Iwan Roberts: The friendly face of Big Dunc – and the other side!

PUBLISHED: 12:02 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:04 31 October 2019

Fans are giving Duncan Forbes a heartfelt send off today. Picture: Archant Library

Fans are giving Duncan Forbes a heartfelt send off today. Picture: Archant Library

Archant © 2008

It would be wrong of me to start this week’s column with anything but my tribute to the great Duncan Forbes, who sadly passed away last Thursday after being treated for dementia for many years.

Mike Milligan, centre, got the runaround from Duncan Forbes and Bruce Rioch Picture: Archant LibraryMike Milligan, centre, got the runaround from Duncan Forbes and Bruce Rioch Picture: Archant Library

When I signed for Norwich back on July 1, 1997 Duncan's was one of the first faces that welcomed me at the Colney training ground - and what a friendly face it was. He was still working for the club in a behind-the-scenes role at Colney and whenever a new player signed, Duncan would always be one of the first people to welcome them to Norwich City football club.

Duncan was such a lovely man and had the kindest nature about him and was always up for a laugh and a joke. Time and time again he'd have the lads in stitches with his little one-liners delivered with that magnificent Scottish voice that he had.

One memory that stands out in my mind about Duncan was the time he came along with Bruce Rioch to Earlham Park to watch us do some pre-season training.

We'd been there many times during this time of the season.

Mike Milligan was 'hauling a caravan up a hill' Picture: Archant LibraryMike Milligan was 'hauling a caravan up a hill' Picture: Archant Library

There was a cross country run we did which included a couple of laps of the lake near the UEA. However, this time Duncan had planted a little seed in the gaffer's head which had little to do with a cross country run. Instead, Duncan thought it would be a good idea if we did some hill sprints from the river all the way up to the little cafe near the top of the park.

At first we didn't think it was too bad; we were fit lads and a few hill sprints wouldn't hurt us! Well, that was until Bruce asked Duncan how many sprints he thought we should do and our jaws nearly hit the ground when Duncan shouted 20!!

Bruce, in his Norwich City staff kit with BR just above the badge, stayed at the start line near the river while big Duncan walked up to the top of the hill in his suit trousers, white shirt and black laced-up shoes.

He was sweating for fun by the time he'd reached the top.

And so it began. We were put into groups of five and took it in turns to churn these sprints out.

What made them even harder was that it was one of the hottest days of the year. Mike Milligan was in my group and it's fair to say he struggled after the first few, which Duncan realised and absolutely ripped the mickey out of him.

All you could hear around Earlham Park was Duncan's booming voice bellowing at Milly to get his backside from last place in the group and up with the front-runners.

I can hear him now screaming at the top of his voice, "come on, Mike Milligan, don't be last again. I could beat you in my slacks and shoes the pace you're running at"!

The lads were in stitches at what Duncan was shouting at Milly - but he left his best until last.

We came to our 20th sprint and we'd gone. We had nothing left in the tank. But neither Bruce nor Duncan would let us off that final sprint up that hill, that would have been too easy, and both were old school.

Before we all set off on the final sprint, Forbesy quickly had something to say. He kindly asked us that if we saw that Milly was struggling pulling his caravan up the hill on the final run would some of us be kind enough to help him!

Well that was it - we were all on the floor cracking up, and to be fair, even Milly saw the funny side of it and had a little giggle.

Duncan Forbes was a giant of a man on and off the pitch.

The word legend gets overused these days, but one thing is for sure - Duncan was a true and proper Norwich City legend and forever will be.

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