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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

Norwich City Football Club

Norwich City Football Club

Norwich City were formed in 1902 by two schoolteachers, Robert Webster and Joseph Nutchey. They were connected to CEYMS, the best established Norwich side at the time, and they called a meeting at the Criterion Cafe in White Lion Street on the 17th of June, in the belief that the area could sustain another club. An excited audience agreed. Arthur Turner was appointed manager, and Robert Collinson, a fine player also from CEYMS, was made captain. The new 'City' side joined the Norfolk & Suffolk League.

Norwich City won that league in 1904-05, but not before the fledgling club were made to face a FA Commission which investigated their amateur status. They were deemed to be a professional club, so resigned from the Norfolk & Suffolk League and joined the Southern League for the 1905-06 season. In those days the team colours were blue and white halved shirts and their nickname was the Citizens. Their new manager John Bowman affectionately referred to his players as 'my little canaries', in recognition of the local pastime of breeding the birds. This caught on with the press and in 1907, the club turned out in yellow shirts for the first time and the official nickname of 'The Canaries' was adopted. In 1908 the club moved from it's Newmarket Road ground to a disused chalk pit in Rosary Road. It was soon christened 'The Nest', and was to gain the reputation as one of the most dangerous and least hospitable grounds in the history of English football.

City played in the Southern League until World War One, though they were largely a mid table side. Better fame was secured through the FA Cup as the likes of Sheffield Wednesday (1908), Liverpool (1909) and Sunderland (1911) were all beaten. In 1917 however, with football suspended due to war, the club were unable to sustain profitability, and the Directors had no option than to wind it up in 1918. The next year however, sufficient funds were brought together to re-launch Norwich City Football Club. They went back into the Southern League for one season before joining the Football League in the newly formed Third Division.

The 1920's were to prove difficult, though City more than held their own in the Third Division South. The club's first success came in 1933-34, when new manager Tom Parker led the Canaries to the title. Interest in football blossomed in and around Norwich but the squeeze at The Nest was such that the club came under scrutiny from the FA over safety issues. Faced potentially with expulsion from the league, a quick exit was made during the summer of 1935. In less than three months an alternative ground was sourced and built. Carrow Road was the new home of Norwich City.

Unfortunately relegation followed in the last year before World War Two. The Canaries went down on the last day of the season after beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 when they needed it to be 4-0. The goal average difference was a mere 0.048 of a goal. The timing could not have been worse for Norwich. Finances were again under huge strain as football was suspended for the duration of the war. When things resumed in 1946-47, Norwich had to rely on local youngsters and finished one from bottom in the table, thereby having to seek re-election back into the league. The same thing happened the next season too.

These were dark days at Carrow Road but the club made a spirited comeback in the early '50's. Managed by Norman Low, they finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th in Division Three South in successive seasons. In modern times of course that would have led to automatic promotion or at least a play-off opportunity, but in those days only the table toppers went up. However, by 1956 the coffers were once again empty and with a slump in form as well, City once again had to apply for re-election. Floodlights were installed at Carrow Road at a cost of £9000, but the expense plunged the club near to extinction. Significantly, it was at this point that Geoffrey Watling and Arthur South became involved with the club. Funds were borrowed from the Norfolk News Company and an appeal was made to the good folk of Norwich and Norfolk to donate money.

With the club saved, the players responded on the pitch. 1958-59 saw the famed FA Cup run as the Canaries, under the leadership of Archie Macaulay, fought through to the semi final, knocking out Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United along the way. The third division side eventually fell to Luton Town, just 90 minutes from a Wembley final, and only then after a replay. But it was to be the launch pad for modern Norwich City. The next season they finished as runners up in the league, and therefore gained promotion back to Division Two, and in 1962 won the League Cup for the first time under the stewardship of Willie Reid.

The sixties saw the club consolidate, though FA Cup giant killing remained on the menu as Manchester United were beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford in 1967. In 1969 a relatively unknown manager by the name of Ron Saunders arrived at Carrow Road. He brought a disciplined approach to the playing style, had the players running up and down Mousehold Heath to maximise fitness, and spent what little money was available wisely. Against expectation, by the end of the 1971-72 season, Saunders had transformed Norwich City into Second Division champions and they took their place in the First Division for the very first time.

Though the initial stay was to last only two seasons, it was in fact the start of a twenty three year period in which Norwich would spend twenty years in the top flight of English football (three relegations saw immediate returns back to the big time). Also during that time the club made three Wembley League Cup Finals, losing in 1973 and 1975 in single goal defeats to Spurs and Aston Villa, before beating Sunderland 1-0 in 1985. John Bond replaced Saunders in 1973, bringing panache and attractive football to Carrow Road. He also added flair players to the team, a tradition carried on by the next manager, Ken Brown in 1980.

The club were cruelly denied entry into Europe three times in the second half of the eighties, after English clubs were banned following the Heysel Stadium tragedy. The first occasion was in 1985 following the League Cup triumph, then after a finish of 5th place in Division One in 1987, and 4th in 1989 under David Stringer. It is impossible to tell what the club may have developed into, had they been able to take these opportunities up. Twice Norwich again narrowly missed out on a FA Cup Final appearance , losing 1-0 in the semi finals of 1989 and 1992.

In 1992-93 season, City were founder members of the Premier League, with Mike Walker now in charge. It was to be the most successful campaign in the history of the club, as they led the division from the first game through to Easter. A poor finish however saw them finish third, the highest league position ever secured. This time they were able to take their place on the European stage, courtesy of the UEFA Cup. The players proved that their attractive style was good enough for any level, as they triumphed 2-1 at the Olympic Stadium against Bayern Munich in what has gone down in history as one of the greatest European nights any English club has seen.

Norwich lost their top flight status after the 1994-95 season and since then have primarily been a second tier club. That run has however been punctuated by both a high and a low. At the end of the 2003-04 season, the Canaries were crowned the last ever First Division champions under Nigel Worthington (before it was re-branded as the Championship). It meant a brief, one season return to the Premier League where they failed to compete with the nation's big spending clubs, though relegation only came on the final day of the season. Three seasons of under achievement followed, which led to relegation down to the third tier for the 2009-10 season - the first time Norwich had been at that level for 50 years. However, the appointment of Paul Lambert early in the campaign ensured they won the league at a canter, thereby preserving the Norwich tradition of bouncing straight back after a relegation.

A year later a second promotion was gained, taking the club back to the Premier League. Now under the managership of Chris Hughton, the 2013-14 season will be the third successive campaign for the Canaries in the richest football competition in the world.

Thanks to Andrew Harrison for this article. There is much more information about Norwich City on his website http://canaryseventyninety.blogspot.co.uk/ 

September 2013