The Early Years
There are records of Norwich having a football team as early as the 1860s. However, these reports show that the side often included up to 14 players and the rules of football were not closely followed. The formation of Norwich City Football Club can be traced back to a gathering between friends, held at the Criterion Café on the 17th of June, 1902. Robert Webster was named Chairman, Joseph Cowper Nutchey became the Treasurer and Robert Collinson had the honour of being appointed Norwich City’s first Captain. The County FA gave them permission to use Newmarket Road as their home ground and the new club played their first competitive match against Lowestoft Town in September of the same year, in an FA Cup preliminary round. This initial foray into competitive football ended in defeat for Norwich, as Lowestoft thrashed the team 5-0.
Norwich joined the Norfolk and Suffolk League, where they would compete against teams such as Kirkley and Ipswich Town. Their first league match was against Beccles Claxton and they managed an impressive 4-2 away victory. Impressively, Norwich finished their first season in the Norfolk and Suffolk League, in third position. The 1904/1905 season was a strange one for the club. Success came in the form of a league title win but the club became the subject of an FA Commission, who decided to relegate them from the FA Amateur Cup, as they were judged to be a professional organisation.
Not to be discouraged, Norwich City Football Club held a meeting later that year and were elected to compete in the Southern League. In 1907, the team changed their kit to the familiar modern colours of bright yellow and green. This was a result of the club continually being referred to as the ‘Canaries’, since one of their early managers was a keen canary breeder.
In early 1908, a record crowd gathered at the Newmarket ground to see their team beat FA Cup holders, Sheffield Wednesday, in the first round of the Cup. This magnificent success led to a rise in popularity and the club was forced to move to an old chalk pit in Rosary Road, nicknamed ‘The Nest’. During the 1908/1909 competition, Reading refused to play at Norwich’s new home ground, claiming it was too small. Despite this controversy, City managed to win the tie and set up an intriguing away match against Liverpool in the next round. Norwich were huge underdogs as the game approached, but they managed to pull off a famous victory, winning by 3 goals to 2.
The club made FA Cup history in 1914/1915. Their Third Round second replay game, against Bradford, was played in Lincoln but due to World War One, the match was played with no spectators. The authorities did not want local munitions workers tempted away from their work. Thus, the official attendance was zero. However, as the gathering crowds outside the gate became unmanageable, the officials controversially decided to let a number of the fans in to the ground.
An exciting era appeared to be on the horizon for Norwich but their financial status undermined any progress made on the pitch. They were forced into voluntary liquidation in December 1917 due to ever-increasing debts and 1918 saw the end of Norwich City Football Club. However, just a few months later, the club was re-formed and new funds were made available. Two years later, the Football League decided to create a Third Division and Norwich were promoted to this league.
The 1920s and 1930s
Their inaugural fixture in this new and exciting division ended in a draw, against Plymouth, in August 1920. Vic Whitham claimed the honour of scoring the club’s first league goal. Norwich’s first season in the league was ultimately a disappointment, as they finished in 16th place. The rest of the decade saw further mediocre league finishes: 8th place marked a high point and 18th place their lowest.
The 1930s brought slightly more excitement for the club’s fans. A 10-2 victory over Coventry City on March 15th, 1930, saw Norwich set a record for their biggest ever margin of victory, which is unlikely ever to be broken. New manager, Tom Parker, led the side to the Division Three Championship in 1934. An impressive season had seen Norwich lose only 6 matches, with star players Billy Warnes and Jack Vinall scoring 21 league goals each.
The club’s first two seasons in the Second Division resulted in mid-table finishes. However, there were concerns off the pitch for the club. The Nest was proving structurally inadequate, especially since the club was attracting more and more fans. Indeed, tragedy almost occurred in the 1920s as a wall at the ground fell down due to pressure, sending 60 fans crashing to the ground. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt, but the FA continued to voice their concerns over the suitability of the ground. These concerns eventually resulted in Norwich moving to Carrow Road, their current home ground, in 1935.
Norwich’s first match at Carrow Road was a thriller against West Ham United. 29,779 fans saw Doug Lochhead score the first goal at the new home ground and the club won by 4 goals to 3. Such success did not last, though, and the following seasons saw mediocre league placings. Norwich were eventually relegated in 1939 following a dire season. The start of World War Two delayed Norwich’s attempts to make their mark on the Third Division.
The first two seasons after the end of World War II saw disappointing league placings, as Norwich were forced to apply for re-election to the league. They were unlucky not to win promotion under Norman Low in the early 1950s but an inconsistent run of results led them to a bottom of the league finish in 1957. The club needed to finish in a higher position during the next season, since the Football League were planning to introduce a Fourth Division. They managed to end the 1957/1958 season in 8th place.
Consolation for Norwich’s inconsistent league form came in the FA Cup competition of 1958/1959. The first round saw the Canaries beat Ilford by 3 goals to 1. Round Two set up a meeting with Swindon, who were beaten after a replay. The following round saw Sir Matt Busby’s Manchester United side visit Carrow Road. Despite harsh playing conditions, Norwich managed to beat United comfortably, 3-0. Cardiff City suffered a similar fate before Tottenham were defeated by a resurgent Norwich side in a Fifth Round replay at Carrow Road. Round Six saw a tough away tie at Sheffield United. United scored the first goal and the Norwich goalkeeper, Ken Nethercott, dislocated his shoulder. Remarkably, Nethercott decided to keep playing and kept his side in the game, before Bobby Brennan scored the equaliser. Norwich won the replay, 3-2.
Luton Town awaited Norwich in the semi-final of the FA Cup. By this point in the competition, Norwich had made a name for themselves across England and the media and the general public were keen to learn more about the Canaries. Norwich largely outplayed Luton but were held to a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. The replay was closely contested but a second-half strike from Billy Bingham shattered Norwich’s Cup dreams.
The Canaries were inspired by this Cup run and they earned promotion to the Second Division in 1960. An impressive first season in this new league saw them finish 4th and narrowly miss out on another promotion. 1962 brought Norwich’s first piece of silverware, as Ron Ashman led the side to the League Cup, following a 4-0 aggregate victory over Rochdale.
Cup and European glory
A strong start to the 1971/1972 season led Norwich to promotion to the First Division. Jimmy Bone scored the club’s first ever First Division goal, as Norwich drew against Everton. Their inconsistent form in the league almost led them to a relegation battle but a solid run of results towards the end of the season ensured safety for another year. Cup glory came in the form of their League Cup campaign. Following a 3-0 victory over Arsenal, Norwich managed to beat a strong Chelsea side and set up a final against Tottenham. Unfortunately, Tottenham proved too strong for the Canaries and they crashed out of the competition.
A bad start to the 1973/1974 season saw the club relegated to Division Two but they bounced back the following year. 1975 saw Norwich compete in another Wembley final but they were disappointed yet again, as Aston Villa won, 1-0. Further disappointment came when the club were relegated in 1981. However, the 1981/1982 season saw Norwich win promotion back to the First Division, as Martin O’Neill inspired the team to an impressive string of victories.
1985 saw the club win a Wembley Stadium final, as they won the Milk Cup, under Ken Brown. This appeared to guarantee the club European football but the club were relegated following their Cup win and were later banned from Europe, following the Heysel Stadium disaster. Norwich won the Second Division title in 1986 and managed to achieve some impressive league finishing positions during the subsequent seasons.
In 1992, the Premier League was introduced and Norwich occupied the top position for most of the season. However, they eventually finished third behind Manchester United and Aston Villa. European football could now become a reality for the club and the following season saw them compete in the UEFA Cup. They beat Vitesse Arnhem and set up a tie against Bayern Munich. They managed to beat Bayern by 2 goals to 1, and are still the only English team to have beaten them at the Olympic Stadium. Internazionale proved too strong for Norwich soon after this victory, and they crashed out of the competition.
January 1994 saw John Deehan appointed manager, assisted by midfielder, Gary Megson. They ended the season in 12th place but were relegated the following season. At this point, Megson took over as manager. Many of the club’s star players gradually left, including Tim Sherwood, Robert Fleck, Jeremy Goss, Chris Sutton and Mark Robins. This led Norwich to a 16th place finish in Division One in 1996.
The new millennium
Nigel Worthington took over the floundering club in December 2000. Shortly before this appointment, chef Delia Smith and her husband had famously taken over the majority of the club’s shares. Worthington’s immediate task was to save the club from relegation to the Second Division. He achieved this, and went on to lead the team to a play-off final the following year. They sadly lost this match and the club suffered the same fate the following year.
The 2003/2004 brought success for the club, as they comfortably won Division One. Unfortunately, the team were unable to make a real impact upon the Premiership and were relegated on the last day of the season. Norwich have failed to mount a successful promotion challenge since their relegation and Nigel Worthington was sacked as a result. However, the club have high hopes for a return to the Premiership in the near future.
Ashman played 662 games for the club and scored 56 goals. He holds the club record for league appearances (590). He captained the Norwich side which reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1959 and won the League Cup in 1962. He also had a spell as player-manager.
Keelan played 673 competitive matches for the club, which remains a club record today. He was with the club from 1963 to 1980 and was voted the club’s player of the year twice.
Davies averaged more than 1 goal every other game for the club and became an instant hit among the fans at Carrow Road. He scored 30 goals in his first season at the club and managed 15 and 21 goals, respectively, in the following two seasons.
Gunn is one of the most famous goalkeepers in the club’s history. He made 477 appearances and won two club player of the year awards. He helped Norwich reach 3rd place in the Premiership in 1993, with some match-winning performances.
Parker led Norwich City to a Third Division title win in 1934 and enjoyed a second spell with the club in the 1950s. He managed 271 matches, 104 of which ended in victory.
Macaulay succeeded Parker following his second spell at the club. He led Norwich to the FA Cup semi-final in 1959 and promotion the following year. He was in charge at the club for 224 games, 105 of which ended in victory.
Bond led Norwich to the top flight in 1974 and also managed them to the League Cup final. Despite the constant strain of Norwich’s financial troubles, he managed to keep them in the top flight for the duration of his stay as manager. He oversaw 340 matches, 105 of which ended in victory.
- Most appearances: 592 (Ron Ashman)
- Most goals in a season: 31 (Ralph Hunt)
- Club top scorer: Johnny Gavin (122 goals)
- Widest margin of victory: 10-2 win against Coventry (1930)
- Heaviest defeat: 10-2 against Swindon Town (1908)
- Highest league finish: 3rd in the Premiership (1993)
- Second tier champions: 1971/1972, 1985/1986, 2003/2004
- Third tier champions: 1933/1934
- League Cup winners: 1962, 1985