🕵️‍♂️ Football League Focus: Norwich City

Logo: OneFootball


Alex Mott

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Welcome to our latest series here at OneFootball where we’re shining a light on one Football League club each week.

It’s our chance to go in-depth on sides that don’t normally attract our attention and hold up a magnifying glass to the plethora of brilliant stories outside the Premier League.

So far we have looked at:

This week we’re off to the home of Stephen Fry, Alan Partridge and the oldest football chant in the world: it’s Norwich City.

Can you tell me a bit about the club?

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As the Industrial Revolution took over Britain and agrarian ways of living gave way to city dwellings, Norwich’s place as England’s second city was yielding.

What was once the most important place in the British Isles, after London, was now seen as a rural backwater, cut off from the rest of the country and left to fend for itself.

It’s a tidy metaphor for the football club it would produce – perennial underdogs who have never really been part of the football establishment but throughout its history has produced some truly brilliant moments.

It was an inauspicious start for the Canaries but by the 1990s, the Carrow Road side were considered title challengers and slayers of the mighty Bayern Munich.

It’s been quite the 118-year story.

Any great moments from their history?

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Formed in the city’s Criterion Cafe in 1902, Norwich City’s start was fraught with problems. They were kicked out of the Norfolk & Suffolk League for illegally paying players and by the time the first world war came, spiralling debts saw the East Anglia side enter into voluntary liquidation.

But after the ceasefire in 1918, Norwich officially reformed and entered into the Football League’s new Third Division. They would stay there for most of the 1920s and 30s, and it really wasn’t until the 1958/59 season that the Canaries would make a mark on the wider football landscape.

‘The 59′ Cup Run’ has since gone down in Norwich history as one of its crowning glories as they became only the fourth third-tier club to make it to the semi-finals of the competition. Along the way they beat First Division’s Tottenham and Matt Busby’s Manchester United.

Luton eventually beat them in a replay but as manager Archie Macaulay gave way to Ron Ashman, the Canaries kept up their winning habit. Second Division promotion was sealed in 1960, fourth place followed in 1961 and the next year Norwich would finally win their first ever major trophy.

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Rochdale were the opponents in the League Cup final as Norwich swatted aside the Lancashire outfit, beating them 4-0 over two legs.

The Second Division is where they would stay throughout the 1960s but as the Summer of Love gave way to the Three Day Week, things were looking uncharacteristically cheery at Carrow Road.

The year 1972 would see Norwich win the Second Division by a single point from Birmingham and claim promotion to the top-flight for the first time.

Under Ron Saunders, the Canaries survived their debut First Division campaign by two points and reached another League Cup final.

They would lose this time – a Pat Jennings-inspired Tottenham winning 1-0 at Wembley – and just 12 months later, with Saunders having resigned, they were relegated back to the Second Division.

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A barren decade followed but by the mid-1980s the Canaries were back at the Home of Football and competing for trophies again.

A First Division side once more, Norwich beat bitter rivals Ipswich in the semi-final of the League Cup and then claimed the three-armed trophy for a second time when Sunderland were beaten 1-0 in the final.

It would be an historic day, not just for Norwich but English football in general, but we’ll get to that later.

It would though, kickstart their most-prolonged period of success with nine successive seasons in the top flight from 1986.

The 1992/93 season was the high watermark however as Norwich became unlikely title contenders in the inaugural Premier League season, going toe-to-toe with Manchester United and Aston Villa right until the final weeks before eventually finishing third.

It put them in the following season’s Uefa Cup where Mike Walker’s men would face European superpower Bayern Munich in the second round.

The Times’ Martin Samuel described the mood before the game: “The Germans had never lost at home to an English side and Norwich’s expedition was regarded as little more than an exotic day out with a football match attached”.

Walker, amazingly, targeted World Player of the Year Lothar Matthaüs as their weak link and it turned out to be a masterstroke.

The Canaries won the game 2-1 thanks to goals from Jeremy Goss and Mark Bowen and would become the first, and only, English team to win at the Olympiastadion.

In more recent years, Norwich have become the archetypal yo-yo club, bouncing between the Championship and Premier League and never really staying in either division for too long.

Since 2017, German coach Daniel Farke has been in charge at Carrow Road and has overseen a revolution in their playing style as well as a promotion to the Premier League and subsequent relegation back to the Championship.

And surely there must be some lows as well?

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You could say that Norwich’s first half century was one continuous low.

Bouncing around the lower leagues, struggling to attract meaningful crowds and at one point having to re-apply for Football League status.

The 60s, 70s and 80s were once again littered with more downs than ups with even their greatest year being peppered with disaster.

In 1985 the Canaries won their second, and so far last, major trophy in the shape of the League Cup.

But having beaten Sunderland that day at Wembley, a few weeks later the Carrow Road club were relegated back to the Second Division – and made a piece of English football history in the process.

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Norwich would go down in infamy as the first side in British football to win major silverware and be relegated in the same season.

Plenty more relegations followed in the 90s and early aughts but truly the lowest point came on February 28, 2005.

Relegation-threatened Norwich were drawing 2-2 at home to Manchester City and majority shareholder and TV chef, Delia Smith, was simply not having it.

On to the Carrow Road pitch she strode at half-time and produced one of the Premier League’s classic moments.

Nigel Worthington’s side would finish the season second from bottom, winning just six games all campaign.

Who are the club legends?

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Kevin Keelan is the club’s record appearance holder, having played 673 times between 1963 and 1980.

Duncan Forbes was a no-nonsense Scottish hardman who spent 13 years at Carrow Road and was named in their Greatest Ever XI.

Mark Bowen was one of the heroes from that night in Munich and would go on to play over 300 games for the club.

What about the current squad? Any players to look out for?

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This is a squad packed full of Premier League talent and one that really should be challenging for promotion come the end of the season.

Max Aarons enjoyed a breakout year last time in the top-flight but stayed around this term despite being heavily linked with Barcelona over the summer. It tells you everything about how good the 20-year-old is, that it was a surprise he didn’t end up at Camp Nou.

Emi Buendia is another player who could he left over the summer but decided to give it one more go in East Anglia. The attacking midfielder is only 23 and on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Is the manager any good?

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Much like David Wagner at Huddersfield or Thomas Frank at Brentford, Farke was a relative unknown when he arrived in England, tasked with getting his side out of the Championship.

It’s been three years since his appointment, arriving from Borussia Dortmund II with the aim of revolutionising the Canaries style of play and helping to develop a batch of brilliant youngsters.

It’s been a mixed bag but Farke, and Norwich, are in it for the long run and it was heartening to see the club stick with the 43-year-old during relegation.

Finally, how are things looking this season?

Only two defeats all season suggest that Norwich are very much in the hunt for promotion come the end of the season.

Goals – just 13 – may have been hard to come by but the Canaries have the third-best defensive record in the division and will almost certainly use that as the foundation for any further success this term.