Goss – Bayern Munich vs Norwich City – 1993

5 02 2011

Juliet Jacques writes a blog for the Guardian, was the driving force behind In Bed With Maradona’s appeal for a punditry revolution and can be followed on Twitter @JulietJacques … This is Juliet’s favourite goal:

I should open by saying that, as a Norwich fan, this is shamefully obvious, but my favourite goal remains Jeremy Goss’s volley that put City 1-0 up at Bayern Munich’s Olympiastadion on 20 October 1993.

I know John Motson’s commentary off by heart: “Bowen battling away … Fed in by Newman … And Robins well forward, and Goss is well forward too … and Norwich have taken the lead! Jeremy Goss again! Unbelievable stuff! When he scores goals they’re either spectacular or important and that one’s both!”

Mark Bowen’s goal which made the score 2-0 – a prosaic header from Ian Crook’s free kick – was more important within the tie, but central midfielder Goss’s spectacular finish had far greater symbolic significance, both in the UEFA Cup second round, first leg match and within English and European football history.

Viewed again, the goal looks marvellously simple. Bowen tenaciously fights Jorginho for the ball and stabs it back to Rob Newman, who casually lofts it into Bayern’s penalty area. Lothar Matthäus backtracks to pick up Mark Robins, but falling, his weak header drops to Goss, who rifles home a dipping volley from outside the box. As Motson put it: “[Bayern goalkeeper] Aumann stood and admired that – that’s how good the shot was!”

Christian Nerlinger reduced Bayern’s deficit on forty minutes, and City goalkeeper Bryan Gunn had make several brilliant saves to ensure that Norwich became the first English club to beat Bayern at the Olympiastadion. Bayern took the lead after just four minutes in the return leg, but Goss equalised in the second half, tapping home a left-wing cross to end a move launched with his gutsy challenge, and Norwich held on to win 3-2 on aggregate.

At full-time, Goss swapped shirts with Bayern captain Matthäus, one of several people at the club to publicly underestimate Norwich. This capped a brilliant calendar year for Goss, who, having been with the club for a decade, patiently waiting to break into the side, became emblematic of City’s unexpected success – the pinnacle of years that the team’s core played together, making three top five finishes and two FA Cup semi-finals in six years.

Norwich had qualified for the UEFA Cup after coming third in the first ever Premier League, a point ahead of big spending Blackburn Rovers. They had started the season as favourites to be relegated, having parted with manager Dave Stringer and sold star striker Robert Fleck to Chelsea for £2.1m. But with just two signings – Robins, bought from Manchester United for £800,000 to replace Fleck, and experienced midfielder Gary Megson – City sustained their challenge until April 1993, when they lost three crucial games.

City’s best ever finish was overseen by Mike Walker, whose promotion from reserve to first team manager was seen as unambitious by fans who had long begrudged chairman Robert Chase’s policy of selling Norwich’s star players. After a brief spell in charge at Colchester United, sacked whilst top of the Fourth Division, Walker joined Norwich as youth team coach in 1987, and had worked with several of the side that beat Bayern Munich for years – he was the club’s third successive manager to be appointed from within.

Norwich had only ensured their Premier League place in the penultimate game of the 1991-92 season, and blown their best ever chance of an FA Cup Final with a meek semi-final surrender against second tier Sunderland, but Walker made an instant impact, as two Robins goals helped City beat title favourites Arsenal 4-2 at Highbury in his first match. Despite some heavy defeats (notably a 7-1 thrashing at Blackburn), each of which prompted pundits to anticipate their collapse, Norwich kept pace at the league’s summit. City’s team had few stellar names: seven of their first choice XI were uncapped, and only Bowen and midfielder David Phillips had played more than ten internationals (both for Wales).

What these pundits forgot was that the team’s core had frequently recovered after selling its outstanding individuals. Chase had become Norwich chairman in 1986, after the entire board had resigned during a row over the rebuilding of City’s Main Stand. The stand burned down in 1984-85, when Norwich became England’s first club to win a major trophy (the League Cup) and be relegated in the same season. The club blooded a few members of their 1983 FA Youth Cup winning side during the relegation season, but their immediate return to the top flight was built on a settled side, and the young players – including Goss – were confined to the reserves.

Throughout the Eighties, Norwich raised a number of talented players: Chase was fortunate to inherit a strong youth system which had carefully laid down local roots. For years, the late Ronnie Brooks visited Norfolk secondary schools, building a relationship with sports teachers, giving presentations in assemblies to promote the club. Once they made City’s schoolboy teams, Brooks would work on players’ weaknesses and, if they earned professional contracts, found them digs in Norwich. At this point, responsibility for their development came to the youth team managers, and plenty eventually became first team regulars – two of the best, striker Justin Fashanu and winger Dale Gordon, were sold for £1m sums. 

Several others formed the basis of City’s mid-Eighties teams: Louie Donowa, Mark Barham, Peter Mendham and Paul Haylock all played in Norwich’s League Cup winning side, but were phased out over the next two years. Despite starting just two league games in four seasons after signing professional forms in 1983, Goss remained whilst many of his Youth Cup winning teams dropped down the divisions, or into local football.

This youth scheme was supplemented by a strong domestic scouting network, which looked for talented reserves at big clubs and promising youngsters with lower league experience. These were the players on whom Norwich most often profited, buying low and selling high: centre-back partnership of Dave Watson (signed for £50,000 in November 1980 after failing to make Liverpool’s first team, sold to Everton for £900,000 six years later) and Steve Bruce (bought from Gillingham for £135,000 in August 1984, sold to Manchester United for £800,000 in December 1987) being cases in point.

Norwich were known as a skilful, if lightweight, passing side, and tended to sign fringe players from clubs with a similar style. Four of the 1993 team came from Tottenham: full-backs Bowen and Ian Culverhouse, and midfielder Crook, who learned much from Glenn Hoddle and Osvaldo Ardiles. They were signed between 1985 and 1987: after defender Andy Linighan joined Arsenal for £1.2m in July 1990 (when Chase told him that he was being sold), John Polston from Spurs arrived to replace him.

Often, these reserves were signed to cover for Norwich’s outstanding players, even before they were sold, competing with youth team graduates for first team slots. City’s transfer policy meant that good seasons were often followed by bad ones. Norwich finished fifth on returning to the First Division in 1986-87: a disastrous start to the following season despite the fact that, unlike the previous summer when Chris Woods and Dave Watson left, no key personnel had left, resulted in long-serving manager Ken Brown’s sacking. Amiable and loyal, Brown’s tenure had been broadly successful, and the poor handling of his dismissal set many fans against Chase, who promoted reserve team manager Dave Stringer (previously coach of the FA Youth Cup winning side) in Brown’s place.

Crook and Goss competed for one central midfield slot in 1987-88, alongside Mike Phelan. Goss started twenty games, Crook sixteen, but Andy Townsend’s arrival from Southampton in August 1988 again limited their opportunities. As Phelan and Townsend formed an effective unit, Norwich came fourth in Division One – their best finish to date – and made the last four of FA Cup, losing to Everton. Crook struggled to hold a place, his error leading to Pat Nevin’s semi-final winner, whilst Goss did not play all season. 

It was Crook who replaced Phelan, sold to Manchester United in summer 1989 for £750,000 (having signed for £60,000 from Burnley four years previously). Goss started just three times in 1989-90, as Norwich slipped to tenth. Linighan and Townsend’s departures did not help Goss assert himself: Tim Sherwood, signed from Watford in 1989, started all but one of City’s 1990-91 league games, and Goss, now 25, was only talked out of a transfer request when Walker showed him a list of six hundred similar players seeking a move. 

In February 1992, Sherwood acrimoniously left for Blackburn, and Goss finally established himself. Several long serving players ascended from the reserves with him: with youth graduate Ruel Fox finally ready for regular football (having made his debut in 1987), Chase sold Dale Gordon to Rangers. Defender-turned-striker Chris Sutton came through the youth system far quicker, becoming crucial to the UEFA Cup team.

Whilst Norwich profited on many of their lower budget transfers, their big signings were only intermittently successful. One of Stringer’s first captures, for a club record £580,000 from Rangers, Fleck proved excellent, but subsequent record signings Paul Blades and Darren Beckford flopped, and Walker swiftly discarded both. Fox, Sutton and Robins – a (comparatively) big transfer that Walker got right – reinvigorated the team, especially Crook and Goss. The core’s mutual understanding paid rich dividends, thanks to far more long-term planning than the constant departures of City’s big names suggested.

After beating Bayern, Norwich played eventual winners Internazionale in the third round, losing both legs 1-0. Then their team-building policy, always high risk, swiftly unravelled: Walker left for Everton following a bitter row with Chase over transfer funds, and soon after Fox joined Newcastle for £2.25m. Assistant John Deehan replaced Walker, but finally, the manager’s eye for a player was insufficient: after Chris Sutton became England’s first £5m footballer, joining Blackburn Rovers in summer 1994, Deehan could not find replacements of similar quality.

A bigger problem was the deterioration of City’s ageing core, particularly its well established defensive line: centre-back Ian Butterworth smashed his knee in a waterboarding accident, whilst right-back Ian Culverhouse could not agree a new contract and also departed. A serious injury to popular goalkeeper Gunn did not help – nor did the sales of Robins and fellow striker Efan Ekoku. Eighteen months after beating Bayern, Norwich were relegated.

The following season was a nightmare: Martin O’Neill, recruited from Wycombe to replace Deehan, left after just a few months, having been denied transfer funds, and City finished just five points clear of a second relegation. As City collapsed, the fans turned on Chase, who had put plenty of the money from the recent sales of key players into ‘fixed assets’ with a view to floating the club on the stock market – the sales of Ashley Ward and Jon Newsome in March 1996, without the consent of manager Gary Megson, intensified the furious supporter protests against the chairman. Meanwhile, Goss’s star also faded: he never again hit his heights of 1993-94, when he scored spectacular volleys at Leeds and Liverpool, and he played his final Norwich game in April 1996, just before Chase’s resignation.

Norwich’s youth system still produced, but its most talented products (notably Darren Eadie and Keith O’Neill) struggled with injuries. New academy rules only allowing clubs to sign trainees within ninety minutes’ travel time further troubled City, as much of their catchment area fell within the North Sea or the sparsely populated Fens. This rule was rephrased to ‘ninety minutes’ travel time by road’ in 1999, after Manchester United started flying City’s Under-13 player Kalam Moonariuck from Stansted, near his Bishop’s Stortford home, to Manchester, and the Canaries complained to the Football Association.

The television money that came with the new Premiership and Champions League helped England’s elite retain larger squads. This changed the top clubs’ attitudes to young players, scouting them from smaller club’s schoolboy teams, paying (often minimal) compensation for their signatures and then integrating them into their existing youth systems. Not needing to sell, they began loaning out youngsters who had signed professional terms until they were certain of their abilities, less readily allowing capable players to join mid-table teams than they had in the past. Thus it became harder for mid-sized clubs to build teams, and mainstays such as Coventry, Nottingham Forest, Wimbledon and Southampton gradually left the top flight as they struggled to replace ageing cores.

As Champions League entry was expanded, leading to the formation of cartels that dominated Europe’s major leagues, UEFA’s other club competitions became less important, or were abolished entirely. Soon, with teams eliminated from the Champions League coming into the tournament, UEFA Cup ties between provincial outsiders and powerhouses became less frequent, and, when they arose, offered fewer surprises – with those that occurred diminished by the competition’s reduced status.

Fulham’s sublime win over Juventus last season offered hope: not just that my favourite goal might be repeated at a club of similar stature, but that such a club could seriously hope to win a European competition (it must be said that a comparison between Norwich 1993 and Fulham 2010, who included no youth team graduates in their regular XI, would be another article in itself). With many Premier League players gradually realising that they may (at least for a time) be better off in teams built around them, rather than warming the bench at a ‘bigger’ club, perhaps we could see some of the detailed planning, particularly on a local level, that made Norwich’s European run so memorable return to high level football.

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