An enduring love affair for a Frenchman on tour with City
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 April 2020
Jean-Yves de Blasiis was one of Norwich’s first overseas imports, but injury curtailed his Carrow Road career. Here he tells Connor Southwell how much his brief stay meant to him, and why he will always be a yellow.
Q How do you reflect upon your time at Norwich City?
A My time at Norwich was and remains today a magic stage as a footballer but also as a man. Aside from my injury this experience was only positive. I met people at the club but also outside who helped me and my family to adapt. I was so well received. I would have liked to end my career in Norwich, whatever the salary.
Q How did your move to Norwich come about? It was rarer for foreign players to play in England at that time in the late 1990s.
A Yes, when I arrived in Norwich, the football market had just opened up in Europe and I always felt the urge to play in England. Cédric (Anselin’s) presence and advice helped me a lot. I played at Red Star 93, a Paris club in the second division of the French league at the time and as I was not a star, we had to give it a try.
I was the second French player after Cédric to sign in Norwich, but apart from the language barrier, which I quickly overcame, I did everything to adapt to the club culture. At the age of 26, it was the first time I had to go for a trial in my career.
My agent prepared me well and mentally I felt strong. I only had one week to convince the manager. There were two friendly matches and Bruce Rioch wanted me to participate in a pre-season tour of Sweden to confirm his first impressions. During that period he offered me a two year contract and the adventure began for my family and me.
Q What was it like working under Bruce Rioch?
A I was impressed by his charisma. He immediately made me feel I had his confidence, but also what was required of me. I loved working with him. He is one of the best managers I played under.
He had this ability to congratulate you on the positives but also to be hard on the negative points, but always with the will to make you progress.
My knee injury and his departure were very hard to live with.
Q Yes, that injury just after Rioch left kept you out for Bryan Hamilton’s entire spell and then Nigel Worthington eventually decided to let you go. How hard was that period?
A Just before the derby with Ipswich (March 2000) I felt my left knee go. At the time, I was doing weight training sessions to try and be more efficient. That was a mistake, my injury was entirely my fault. It clearly curbed my career in England.
I took six months to come back to the field but 12 months to return to my best level. During this absence, Bruce Rioch left, he was replaced by Bryan Hamilton but he too had left by the time I returned. Nigel Worthington arrived, he didn’t know me, I was less efficient and he did not want to keep me.
Nigel did a good job as a manager, but as a person, I didn’t like him.
He was the complete opposite of Bruce Rioch. I criticised him in the newspapers when I left.
I should have kept my mood to myself but I was so disappointed not to stay in Norwich, (it was) a scar that took a long time to close.
Q Despite the way it ended do you have positive memories from your time at Norwich City?
A I only have fond memories of Norwich. Some of my best friends call me English because I often refer to my two seasons at Norwich City.
I remember the atmosphere of Carrow Road and especially the songs of the fans are etched in my memory. Sometimes during a sporting occasion now, I shout ‘Come On You Yellows’ and people look at me like I am a fool, but I know what it means. I remember the derby against Ipswich, and all the other games, magic moments.
I hope one day in the future I can visit Norwich and the region again with my two daughters, who are now 21 and 23, but who were three and five at the time. I stayed less than two years but I remain very attached to the moments I experienced.
Q How helpful was it to have Cedric Anselin at the club?
A Cédric was a very important point of support for my arrival in Norwich. Thanks to his advice, his knowledge of the club and the people, he allowed me to adapt much faster. At the time his English was a disaster while today he speaks better English than French.
We were able to support each other and not be isolated in the dressing room, but all the people were kind at the club.
Q Do you watch the current team under Daniel Farke and do you have a message for Norwich City supporters?
A I don’t watch much football on television, but I watch the results and the life of the club in the media. I prefer this kind of trainer to those who start their career with millions to spend and the best players.
I’m not sure many supporters remember me, but thank you for asking the question in this sense.
I want to show them deep respect and tell them thank you for pushing me even when I was less efficient.
I am marked for life by my passage in Norwich and the few minutes on the lawn of Carrow Road.
‘COME ON U YELLOWSSSSSSS’