Norwich City: A Nostalgic Look at a Century of the Club – my book review for the Eastern Daily Press

It’s all over – and what a fabulous season it’s been. Premier League football secured at Carrow Road. Spurs and Arsenal both humbled. Grant Holt’s hero status secured. Paul Lambert all but deified.

The next couple of months will inevitably be a bit flat for the Canary faithful. I’m hoping the European championships and the Olympics will provide some distraction.

But City fans looking for something to read on the beach at Cromer, or the Costa Brava, would do well to get hold of EDP columnist Iain Dale’s new book.

Norwich City: A Nostalgic Look at a Century of the Club
documents the history of Norwich City from humble beginnings in the first decade of the last century. Dale’s coffee table tome draws magnificently on the old photo archives of the EDP, as well as the Daily Mirror. It charts City’s progress from The Nest and amateur football, through the move to Carrow Road, the cup runs of 1959 and 1967 and the 1985 Milk Cup triumph, ending with the UEFA Cup campaign of 1993.

It’s all there in great detail – the club’s ups and downs, great goalscorers, managerial triumphs, giant-killing successes. And the early chapters have some great pictures I’ve never seen before: Norwich’s first professional game at The Nest in 1908, the year City made it to the third round of the FA Cup for the first time. And the opening of Carrow Road on the last day of August 1935 – we beat West Ham 4-2 in front of a 30,000 crowd.

It was quite a surprise to learn that Norwich City’s original kit was a Blackburn-style blue and white – before yellow and green took over in 1907. Or that On The Ball City was originally written for a team of Norwich school-masters (‘On the ball, teachers, never mind your features…’)

The prose is sometimes a little emotion-free – what do you expect from a West Ham fan!

But this is more than made up for by the excellent pictures, and Dale’s fascinating commentaries on them.

But City fans, be prepared. As you flick through the pages, I guarantee there will come a moment when you suddenly swallow hard as childhood recollections stir and the memories come flooding back.

Because for each of us there is a moment – different for every football fan – when history becomes personal. It is the year when fabled tales of past giants, wonder goals and brilliant wins, handed down by dads, aunts or older brothers, give way to real memories of games watched, goals seen and heroes cheered.

Growing up in Norwich, I knew all about the great cup runs of 1959 and 1967. I had heard tales of our great players in the 1950s – Bobby Brennan, Johnny Gavin, Terry Bly; or our 1960s goalscorers, Terry Allcock and Gordon Bolland. Indeed, the day of Norwich’s famous fourth round FA cup giant-killing win at Manchester United – 18 February 1967 – was also the day I was due to be born. My family has always laughed that my dad, after much agonising, decided to go to the football, boarding the special train from Thorpe station to Manchester with thousands of other Norwich fans.

Dale’s book documents these famous Norwich moments, and many more besides. All history to me.

My dad was doubly lucky that day: Bolland scored the winner for Norwich, and I conveniently arrived a week late. Although, I don’t think my mum has ever quite forgiven him.

But turn the page to 1975 and Norwich history becomes my story too. There on the page are my boyhood heroes: Kevin ‘The Cat’ Keelan, Duncan Forbes, Graham Paddon, Phil Boyer and Ted MacDougall.

The players I first saw play in the flesh, who, as a seven-year-old in my first kit, I dreamed of being.

I do have some distant memories of previous games in the Saunders era.

I just about remember my first ever game, Norwich at home to Leeds in the FA Cup in 1973. (A one all draw, I think – what a Leeds team that was.)

But for me, it is the great John Bond teams of the mid-1970s where this book, and Norwich City history, comes alive.

The first game at Carrow Road I really remember being at in detail was an end of season classic, Easter Saturday 1976, Norwich 3 QPR 2. That game lost the Division One title for Rangers. Stan Bowles had a deeply frustrating afternoon.

Ted MacDougall opened the scoring for Norwich. There was a suspicion of offside for the Norwich third.

Carrow Road was packed, the sun shone, I remember the crowds walking out back to Thorpe, so dense and tall. And that evening we watched the game again on Match of the Day, the first time I had ever seen a game on TV that I had actually been at.

I’ve been at many great games since – the home tie against Inter in 1993, the play-off semi-final at Molineux in 2002 and then Cardiff too, the Huckerby signing day at home to Forest on Boxing Day the following year, so many more. Many of these games will have to await the next volume, as the book ends in 1995. And, of course, this season’s triumphant premiership campaign could fill a whole volume of pictures, words and memories.

For us all, this was a great season. But for some young Norwich fans -the nine year-old equivalents of me in 1976 – there will have been a particular game this year which will end up being that moment when football history comes alive for them.

Looking back in the years to come, will they recall exactly how they felt when Grant Holt rose above the Liverpool defence to crash in that Anfield equaliser?

Elliott Bennett’s wonder-goal at Spurs? Or the excitement of holding Manchester United to a draw, only to see Ryan Giggs deny us at the injury-time last?

I loved those high-points this year. But for me, no game will ever be more special than Norwich v QPR Easter Saturday 1976, the day my football memory comes alive.

Read Iain Dale’s book and see when it happens for you.

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Posted May 20th, 2012 by Ed