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Interviews

"It was incredible" - Andrew Surman on promotions with Norwich and Bournemouth

24 September 2020

Today, Andrew Surman is one of many footballers looking for a club in a uniquely challenging transfer window.

Rewind the clock a decade, however, and the midfielder was putting pen to paper on a new contract at Norwich City.

“I was at Wolves at the time and Norwich came in, so my agent phoned me and I knew that they’d just got promoted to the Championship and I knew I’d be dropping down from the Premier League where Wolves were,” Surman said, discussing his thoughts on the offer.

“I didn’t know too much about the club apart from the fact it had a massive fanbase and it was a big club.

“When we first did pre-season in Germany with Paul Lambert, I remember the first few sessions when we were working on the basis of ‘right, we need to stay in the league’. Rather than, ‘let’s get promoted’, it was more like ‘it’s going to be a tough season and a big step up’.

“A few of the players hadn’t played in the Championship before, so the outcome was a lot different to what we were preparing for in pre-season I think.”

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Settling into a new working environment can be a daunting prospect for any employee, but the bedding-in process was made easy for Surman ahead of 2010/11.

A pre-season BBQ courtesy of chefs Holt and Crofts (where the company may have been better than the cooking, according to a recent interview with the latter), was one of many team bonding exercises organised throughout the season.

“We had a great group of lads and it was a great team spirit, so we had a lot of things going on like that,” Surman said.

“We were always out doing something together in that season. Sometimes, you just get a special mix of players really where everyone moulds together and you get that real cohesion.

“When you’re doing well in the league as well, you’re sort of riding the crest of the wave. The two players you mentioned there were massive players at the club at the time who played a massive part, especially Holty, in getting the club into the Premier League.”

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Surman played a pivotal role in the Canaries getting to the promised land, scoring the winner against Nottingham Forest as well as the opening goal in an East Anglian Derby at Portman Road.

“The 5-1 win against Ipswich was the first game of the season we played against them and it was huge,” he added. “Knowing how much it means to the fans, it gave us a real buzz that we had a good chance of going up because we played well that day.

“The Forest game was quite near the end and another huge game because we’d come off the back of poor results, having lost to Swansea and drawn with Watford, so that was a massive win for us because it put us in a good position to go up.”

"For Bournemouth to be in the Premier League, it was unprecedented"

England’s second-tier has historically developed a reputation for being difficult for teams to get out of at the top end, so for Surman to go on to do so twice, with Norwich and Bournemouth, isn’t to be scoffed at.

“It was a very similar situation, although because Bournemouth had never really been in the Championship in their history and never been in the Premier League like Norwich had, it was almost more of an achievement because it was unprecedented,” he said.

“To get promoted with both those clubs who people probably didn’t expect to get promoted, especially having just been promoted from League One, it was incredible really.

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“At Bournemouth, we had a great team and a great team spirit, similar to what we had at Norwich, so I think it’s that that pushed us over the line.

“It was great to go one better by winning the league at Bournemouth, but automatic promotion is great as well for both of those seasons.”

Upon winning the league with the Cherries, Eddie Howe’s side remarkably managed to stay in the Premier League for five seasons, before falling to relegation alongside Norwich at the end of 2019/20.

For Surman, his journey on the south coast had also come to an end, as a number of players departed Bournemouth in the summer.

“I’m out of contract with Bournemouth so it’s just a waiting game to see what pops up,” Surman said, explaining his current situation. “It’s a completely different window to any other - it’s unprecedented because of the COVID situation, so it’s difficult for clubs to invest in players.

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“There’s still a little while left in the window, and being out of contract means I can sign at anytime, but it’s just one of those things that’s out of my control really if a club wants to sign me or not.

“I’m keeping myself ticking over, keeping fit, and hopefully a club will come in for me and I can carry on playing for a few more years.”

Sunday’s game at Vitality Stadium will be the first meeting of Norwich and Bournemouth that Surman won’t be taking sides in for the best part of ten years, but one he’ll be keeping a close eye on nonetheless.

“I mean, it’s a massive game for both clubs,” he said. “I know it’s a long season, but it’s important in the Championship to get momentum early I think because you want to be up and in the top six as the season goes on.

“When you’re in the top six in the Championship, you play like a top six team. When you’re mid-table or down below, you feel like you’re always scrapping to get up the league, whereas when you’re up there you’re usually playing well and with confidence.

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“Both teams will want to win it and put themselves up there in that position where they’re already within touching distance of the top two. It’s important to pick up points early in the league.

“It will be a good game with both teams coming down from the Premier League last season with very good squads, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.”

In our previous visit to Bournemouth, the Canaries emerged with a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw in October 2019 - a less than thrilling encounter that Surman watched from the sidelines.

“I can’t remember it being a great game, if I’m honest,” he said. “But that was a massive game because both teams were looking to beat the teams around them. The game at Carrow Road was huge as well because Bournemouth needed to win that and for Norwich to win it sort of ended our hopes of staying in the league.

“It’s always been an evenly fought contest so we’ll see how it goes. Both teams are more than capable of winning the game, so it should be interesting.”


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