Norwich City currently find themselves lingering in mid table of the Championship.
Hardly raises any eyebrows, but it’s a stark contrast from the team who embarked on the 1992-93 season some 25 years ago.
A new era dawned as the first ever Premier League season kicked off in August 1992, and the Footballing landscape changed forever – well, eventually. Unlike the well-oiled juggernaut of today, the Premier League was very much a raw and primal replica of the old First Division that had preceded before it.
Football in the 90’s was a special time. Football kits still had collar strings (can’t we bring them back)?
Footballers were still rocking lady ticklers on their top lip and instead of a ‘Soccer Saturday’ panel (which better resembles an AA meeting than a collection of former professionals), we had Ceefax page 302!
Leading up to the 1992-93 season, Norwich City had mixed fortunes. Since their return to the English top flight in 1982, they managed to sustain their top fight status in all but one season.
The 1984-85 was one of particularly mixed fortunes for the club, following a semi-final win over bitter rivals Ipswich Town, they won the League Cup at Wembley 1-0 against Sunderland.
However, they then proceeded to get relegated the same season.
The first time in history a club had won a major trophy, only then to be been relegated in the same season.
Both Birmingham and Wigan have since replicated this feat in 2011 and 2013.
Sadly, Norwich were denied entry into Europe following their cup success as a result of the Heysel Stadium Disaster. The Canaries bounced straight back to England’s top tier the following season though, winging the Second Division Championship.
High league placings in the First Division in 1986–87 and 1988–89 would have been enough for further UEFA Cup qualification, but the ban on English clubs was still in place.
Despite flirtations with the summit of England’s top tier over the last few seasons of the First Division, the Norfolk outfit were tipped to go down in the inaugural season of the Premier League, having finished 18th the season before.
This was of course back when the league had 22 teams. They also lost their star striker Robert Fleck to Chelsea for £2.1m. Yes, Fleck was considered a star striker once upon a time.
Sadly for him, the move didn’t go so well, scoring just 3 goals in 40 appearances. Norwich on the other hand reinvested their funds into soon to be Norwich legend Mark Robins, 90’s pub quiz legend Efan Ekoku and nobody’s legend Gary Megson.
Ribero were the kit manufactures for Norwich from 1992-94. The ideology of Ribero was very unique when it came to kit design. Imagine feeding your dog a strict diet of bananas and Skittles for two days and watching them take multiple explosive sh**s on your floor. Now scoop that up, lather it on a plain sports top. Tadaaa, you’ve got yourself a retro Norwich City 1992-93 Football shirt.
Prior to the start of the new Premier League season, Norwich promoted the then relatively unknown Mike Walker from youth team manager, to first team coach. It’s a name that sends shiver across the blue half of Merseyside, but he somehow managed to oversee arguably the greatest period in Norwich’s history.
There was a real blend of youth and experience in Walker’s squad, with old bastards like David Phillips and Ian Crook being joined by the likes of Ruel Fox and young up and coming Chris Sutton… that’s right Sutton started at Norwich, so now you know who to blame.
In the opening weekend of the season they faced Arsenal at Highbury. Norwich found themselves 2-0 behind at half time.
However, the introduction of Mark Robins as a substitute was to set the tone for the rest of season.
He scored a quick-fire headed goal and the Canaries equalised after David Seaman misjudged a straightforward right-wing cross. ‘
’I’ll never make a mistake like that again,’’ Seaman whispered to himself. And he didn’t…..except for Ronaldinho’s long shot/cross/back pass in the World Cup which led to England’s exit in 2002, and the lob from the halfway line by Real Zaragoza’s Nayim, which lost Arsenal a Cup Winners Cup Final and of course Macedonia’s Euro 2004 qualifier goal direct from a corner.
Luckily the latter was the final nail in the coffin of Seaman’s England career. Unluckily, he was then replaced by David James. Anyway, Ruel Fox gave Norwich the lead before Robins sealed the 2-4 comeback win with a lob on Seaman.
From their first ten games, Norwich lost just once, but against the better teams, they were coming unstuck. There was a 7-1 demolition at the hands of Blackburn and three weeks later they suffered a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool.
Heading into Christmas though, the Canaries were eight points clear at the top of the table and playing some great football. Following the turn of the year, cracks began to appear and they became very inconsistent.
Around the same time the chasing pack of Manchester United and Aston Villa started stringing together impressive results. After Norwich’s 3-1 defeat to QPR in early March, Ferguson’s United had turned the top of the table on it’s head and were seven points clear.
Norwich rallied though, with four wins from their next five games and returned to the top of the league.
Then, on the 5th of April United came to town for an inevitable showdown.
It wasn’t quite the capitulation of Liverpool at Crystal Palace in 2014, but within eight minutes Norwich title dreams were torn to shreds. Mike Walker deployed his team to play a high line and look to catch the opposition offside, but with speedy monsters Ryan Giggs and Andre Kanchelskis running behind, his plans were doomed from the start.
Giggs opened the scoring after 13 minutes, followed by Kanchelskis seven minutes later. Paul Ince set up Cantona sixty seconds later for a tap in. United won the game 3-1, all-but-ending Norwich’s title hopes. Norwich were dry pumped 5-1 by Tottenham just four days later and after a few weeks, found themselves 10 points behind the Champions elect.
Norwich City eventually finished third and qualified for Europe for the very first time. Astonishingly, they finished the season on a goal difference of -4. The only team to finish in the top three in the Premier League era with a negative goal difference.
Still though, third place was a remarkable achievement, especially considering the manager was Mike Walker. During the 1993/94 season, the club would experience one of their most memorable moments – beating Bayern Munich 1-2 in the second round of the UEFA Cup at the Olympic Stadium. In the return leg at Carrow Road, Jeremy Goss scored in a 1-1 draw that ensured Norwich progressed 3-2 on aggregate. In the next round though, Norwich were beaten by eventual-winners Inter Milan.
Shortly after, Mike Walker signed with Everton and tried to torpedo the Toffees into the First Division, something they avoided on the final day of the season in 1994.
He was given the bullet shortly after the start of the following season, not literally, but there was plenty of offers to do so from the locals.
There was a mass departure at Norwich that summer, with Chris Sutton, Ruel Fox, Efan Ekoku and Mark Robins all moving on. It was the end of special era for The Canaries and they were subsequently relegated that following season.
But one things for sure, the Norwich nearly men left their mark on the Premier League.