Norwich City A-Z: G is for the Ginger Pele - we love a trier
PUBLISHED: 17:15 18 June 2018
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They might not be remembered as the very best to ever pull on the shirt at Carrow Road. But they will never be forgotten. Paddy Davitt looks at G in our alternative Canaries’ A to Z alphabet... for the Ginger Pele.
Now this is a bit delicate. Some Norwich City players work their way into the affections less for their pure footballing ability and more for their perseverance.
Sure you have the wonderfully gifted geniuses like Wes Hoolahan or Darren Huckerby.
Maybe even Martin Peters further back in the Canaries’ timeline, who wowed the terraces with their craft and invention.
The love lavished on Hoolahan when he bowed out for the final time at the end of last season in that perfectly stage-managed exit against Leeds United underlined how deep the reservoirs of affection ran.
But there are other City players remembered no less fondly for the manner they fought against the odds.
Perhaps they were not as always as pleasing on the eye yet for all that no less effective.
Take Gary Doherty for example. A fellow Republic of Ireland international like Hoolahan who arrived at Carrow Road with plenty of pedigree from Tottenham. Doherty, at various points of a career in these parts that brought relegation and plumbed the depths of League One, appeared to be out of favour with any number of Norwich managers.
Doherty was signed by Nigel Worthington in the August of that return to the Premier League in 2004.
By November of the same year he was being touted with a move to Sheffield United. Doherty stayed and was named player-of -the-year the following campaign. Paul Lambert seemingly remained unconvinced early in his tenure but Doherty grasped a window of opportunity through injury to others and ended the League One title winning season as a first choice and third in the same player-of-the-year voting.
The ‘Ginger Pele’ always refused to go quietly.
That stubborn streak served him well to help maximise the industrious, whole-hearted commitment he always showed as a no-nonsense centre back and makeshift centre forward.
Sharing a nickname with arguably the greatest who ever graced a football pitch was not a joke at Doherty’s expense, it showed the affection he was held in as what can only be described as a cult developed around the former Luton trainee.
Doherty’s efforts in a Norwich shirt were even immortalised in a tribute song by a Norfolk indie band that ended with the lyric ‘I don’t care what they say about you anyway.’
Maybe it was that acceptance ‘The Doc’ was fallible like the rest of us, a player with visible flaws who knew his own limitations but never gave anything less than his best. That is why he will always be remembered fondly.
There are plenty more candidates during that turbulent era of bust and boom.
Cody McDonald and Oli Johnson left only fleeting impressions on the pitch but perhaps their back stories plucked from non league circles induced a well of good wishes.
Kevin Keelan’s longevity between the sticks guarantees his legendary status but a reported fondness for a ‘pre-match cigarette or gargle of whisky’ and occasional willingness to take matters into his own hands in terms of retribution endeared him to the rank and file.
Anyone who can attract Sir Ian Botham to play in his testimonial deserves to be afforded cult status.
Then there is Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
A man who looked every inch a multi-million pound footballer yet cut a forlorn figure when he swapped the sun of Sporting Lisbon for the cold, harsh reality of Chris Hughton’s fight for Premier League survival.
The Dutch international had the goalscoring record to match the movie star looks and the added stardust from a girlfriend who was the daughter of one of the total football golden generation of Johan Cruyff who dazzled the world in the 1970s.
But there was something missing. There was always something missing.
A series of sad loan spells only delayed the inevitable, yet there remains a large constituency among Norwich fans who felt van Wolfswinkel was a victim of circumstance, a hostage to Hughton’s approach to top flight survival.
The striker finally departed in 2016 after two goals in 28 appearances; then promptly could not stop scoring at Vitesse Arnhem to help them lift the Dutch Cup and earn another big-money move to FC Basel.
Regrets, City fans have more than a few when it comes to a player bought to take the club to the level above, not the one below.
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