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Dale Gordon: we could have won the league

21 September 2017

In an extract from Tales From The City 3, City legend Dale Gordon looks back at encounters with Stuart Pearce and Kenny Dalglish and the year Norwich could have won the title.

When the 1984-85 season started, Ken Brown gave me the nod to play in the very first game, at home to Liverpool.

A few slightly older players made debuts that day too: Jan Molby and Paul Walsh for Liverpool, and Steve Bruce for us. Steve headed an own goal and Kenny Dalglish put Liverpool 2-0 up, but I put over a cross from the right that led to Peter Mendham scoring. John Deehan had a penalty saved but Keith Bertschin made it 2-2 early in the second half. Phil Neal’s penalty gave them the lead again, but we got a penalty in the very last minute, and Mick Channon made it 3-3.

I was 17 and seven months; it was quite a start.

My second game for the first-team was at Highfield Road against Coventry and the man marking me was Stuart Pearce, who wasn’t nicknamed Psycho because he liked Hitchcock films. That experience left its mark on me. So did he. But it didn’t faze me, playing in the top division as little more than a kid. I was completely used to playing with and against people who were older than me, so I didn’t really think about that element.

I played 27 games that season. Physically I was strong enough and I was quick. But mentally, it took its toll. It was very demanding. I signed my first pro contract and was taken off apprentice duties, and grew up really quickly.

I wasn’t in the side when they won the Milk Cup. But I was on the bench in my grey Pierre Cardin suit, with flared trousers that were about six inches too short!

Ken was a good manager. He was the calm one, and his assistant, Mel Machin, was the one who would be throwing tea cups about. Mel would put the fear of God into you, and Ken would put his arm round you, if that was what you needed, and there was a mutual respect between them and for them from the players.

But although Norwich hadn’t hesitated to give me my chance in the first-team, there is always a difficulty for local lads when the club is signing players for big fees, and having to pay them big wages to attract them. I was a local and was already there, so they put me on the second level of wages, never the top. And over the years I had to compete for my first-team place with midfield players like Andy Townsend and Micky Phelan, who they had paid money for.

I had a really good season in 1986-87 when I played 41 times and we finished fifth in the top division — the highest the Club had ever been at that time — and it was a really good time to be around the Club.

I genuinely think we might have won the league that season, because away from home we were incredible. We lost fewer away games than the four who finished above us — Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Arsenal. We only lost two at home, and that was fewer than anyone other than Everton, the Champions. But we drew 10 home games and all the other four drew a lot less than that. If we could have turned some of those draws into victories…

The brand-new third volume of Tales from the City will be launched with a live event at Carrow Road on October 4 featuring Simon Lappin, Dale Gordon, Terry Allcock, Ken Brown and Tom Smith. You can get your tickets HERE.

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