To celebrate the Club’s 115-year anniversary we spoke to Mr Norwich City, Dave Stringer.
From title-winning goals to exploding cigarettes, the Canary legend looks back at his memorable 499 appearances for the Club in the ’60s and ’70s, including promotion to the top tier for the first time and winning Player of the Season.
His City days certainly weren’t done when he hung up his boots, and in 1987 he was chosen to take the Carrow Road hot seat, and he led the Canaries to two FA Cup semi-finals and to 4th place in the old Division One.
Game for Norwich It would’ve been a reserve game in the Norfolk Invitation Cup at King’s Lynn. I would’ve been 17 or 18 and we played the Peterborough first-team and won the cup – that was quite a performance for a very young side. In terms of my first-team debut I would’ve been nearly 20. We played Coventry away and Ron Ashman was the manager. Myself and Graham Willis were handed our debuts; Graham was at left-back and I was on the opposite side. Unfortunately we didn’t win the game but it was quite an experience. The game passed me by to be honest. It was one of those occasions when you’re quite excited at the fact that you’re playing and you’re taking in everything around you rather than concentrating on the game itself.
Sporting hero People like Johnny Haynes, Stanley Matthews, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney were all names of the era. At that time England were one of the best, if not the best, team in world football, although they’d be knocked off their perch by Hungary at Wembley.
Room-mate Terry Anderson was my room-mate on a fairly regular basis but if the team was changing regularly you didn’t have the same one each time. I was the best man at Terry’s wedding, he was a bit of a joker. He was more sensible than most and didn’t create any problems, although he did sleep-walk one night which was quite interesting. He shot out of bed and thought that someone was in the room. He woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep! This was all on a Friday night before a game.
Overseas pre-season tour The first one was to Holland. We played against Ajax and several other Dutch sides while we were over there. The senior players in our squad had told me that the Dutch lads weren’t very good at shooting from distance – we conceded four or five goals during that tour all from 30 yards out or further!
Feeling on a football pitch for Norwich The goal at Watford in 1972 to clinch the Division Two title certainly stands out, and I was also able to score the goal the following year which kept us up. It’s not very often that defenders get to experience those sort of moments, you’re more likely stopping them at the other end rather than scoring them, but I scored one or two which were important for us. It’s not all about goals, though. In 1967 we went to Manchester United, we were still a Second Division side at that point, and we beat them 2-1. They had won the European Cup the year before and when you look at their forward line of John Aston, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best it was a formidable FA Cup draw for us. Most people thought that we would just go along for the ride, but we managed to come away with a win.
Player you played against for Norwich George Best, Denis Law, Joe Jordan, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore – there’s so many from that era. Gordon Banks would be another one. The 1966 World Cup-winning squad were playing in the league at that time and I played against most of them. If I had to pick one I’d say Denis Law. He stood out in the game when we beat them in the cup. He scored a fabulous goal on the day and he had so much energy and endeavour. It seemed to me as though he wanted to win the game badly whereas a lot of his team-mates perhaps thought it was going to be a walkover. His attitude was 100 per cent.
Post-match celebration The Watford game that I mentioned earlier. We’d worked hard over the course of the season and it was more a feeling of relief than anything. That was the first time the club had been promoted to the top division. If you look in the trophy cabinet at Carrow Road Geoffrey Watling had a replica of the cup made to put in amongst his collection. It meant a lot to the Geoffrey and others like him that all the work they had put in over the years had come to that sort of culmination.
Prank you saw played on a Norwich team-mate We had a player called Joe Mullett who played left-back for us. In those days the players smoked and would share cigarettes with each other, but Joe was one who’d never have one on him. At the time you could buy a capsule that was fitted inside a cigarette so when you lit it, it flared up. We used to go to the cinema on a Friday night before away matches. We were in the cinema and it was dark and Joe asked for a cigarette. They passed him the one they’d prepared and of course in the dark he lit the whole cinema up with it and everybody fell about laughing.
Thing about being a footballer Losing. Losing without doubt. It’s the downtime after a loss, having to wait until the Monday morning when you’re going to go through what went wrong and what repercussions might come from that.
Telling off from a manager When Ron Saunders made himself heard I don’t think that anybody would’ve liked to hear the rough side of his tongue, but most managers get rid of some of their emotions during a game. If players work hard and try their best then I don’t really think you can have a go at them, it’s all about application. I managed Tim Sherwood, who was a very good player, but the crowd would get onto him at times and he would be more concerned with going back at them than the game itself. As a young player he needed to learn that it wasn’t the sort of thing that you do. You don’t rant at players; you just point out the facts to them. I wasn’t a ranting manager.
Match you played in for Norwich A game that springs to mind would be Chelsea in the cup semi-final when the fog came over the Barclay End and the referee abandoned the game with three minutes left on the clock. The referee took us off and then back out again but nobody could see anything. They were coming down the wing and we were looking straight down the middle. We thought we’d made it to Wembley, but the referee called it off and we had to play the whole thing again! That hasn’t happened before or since.
Tackle you’ve been on the end of I was usually on the other end of tackles! I played against Joe Jordan – Joe was a very tough and uncompromising player – and we had quite a tussle throughout the game. Every time we met it was like that. We played at Leeds and I can remember heading the ball away and Joe caught me and split my head open. I went off, had stitches and came back on up front. I think I saw Joe go right across the back line and knock every one of them over. I remember thinking to myself that I was happy to be standing up at the other end!
Interview by Sam Marshall