as if he was a permanent reserve, forever condemned to polish the Burnden Park baths rather than recline in them along with his more famous and favoured team mates. This included players like Doug Holden, a winger of the jinky variety who made his Bolton debut at just 20 and went onto play over 400 times for them, his spell at the club coinciding with five caps for England. And that was at a time when playing for your country was rather more well earnt than it is today and when his competition for a place burning the Wembley touchlines were the likes of Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Johnny Haynes rather than the somewhat more generously capped equivalents of the modern age – an Aaron Lennon here, an Andros Townsend there.
He’d have fancied his chances if he’d have been in competition with two like them rather than some of the greatest players to have ever appeared in an England shirt.
As if that wasn’t enough, Allcock also had to contend with another England man in Ray Parry with, at the top of both the Bolton and pretty much all-time bill as far as centre forwards of the age were concerned, Nat Lofthouse – another rival for a place in the Bolton team. Except, of course, Lofthouse didn’t have any rivals for anything. Just hopeful understudies. Very hopeful ones.
Despite that however, Allcock made a modest mark at the Trotters, good enough to impress when called upon, ending up making 32 appearances for the club during which time he scored 11 goals. Those are stats which would have had Roy Hodgson beating a path to his door had they been replicated in the Premier League over the last few seasons but, truth was, Allcock needed to be exceptional just to stand a chance of being one of those afore mentioned understudies.
Determined to play rather than spectate, Allcock signed for Norwich in March 1958. His arrival at Carrow Road was something of a coup for the Canaries who were, at the time, very much a middling to middling side in the throes of Division Three South obscurity.
Allcock had left behind one near impossible challenge for another it seemed, that of helping his new club attain the top flight status that Bolton took for granted, one that was now craved by the new Norwich board as well as their formidable manager, one Archie Macaulay.
Allcock made his Norwich debut in a 1-1 draw against Millwall at Carrow Road on 15th March 15 1958, taking the place of Billy Coxon who had joined Lincoln City the previous day. Coxon had been a popular figure at the club with 26 goals in his 105 league appearances, a respectable marker for the new boy to live up to.
It took Allcock just five games to get his first Norwich goal, the sole strike in a 1-0 win at Swindon Town on 5th April. A little over a week later he contributed two more in a 5-2 win over Newport County at Carrow Road, form and goalscoring prowess that was enough to see him start the 1958/59 campaign as first choice number 9; a shirt number that had previously been the preserve of the likes of Ralph Hunt and Johnny Gavin, big names with big local reputations. Both had, however, moved on during that pre-season.
That number 9 shirt was now in Allcock’s possession. As a result of his elevation to first-team starter, he now found himself in the position Lofthouse had been in at Bolton (i.e. an established first teamer with a snappy understudy looking to supplant both his shirt and his place). In this instance, it was Peter Cleland who’d arrived from Cheltenham Town with the same desires relating to removing the current number 9 as Allcock would have had when he joined Bolton.
That hope wasn’t quite mission impossible for Cleland. Not immediately anyway. But it was once Terry Bly came into the picture. Bly and Allcock plundered 49 goals between them for Norwich during the 1958/59 season, enough for a disheartened Cleland to depart. He duly re-joined the gentler environment at Cheltenham, back to being a biggish fish in a smallish pool rather than remaining as one to be brushed aside by the mighty wake of Allcock and Bly.
Much has been said and written of Norwich’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals that season, an epic tale of goals and glory that started by their going 1-0 down to non-league Ilford Town at Carrow Road in the First Round but ended with the Canaries but a heartbeat from Wembley.
The Twin Towers had been the stage for Bolton, Allcock’s former club to claim an unpopular victory over a Manchester United side still in recovery following the Munich tragedy. But a win was a win and an FA Cup winners medal was, well, an FA Cup winners medal. How apt, how wonderful a story it might have been, not that Norwich’s progress wasn’t romantic enough, if Allcock had managed to follow in his first club’s footsteps a year on, the apprentice to Lofthouse who was now known as ‘the Count’ at Carrow Road. His one goal in that year’s competition had been enough earn Norwich their unlikely draw at White Hart Lane in the fifth round as Bly took the goals (seven) and much of the acclaim during the team’s eleven game long progress to a semi-final replay defeat against Luton Town.
Looking back at that run, Allcock rejoiced in one particular memory, that of how he and his Norwich teammates had finally got to grips with a snow covered and icy Carrow Road pitch during the Canaries 3-0 win over Manchester United in the 3rd round. Norwich were a goal up at half time but, like their illustrious opponents, were finding it hard to keep their feet on a surface that would have seen the game postponed without question today. MacAulay duly provided the answer, instructing, at half-time, his team to shave no more than 1/16th of an inch off the bottom of their leather studs, ensuring, in the process, that the tip of the nail that ran through the centre of the stud was exposed, thus helping the players improve their grip on both pitch and match. It certainly did the trick, with the Canaries scoring two more goals in the second half to ensure one of the most famous victories in the clubs history.
Norwich’s FA Cup exploits possibly cost them promotion to the Second Division that season but they made up for it by the end of the following campaign, going up as runners up to Southampton, Allcock contributing sixteen goals from his 44 league appearances. He added a further 16 from 26 league starts the following season as Norwich had an unlikely but enjoyable tilt at promotion to the First Divison. The Canaries ended that campaign in 4th place but they had made a marker as well as their name on the game in no uncertain terms and were swiftly turning from pretenders to contenders with Terry Allcock one of the leading lights during those memorable seasons.
His last season at the club as a player was the 1968/69 campaign, one that saw the Canaries finish it in 13th place in Division Two. Allcock, now 33 and primarily a coach at the club, re-appeared in his number 9 shirt for the club’s last six matches of the season, scoring in one of them, a 1-0 victory over Huddersfield Town; something he, being a Leeds lad, would probably have enjoyed.
He remained at the club in a coaching capacity until 1973 when he had a brief spell in a similar role at Manchester City alongside his former boss at Norwich, Ron Saunders, a man and manager who, like so many before him, valued Allcock’s footballing nous and wisdom very highly.
Allcock has since worked as a very popular match day host at Carrow Road and was voted into the club’s Hall of Fame as an inaugural member in 2002. A Canary who reminds us that the description of “legend” when applied to any footballer, let alone a Norwich City one, isn’t, and should never be reserved to those of the modern age.
A great player and, as so many will attest, an absolute gentleman as well.
Made in Leeds, schooled at Bolton but very definitely one of our own as a man of Norwich and Norfolk.
There’s only one Terry Allcock.