40 years ago, young Justin Fashanu’s ‘mis-controlled’ volley for Norwich City against Liverpool went down in history as one of the greatest goals ever witnessed at Carrow Road.
In this first part of a story that originally appeared in OTBC - our official award-winning matchday programme - for February’s fixture against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, we speak to Greg Downs and Mick McGuire, both of whom played for the Canaries that day in 1980.
Part two, to be published on canaries.co.uk later this week, will offer perspectives from the opposition courtesy of interviews with Phil Thompson, David Fairclough, and Jimmy Case.
OTBC: Greg, Mick – what are your memories of that crazy 5-3 game against Liverpool all those years ago?
GD: It was a funny game. I remember John Bond saying they had a couple of players out and we had a chance of winning because they were a bit weaker. We found ourselves 3-1 down and came back to 3-3 with Justin’s goal. Unfortunately, we still lost the bloody game!
MM: I was a sub, so my memories aren’t great! It’s been 40 years, but I’ll always remember the goal because it’s played every year. I’ve not looked at the goal recently, but I do remember it.
Justin’s value today would have been absolutely huge because, while he probably didn’t have the silk and skill of Kevin Reeves and the goal probably reflects that, he was big and physical on the pitch and could do everything in terms of goalscoring, whether it was with his left or right.
He was right footed, but he scored that one with his left and he could head the ball as well. He had good energy, so he wasn’t just a big stump who you could play it to. He actually had good movement and would run you to death, so he was a real handful on the pitch.
He was a lovely boy and I knew him really well. The goal reflects him because when the ball was played in by John Ryan, he played it in quick in a way to get the ball back off Justin, but Justin controlled and flicked it and it lifted up in the air.
I’m not convinced that he meant that at all. The pitches weren’t as good as they are now and it was February, so – even at Carrow Road where we had one of the better pitches – it was bobbly to say the least, compared to today.
The ball flicked up and I don’t think as it was played into him, he had the intention totally of shooting. That often happens. He had the intention of using John Ryan as a dummy to pretend he would knock it wide to him, because he flicked it back inside.
When you do that, you are then looking to go and shoot but not instantly because he was a good way out. He was probably thinking of taking it on and if he was in a good position to shoot. As it was, it just happened to flick up perfectly for him and the rest is history.
“It was a wonderful strike followed by an understated celebration, typical of Justin.”
OTBC: Greg, what did you think when the goal went in?
GD: We thought we could push on. It was a magnificent goal, although I must admit we did take the micky out of him at the time, saying he had mis-controlled it. His strength was in the air, so when he moved to Forest that was the wrong move for him.
We were a team that played to his strengths. We played good football under John Bond, but we knew 25 yards out from goal we could get the ball in the box because he’d come crashing in and win it. The ball got played in and he turned to his right. The ball bobbled up off his ankle and he hit it without thinking.
It was a wonderful strike followed by an understated celebration, typical of Justin, just with one arm in the air a bit like Alan Shearer. He was the leading scorer so you can see why Clough bought him but at Forest they never crossed the ball.
It was one of those moves that epitomised his career. If he’d have gone to a club that played to his strengths, I’m sure he’d have had a stellar career.
OTBC: So where does it rank among the goals you were involved in?
GD: Because of the occasion, against Liverpool and in a massive game in which we were 3-1 down and came back to 3-3, we had the ascendency. It was a magnificent goal to be a part of and to be on the pitch with him in the move that led to it.
MM: For sheer wow factor, it was right up there. David Beckham scored from the halfway line when he was 21 years of age and that was cool and calculated. Justin’s wasn’t, but I defy anyone to say Beckham’s goal was actually better than Justin’s.
They’re all up there as being outstanding goals for different reasons. Around the world over that decade there were some fantastic goals. Taking all factors into account, Justin’s ranks with the best you’ve ever seen.
It was a fantastic effort and what people have got to remember is he was only 18 years of age then, having made his debut the year before. He was a baby and there was a lot of pressure on him because he was suddenly our centre-forward.
To have the mental strength at that age to run the line like he did, what would he be worth now?
“He was a baby and there was a lot of pressure on him. Suddenly he was our centre-forward.”
OTBC: Did you ever see him score a goal like that in training?
GD: Oh blimey, no. If you’d said to Justin ‘shoot with your left foot’ I’d say 19 out of 20 times he wouldn’t hit the target!
MM: He could hit a ball and he was a powerful lad. When he hit a ball, it stayed hit. He would score you good headers and he’d climb above people to head them in. The ball would be going across the six-yard box and he’d be sliding in.
He was as brave as a lion and he’d be putting his neck on the block to score. You call them ugly goals by they’re so crucial.
OTBC: The game was also Kevin Keelan’s final match in goal for Norwich. What do you remember of playing with him?
GD: He was a great character, a lovely fella. I was a young lad when I first came into the club. Kevin would come off from a game and stand for about half an hour under the heat lamp in the treatment room. He was drying his hair under one of those ultraviolet lamps because he was always immaculate!
A smashing fella and very fiery. You knew when he wasn’t too happy with things but a wonderful goalkeeper. Norwich have always had good goalkeepers but for me he was without a doubt the best we had.
MM: Oh my god, he was fantastic. He was a one-off. He was playing at a time when you could be physical against a goalkeeper. You had to look after yourself and he did. When he came out for the ball, he wasn’t interested if he went through a centre-forward to get it.
In terms of dexterity on the line, he was a fantastic line keeper – a shot stopper. He’d have been even more appreciated now because he was a great kicker of the ball.
Believe it or not, I still see him now because I go to Tampa, where he lives. He’s still got a left foot like a wand and he was a larger-than-life character. He’d have had 30 caps for England today.
He was absolutely elite at that period and there were a lot more quality English goalkeepers than there are now.
Illustration by Matthew Craven, interviews by Stephen Wright.