22. Sep, 2022


As regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will be aware, I am a Birmingham City fan, however I have a confession to make. In my youth I developed a soft spot for Norwich City.

I have never visited the capital of Norfolk, although I believe it is a beautiful medieval city, neither do I have family connections with the East Anglican city.

No, there were two reasons why I took a particular interest in the club from Carrow Road. Their distinctive kit of Yellow shirts, Green shorts, and Yellow socks really stood out. Watching Match Of The Day and Central's Star Soccer, nearly every team trotted out in red or blue shirts. 

I guess it was the green shorts which swayed me towards Norwich and an iconic goal did no harm. In February 1980 City were beaten 5-3 by Liverpool. The highlights of the home defeat were broadcast on Match Of The Day. Norwich were trailing 3-2 when John Ryan fed Justin Fashanu.

The big striker had his back to goal, he flicked the ball into the air with his right foot, whilst the ball was airborne Fashanu turned 180 degrees. As the ball dropped he struck a magnificent left foot volley which arched away from Reds goalkeeper Ray Clemence and into the corner of the net. The 25 yard screamer was rightfully voted goal of the season by Match Of The Day viewers. It is interesting to observe Justin's rather mooted celebration, Alan Shearer style; he simply raises a hand to acknowledge the delirious home fans. These days players, substitutes, coaches and physios invade the pitch after Joe Bloggs scores an 81st minute equaliser. You half expect the Tea person (must not say lady in these sensitive times) to put in an appearance.

Norwich were an established First Division team at the start of the 1980's. In 1972 The Canaries (the club's nickname played homage to the caged bird whose bright yellow plumage bore a resemblance to the teams shirt) were promoted to the First Division for the first time in their history. Managed by strict disciplinarian Ron Saunders, Norwich City were finally dining at the top table of English football. Like the most recent chapter of Canaries history, the 70s were a rollercoaster decade. In 1973 they were League Cup runners up. A Ralph Coates goal winning the cup for Tottenham, It was Norwich's first appearance in a major Wembley Cup Final. In 1959 The Canaries reached a FA Cup Semi Final. Third Division City were beaten by Luton Town. As the cup run progressed the strains of ON THE BALL CITY reverberated around Carrow Road. The stirring club anthem is still sung today.

City were certainly not on the ball in the 1973/74 season. Saunders resigned to become the new manager of Manchester City. New boss John Bond was unable to save the club from relegation. The flamboyant Bond was the polar opposite to his predecessor. Cigar puffing and a sharp dresser, he enjoyed a successful playing career at West Ham.  He was part of The Hammers team which won the FA Cup in 1964. After retirement Bond became manager of Bournemouth. In 1971 he guided the Cherries to promotion to the Third Division. Twelve months later Norwich returned to the big time. They were promoted with Manchester United and Aston Villa. Villa also beat The Canaries in the 1975 League Cup Final. In a strange twist of fate Aston Villa were managed by a certain Ron Saunders.

Bond did a fine job in establishing City in the top flight. He signed ex West Ham team mate and England World Cup Winner Martin Peters. Former Everton and England striker Joe Royle was another excellent signing. Much to the frustration of all Canaries fans. Norwich were often overshadowed by fierce local rivals Ipswich Town. Ipswich won the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup three years later. But as the decade wore on the East Anglian bragging rights belonged to the boys in yellow and green  

John Bond had moved on by then. Frustrated by a limited transfer budget he jumped ship to join Manchester City. The careers of Bond and Saunders seemed to be running parallel.  The city of Norwich was also familiar to millions of TV viewers, thanks to the highly popular Sale Of The Century quiz show. The show was hosted by the debonair Nicholas Parsons and was made by Anglia TV, the region's ITV's franchise. As expectant TV viewers gathered in front of the tele, announcer John Benson would boom out "AND NOW LIVE FROM NORWICH, IT'S THE QUIZ OF THE WEEK" From memory the format was a combination of Mastermind and The Price is Right!. Ah, innocent days. Alan Partridge was yet to take flight!

In 1981 Norwich City had their own sale of the century when Justin Fashanu signed for Nottingham Forest. Forest paid £1 Million as Fashanu exchanged East Anglia for the East Midlands. Sadly the move turned sour as he struggled at the City Ground. Brian Clough lost patience and Fashanu's life spiraled to a tragic ending. In October 1990 he made history when he announced he was a Homosexual. Fashanu became the first professional footballer to openly declare he was Gay. Remember Fashanu was also black and terrace prejudice was at its height. Justin was unable to cope with vile taunts and a complete loss of form. Fashanu moved to the United States in 1997. A year later he was charged with Sexual Assault on a Seventeen year old boy. Fearing that his Sexuality would prevent a fair trial Fashanu fled to London and committed Suicide on May 2nd 1998. A tragic loss of a young life, 

Justin Fashanu's story put Norwich City's 1980/81 relegation into its true perspective. In football we all live to fight another day, win or lose. Ken Brown had replaced Bond as manager. The softly spoken Londoner was John Bond's assistant, the pair met when they were West Ham team mates. New strikers John Deehan and Keith Bertschin spearheaded an immediate return to the First Division in 1982.

Ken Brown strengthened at the other end of the pitch. Goalkeeper Chris Woods arrived from Nottingham Forest. Woods replaced City legend Kevin Keelan between the posts. In November 1980 Brown signed Liverpool Centre Half Dave Watson. Watson had never featured in the Reds First team, the defensive duo of Alan Hanson and Mark Lawrenson meant Watson was confined to the reserves. Watson was to form a decent partnership with a young Geordie. Norwich signed Steve Bruce from Gillingham in August 1984.

Bruce joined a promising young team. In 1983 City reached the FA Cup Quarter Final. They beat old foes Ipswich in the Fifth Round. A Bertschin goal settled the East Anglian derby. The Canaries faced Brighton in the last Eight. However, Jimmy Case's hotly disputed goal broke Norfolk hearts. The normally mild mannered Brown expressed his anger in an TV interview. The Canaries boss felt Case had tugged back a Norwich defender before scoring Brighton's winner.

Ken Brown added "I thought we were conned out of it by an old pro Jimmy Case". Maybe that explains why he signed old campaigners Mick Channon and Asa Hartford  Both were fine players entering the twilight of their careers. Brown felt his team needed to become more streetwise,  It certainly began to reap dividends when FA Cup Finalists Watford were hammered 6-0 in April 1984, John Deehan scored Four of the goals in the Carrow Road demolition.

The following season was the most memorable in the clubs history. After crushing Preston North End 9-1 on aggregate, Norwich embarked on a memorable League Cup run. Ken Brown's side then swept aside Aldershot, Notts County and Grimsby Town. The Canaries were then handed a tasty two legged Semi Final. Ipswich Town were City's opponents. The ultimate East Anglican derby. The first leg was a nervy encounter in Suffolk, Ipswich won 1-0 at Portman Road. The second leg witnessed a vintage Norwich City performance. Fittingly the match commentary was provided by Gerry Harrison, Anglia TV''s polished commentator was the voice of East Anglian football. Norwich dominated the first half. A fine Paul Cooper save prevented Deehan from levelling the aggregate score. The Ipswich goalkeeper tipping the strikers point blank header round the post. But Cooper was powerless when City made the breakthrough. John Deehan's shot cannoned of the knee of defender Ian Cranson, the ball flashed into the top left hand corner past a stranded Cooper. The Canaries had their tails up and the visiting goalkeeper was soon in action again. This time has saved Louie Donowa's stinging drive.

Having survived the Norwich onslaught, the visitors grew in confidence. In the first minute of the second half Alan Sunderland spurned a glorious opportunity to give Ipswich the aggregate lead. The former Arsenal striker raced clear on the Canaries defence. But with just Chris Woods to beat, Sunderland dragged his shot wide. The home side responded when Mark Barham's corner found the head of Steve Bruce, the goal bound header was scrambled off the line by a nervy Ipswich defence. But the Suffolk side did not heed the warning. With three minutes remaining Barham's corner was headed home by the unmarked Bruce. The Centre half ghosted in-between two static Ipswich defenders and headed the ball into the roof of the net. The goal was met by Norfolk delight. As the final whistle blew thousands of Canaries fans invaded the pitch.

Norwich faced Sunderland in the 1985 League Cup Final. The Wearsiders had beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea on their route to Wembley. The national stadium was a colourful sight as fans from East Anglia and the North East enjoyed their place in the Sun. City made the better start with winger Louie Donowa creating havoc in the Sunderland defence. His right wing cross was headed over the bar by Barham. Another Donowa cross saw John Deehan head over.

Sunderland responded as Clive Walker was set clear. Norwich Full back Dennis Van Wyck brought Walker down on the edge of The Canaries penalty area. The resulting free kick saw the Sunderland winger blaze his shot wide.

Norwich City took a deserved lead on 46 minutes. There appeared little threat as Black Cats defender David Corner attempted to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick. But the ever persistent Deehan got a foot to the ball and nutmegged Corner. After advancing down the byline the City striker pulled the ball back for Mick Channon. The former England forward shot was blocked and fell into the path of Asa Hartford. Hartford's first time shot deflected off the chest of Sunderland midfielder Gordon Chishom and flew past the stranded Chris Turner.

Midway through the second half the Black Cats were literally handed a golden opportunity to equalise. Once again the normally dependable Van Wyck was the guilty party. The Dutchman handled Barry Venison's cross and referee Neil Midgley pointed to the penalty spot. But Wearside cheers turned to tears when Walker screwed his shot wide. It was rough justice on Clive Walker, the former Chelsea wide man had been outstanding in previous rounds.

Norwich City managed to hold on to claim their first major trophy in 23 years and partially erase the Wembley defeats of 1973 and 1975. They did win the League Cup in 1962, but in those days the competition was far less glamourous. Many of the countries top teams did not bother entering and the final was a two legged affair. A far cry from the glittering showpiece held at Wembley on March 24th 1985. All the big boys couldn't resist the lure of a big day out, in additional the winners were normally guaranteed a place in Europe. Alas City were denied that reward when 39 fans died at the 1985 European Cup Final. Liverpool and Juventus fans rioted at Brussel's Heysel Stadium. As a result all English clubs were banned for all European competitions for 3 years. A decade later The Canaries would make their mark in Europe.

However, the cup triumph was never to be forgotten. All Norwich fans will treasure the moment Dave Watson lifted the trophy over (rebranded the Milk Cup) skywards. In the cover photo we see Chris Woods (left) Paul Haylock (centre) and Steve Bruce (right) parading the Milk Cup around Wembley. The final was also notable for the sporting behavior of the two sets of fans, which still exists today. It was a stark contrast to the hooligans which plagued the national sport Indeed the excellent relationship between Canaries and Black Cats fans formed the origins of The Friendship Trophy. The trophy is contested whenever the two clubs meet in League or Cup. The 1992 Friendship Trophy was another high profile occasion. The two teams met in a FA Cup Semi Final, Sunderland won 1-0 to book their place at Wembley.

The 1985 feel good factor continued the following evening when the victorious team embarked on a open top bus tour of Norwich city centre. Thousands of Canaries fans lined the streets as the Milk Cup was paraded. But within weeks glory had turned to despair. City were relegated from the First Division (Ironically Sunderland suffered the same fate). Norwich had made an unusual piece of football history. They became the first team to win a major trophy and be relegated from English football's top flight in the same season.

City made amends the following season, romping to the Second Division title. This kickstarted the most successful period in the clubs history. They twice finished 5th in the First Division under Brown and his successor Dave Stringer. In 1993 The Canaries were almost crowned the first Premier League Champions. Managed by Mike Walker City eventually third behind Manchester United and Aston Villa. The following season they knocked German giants Bayern Munich out of the UEFA Cup. The Canaries won 2-1 at Bayern's iconic Olympic Stadium and became the first English team to win in Munich.

In more recent times Norwich have become the ultimate yo-yo club. Too good for the Championship but not good enough for The Premier League. In the last decade they have been promoted 4 times and relegated on 3 occasions. I dare suggest that this trend is a source of irritation amongst the sizeable fan base. Respective of the league Carrow Road is packed to its 25,000 capacity week in, week out.