In the second volume of the Tales From The City trilogy, Kevin Bond gave a brutally frank assessment of how being the son of manager John Bond helped his career — but, despite the self-deprecating honesty, it reminded readers that Kevin became more than just his daddy’s boy.
His Tale, written in 2016, has a cast of characters that includes some of the Canaries’ all-time greats and provides unique insight into the era in which the modern Norwich City was forged. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of publishers Tales From and editor Mick Dennis.
I would not have had a career in football if it had not been for my dad, John Bond. He was the manager at Bournemouth who gave me an apprenticeship, and when he moved to Norwich he took me with him. Nobody else would have taken me on at that stage.
I only got given a chance because of who my dad was. He presented me with the opportunity to learn to be a footballer, and my whole career — the playing and the coaching — came from that. I have always known that and never pretended otherwise.
People sometimes say to me that it must have been amazing growing up with my father being a player at West Ham and having the other players popping around all the time, but it wasn’t really like that at all.
I went to Wembley for the 1964 FA Cup Final to watch dad play for West Ham against Preston. I wasn’t quite seven, but I can just about remember it now.
But, to be honest, at that stage, there really didn’t seem anything special about having a footballer for a dad. Players in those days were very much closer to the man in the street and weren’t feted like they are today. I never looked at him as doing anything special.
We lived in a terraced house in Fawn Road, no more than 400 yards from West Ham’s ground, and we never thought of ourselves as any different to anyone else in the street and never got treated any differently. That’s what it was like in those days. Life was much more normal, low-profile for players.
But I do remember that, after my dad won the Cup Final, everyone had all the regalia out to greet him when he got home. That was the first time that I appreciated what he was and what the team had achieved. Even so, it wasn’t until my father took charge at Bournemouth that things changed and he had a higher profile.
When he left West Ham, he had a couple of seasons at Torquay. We still lived in London, and he still trained with West Ham, but he would drive to Torquay on a Friday night for the next day’s game. With no motorways, that was a six-hour journey. Imagine a footballer doing that now.
Once he left it until the Saturday morning to drive down. But the manager, Frank O’Farrell, found out and didn’t pick him as a punishment. He never did that again.
Once he finished playing, dad did a bit of coaching at Gillingham for next to no money. He had to go through the old Dartford Tunnel and pay, and the amount he paid every day made a real dent in what they were giving him. Then, in May 1970, he became manager of Bournemouth and we moved down there. I was 12.
I’d played football for as long as I could remember. I would come home from school and, even as a six-year-old, go straight outside and play football wherever there was a piece of grass. It really was ‘jumpers for goalposts’. We would stay there until it got dark and then go home. My parents didn’t have to worry where I was, because it was completely safe. All the kids were out there playing football and there was a community spirit.
My son has never had one evening like that in his whole life because, with the traffic and with all the fears of what someone might come along and do, we just couldn’t let him go off somewhere with a ball. So, unless there is an organised game or training session, kids don’t play now.
What also used to happen was that, because the wages for footballers weren’t anything special, players coached in schools a couple of afternoons a week for a few quid. Most of the West Ham players did that and my father used to come and put on football sessions during PE lessons at the school I went to in Canning Town.
But mostly, I learned playing every night with my mates. I had years and years of playing football in the streets and, unbeknown to us, we improved and learned without even realising. The games were competitive too, and you started to have a streak of that in you as well.
By the time we moved to Bournemouth, I was playing for my school but I was absolutely not any great shakes at the game. I was very small then. I was about eight-and-a-half stones and five feet five tall. And I don’t think anyone would describe me as a natural athlete. So I know I got given one hell of an opportunity because my dad was manager of Bournemouth. I would never have been given that chance anywhere else or by anyone else.
My big break was that he took me on as an apprentice. Ultimately, when a club takes someone on as an apprentice, they are nearly always taking a punt. There are very few dead-certs. But nobody other than my dad would have even taken a punt on me. Physically I wasn’t someone that anyone else would take a chance on. That’s the truth.
My dad told me later that he saw something in me and he used to say that with young players, if there is just a glimmer there, it is something to build on. He thought I had an understanding of football — I could read the game — and he also believed I could pass. That was the long and the short of it.
When my father moved to Norwich, in 1973, I was in my first year of a three-year apprenticeship at Bournemouth. They said they were happy to release me and they paid up the rest of my contract. So I got a cheque from Bournemouth for about £240 and it was like a Pools win to me.
Dad said, ‘Right, I’ll take you on at Norwich’. So I served the last two years of my apprenticeship at Norwich.
Of course there must have been people at Norwich City who thought that wasn’t right, and I am sure there were some saying, ‘This boy is never going to make it.’ But I was very naïve and I was oblivious to all that, if it was going on. If I had been aware of it at that stage, I think it would have really hurt me and it might have been too much for me. But because, in my ignorance, it was all going straight over my head, I just carried on and, on the surface, everyone was as good as gold to me.
My dad had given me this big chance, but neither he nor anyone else at the club gave me any special treatment as an apprentice. I wasn’t exactly setting the world alight, though.
George Lee looked after the apprentices. He was a wiry little bloke who had served in the Second World War and then played for West Brom in the 1954 FA Cup Final. He’d been at Norwich about ten years before my father took over and dad kept him on.
George coached the Norwich City A team, who played in the Eastern Counties League. I was still very small, and that was a men’s league. We were professionals and the teams playing us were semi-pro at best and they took delight in getting one over on us. They usually did too. We would get beaten nearly every week. And every Monday morning for about a year my dad would ask how we’d got on, and George would tell him. Then dad would ask, ‘How did Kevin do?’ Week after week, game after game, George would reply, ‘He never got a kick’. He was completely honest.
My dad wasn’t bothered about the results. He wanted all the youth team players to be giving all they had to give and to be improving — and that was what he wanted for and from me.
We didn’t have any of the facilities that clubs have now. The training ground was at Trowse, and there was only one pitch, which used to get badly cut up. George used to take us away to some part of the ground and have us jumping over sticks and things like that. In fact, we were doing exactly the exercises that players do now, but in a much more primitive form. George had to improvise instead of having state-of-the-art equipment.
I loved it. And the best thing about that period for me was that one day on the bus in Cringleford I met a young lady. It turned out she lived about 100 yards from our family. Tina became my wife, and we have two children, Jack and Lily. I have Norwich to thank for my gorgeous family.
But there came a time, towards the Christmas of my last year as an apprentice, when my father sat me down at home one evening and said, ‘Kevin, unless you improve, I am going to have to let you go in the summer’.
Knowing my dad, that wouldn’t have been an easy thing to say to his son, but we’d reached the point where, for him as manager of Norwich City, I had to start showing something more or he just couldn’t take me on.
In all seriousness, however much he loved me, he could not put his reputation and perhaps his job at risk by having me there as a full professional if I wasn’t up to it. And, actually, he wouldn’t be doing me any favours, let alone himself, if he had continued to support me when I had no chance. He had gone so far, and given me the opportunity, but if I couldn’t make the most of it then he would have to say, ‘Kevin, we are going to have to end this.’
That little Christmas talk was a massive kick up the backside for me. A lot of young footballers think it is a natural progression. You get an apprenticeship and then, at the end of it, you’re going to get a one or two-year professional contract. But obviously lots don’t. They fall by the wayside and I realised I was in danger of having that happen to me.
So I did definitely buck my ideas up and I had a growth spurt too. So, in the summer, I did get a contract.
At that stage at the club, we had the likes of Justin Fashanu breaking through, we had Greg Downs coming through, and my dad had signed two young strikers: Kevin Reeves from Bournemouth and Roger Gibbins from Oxford. It was a really good crop of young players.
Justin, of course, was phenomenal at Norwich and became a million-pound player. Greg started out as a striker but converted to left-back and, after Norwich, he won the FA Cup with Coventry. I was really pally with Roger, who had been an England schoolboy and started his career with Spurs. But my biggest mate was Kevin.
He had been an apprentice at Bournemouth, a year behind me, and he and I were already mates when he arrived in Norwich. When my dad paid £50,000 for him, you couldn’t have guessed that he would eventually go to Manchester City for £1.25 million — the first seven-figure fee Norwich ever got.
After a difficult start at Norwich, Kevin kicked on and you could see that he was a really clever, bright player. I was at Wembley, supporting him, when he won his first England cap in bizarre circumstances.
It was November 1979. England were playing Bulgaria at Wembley in a Euro-qualifier and the game was supposed to be on the Wednesday night, as was usually the case then. But on the night, there was thick fog and they didn’t even attempt to start the game.
Instead, they rearranged it for the following night. But Kevin Keegan, who was just about the most famous footballer on the planet, couldn’t hang around for an extra 24 hours because he had to report back to his club, Hamburg. And it was Norwich City’s Kevin Reeves who took his place in the team. He won one more cap once he had moved to Manchester City. And, when he finished playing, it was my father who gave him his first coaching job, at Birmingham.
In my father’s time, young players were encouraged at Norwich and eased towards the first team. He would take us away on pre-season tours to give us game-time. He would take one or two on the odd first team away trip just for the experience. And, at the end of a season, if there was nothing at stake, he’d put youngsters into the first team.
These days, managers can’t really do that. In the Premier League, there is a huge amount of money involved according to exactly where you finish in the table. And in the lower divisions, with play-offs, lots of clubs still have something to play for right up to the end of the season.
But there wasn’t too much riding on the last few results for Norwich at the end of the 1975-76 season, and so the very first time I got onto the pitch for the first team was in April 1976, at Leicester City.
I came on as a sub for the last 20 minutes. I never touched the ball but when I came off I was completely drained because of all the nervous energy I had expended. All the boys laughed their socks off because they’d played a full game and I’d played less than a quarter of it, hadn’t got a touch, but was the most knackered.
It was another year before I started a match, though: at Aston Villa in the game that Billy Steele, a really promising midfielder, had his career effectively ended by a knee injury.
And it wasn’t until the 1977-78 season that I made my break-though. John Ryan was the right back, but I got a game because he was injured and then, when he was available again, he was given a run in midfield and he was a real success there, banging in goals from 40 yards or so. He ended the season as our top scorer with 16 goals.
‘Ryno’ certainly didn’t mind that I had taken over at right-back. We became good friends. I am godfather to one of his children and I used to go to his house sometimes when the going got too tough at home.
We lived in Cringleford: dad, my mum Janet, me and my sister Toni. Football was all-consuming in our household. Once I was in the team, if we’d lost, I’d go straight out after a game and not go home until I was pretty sure dad would be in bed. That was how it was.
There was no escape if I went home and he was still up. There would be a long, long conversation about the game and it would inevitably lead back to me and my performance and dad didn’t hold back. He would pick my game apart. He was fair in what he said but, for other players, their home was somewhere they could get away from football and talk about other things. For me, it was worse at home than anywhere else.
My dad would encourage me too. He would always tell me when I did something well, but he wouldn’t leave a stone unturned if he thought I should have done better and he would be brutally honest with me and give me both barrels.
Fortunately, we won a few games! And I did OK too.
I won two England B caps while at Norwich — against New Zealand and Australia. Glenn Hoddle was in the team and so was Glenn Roeder. I even scored a few goals for Norwich. I got 11 in the 1979-80 season, and was second highest scorer behind Justin Fashanu. I was the penalty taker, which explains some of them, but I used to get some others. At the start of that season, I got what I think was my best ever goal, in a 2-1 win at home to Leeds. It was from outside the box, but I can’t trace any video footage of it to show anyone how good it was!
I became captain and I was voted player of the 1979-80 season, which must mean that by then the supporters weren’t complaining that it was my dad selecting me. And I have the Football Association to thank for one of my Norwich achievements that same campaign.
I hadn’t missed a League game but picked up too many bookings and was going to get a ban near the end of the season. In those days you could appeal, so I did, and I said to the disciplinary commission that I had this opportunity to complete a whole League season without missing a game, and they let me off with a warning.
At Norwich in that era, we held our own in the top division. Dad won promotion for only the second time in the club’s history, kept us up and, I believe, set the club on course for a long period of stability in the top tier. After he took us up, Norwich spent 16 of the next 18 seasons in the top division.
In his time, Norwich held their own against teams with some very good players. Liverpool were all-conquering then, and playing them was always very difficult, but, them apart, we used to give as good as we got. We lost games we shouldn’t have but we won games people didn’t expect us to. And in the time that I was there, and my dad was in charge, we always ended the season pretty comfortably established in what was the equivalent of today’s Premier League.
When I was right back for Norwich, Jimmy Neighbour was most often the player in front of me in the 4-4-2 formation. What a player he was. We had some other good players too though. Alongside me in defence, were people like David Jones and Tony Powell. In midfield there was Mick McGuire and, before my time in the first team but while I was at the club, there was Ted MacDougall and Phil Boyer in attack. But the most amazing player during my time at Carrow Road was Martin Peters.
Apart from my dad, Martin was the biggest influence on me as a player. Just being there and seeing how he conducted himself, and watching how he did things on and off the pitch taught me a lot.
It was only just over ten years earlier that he had been in the England team who won the World Cup, and he scored in the final. So of course he had something special about him.
He was such an intelligent player and I really liked him as a guy. Training in the morning started at 10 o’clock, but we would be out 15 minutes earlier chipping balls between each other. When we played eight-a-side games, he would play at centre-back every single time and, believe me, he could have played there comfortably at the very highest level because he could read the game brilliantly.
In matches, he was class. He had no real pace and he wasn’t particularly strong — although he could be nasty if he needed to be — but he was a midfielder with perfect timing. He would just arrive in the right place at the right moment. That’s how he got his goals. He would just be there at the perfect time. He read the game and was a move ahead of everyone else and always looked as if he had all the time in the world on the ball. Yes, class.
The pub the players used to drink in was the Murderers, in Timber Hill. All the lads would have a pint of lager and lime, but on the odd occasion Martin would join us, he would have a half. At the end of the evening he would have drunk as much as anyone else, but the difference in the perception of someone drinking halves was the thing. So, before very long, all the lads would have halves — not because he’d told us to, but we had all watched him and followed his example.
Martin was part of what was an exceptional set of senior players. I still keep in touch with Kevin Keelan, who holds the record for Norwich appearances. He was a big character as well as a big goalkeeper. He is still a goalkeeping coach in Florida, although he is well into his seventies.
Duncan Forbes was immense. I have never met a greater guy and he was so funny. He used to say he had only ever been carried off once: shoulder high. He was a proper man. So was Dave Stringer, who was brilliant with me, a youngster, when he was someone who had already been there years and years.
Ryno and Tony Powell were jokers, and really good to have in the dressing room. Mel Machin and John Benson, who played for dad at Bournemouth and Norwich, and followed him into coaching, were big influences too, and it was Benno who said to my dad, ‘Have you thought of playing Kevin at centre half?’
It had certainly never crossed my mind, but after Benno had said that, I played at centre-half in the reserves a couple of times, and it became my position. Ken Brown, whose own son Kenneth (who is ten years younger than me) was trying to become a professional footballer — and of course did — so Ken senior really understood my situation and was very supportive.
I don’t think any of these people had an issue with who I was.
My father didn’t like how it ended for him at Norwich, though. It upset certain elements at Norwich that he was going to Manchester City and he didn’t leave on the terms he would have liked to. That got to him. On one occasion, at home, I saw him crying.
In later life, Dad always said that he made a mistake leaving Norwich when he did. In hindsight, he realised that the working relationship he had with the chairman, Sir Arthur South, was special.
My father was offered a ten-year contract and could have stayed and been perfectly happy. But at the time, as an ambitious man, he felt he had to take the job that was offered to him by Peter Swales, the Manchester City chairman. I think that is what most football people would have felt in the circumstances.
When my father left, everyone thought it would be difficult for the ex-manager’s son to still be at Norwich. I stayed until the end of the season, but Dad wanted me to go with him to Manchester and, to be perfectly honest, it suited me to go there.
It wouldn’t have looked right if I’d just breezed along after him, so I went to America to play for Seattle Sounders. Ryno had played for them the previous summer, and I’d gone out to the States to visit him and had actually trained with the team. So when it was clear I was going to leave Norwich, Alan Hinton, who was the manager in Seattle, said, ‘Come out and play for me’. Football was doing well in the US at that time and we had some good players, including Bruce Rioch and, and good crowds.
I stayed out there until the September and then, of course, I did go to Manchester City, for a tidy sum of money. It was the 1981-82 season. I was reunited with my father, but by then I had a solid reputation as a defender and so I don’t believe there was any suggestion of nepotism at all.
I had three good seasons, and then moved on to Southampton and had four seasons there. The next stop was back to where my football career had begun, Bournemouth, then on to Exeter before I wound down my playing days at Sittingbourne and Dover Athletic. Ryno was the manager at both of those clubs.
I have had too many coaching jobs to go into here, but during that part of my career, I would have to say Harry Redknapp has been the biggest influence on me. I worked with him at West Ham, Southampton, Portsmouth, Tottenham and QPR — so he had plenty of opportunities to influence me!
But my first coaching influence, of course, was dad. He wasn’t one for sitting in an office if there was training going on. He would be out there with his boots on. Different managers have different approaches to the job, but dad was a coach as well as a manager.
I’d like to think he was proud of the fact that I have had some top coaching roles and I do believe he was proud of what I achieved as a player. I never won any silverware, but if I analyse it, for me to clock up more than 560 senior games after really struggling when I was starting out I think I did well.
I hope my father felt I repaid him for the huge opportunity he gave me.