‘I was so buzzing to sign for Norwich’ - Chadwick reflects on a turbulent time at the Canaries
Luke Chadwick clearly had the pedigree but Norwich City never really saw the best of the former Manchester United ace. Here he opens up to Paddy Davitt on his Carrow Road spell.
Injury may have prevented Luke Chadwick from regularly showcasing his talent to Norwich City fans, but be in no doubt he was a class act.
Good enough to be coveted by both Arsenal and Manchester United in his youth as a precociously gifted attacking player plucked from a small village in deepest Cambridgeshire.
Chadwick chose Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson, but by his own admission had limited opportunities to impress trying to dislodge first David Beckham and then Cristiano Ronaldo on the grandest of stages. But that perseverance, which first brought him to the attention of the Reds, also saw him overcome numerous injuries to play more than 500 professional games for a number of clubs.
Fittingly he finished in the professional ranks at Cambridge United.
It was those strong family ties that first made a switch to Norwich in 2006 so attractive. Where Nigel Worthington had failed a few months earlier, Peter Grant would succeed. A man-of-the-match display in Stoke’s 5-0 Championship home win over the Canaries in between helped sealed the move.
“I remember that game. I remember playing quite well. I think I set a couple of goals up and scored one,” he said. “After that match I spoke to Peter Grant and he said he would be interested in taking me and I let him know my situation in trying to get back to East Anglia. When they first came in (earlier that summer) I asked Tony Pulis, who was the gaffer at the time, for permission to speak to Norwich with a view to going there, purely for the reason that I was living in Stoke on my own while my wife and children were back home.
“It was an opportunity to get back down south but the manager told me that I was an important part of his plans.
“It was a no go at that time, but I think he perhaps noticed I was struggling a bit away from the pitch as time went on, with all the travelling up and down and not having that much structure in my life.
“Tony was an incredible man and he took on board the side away from actual football and eventually let me go.”
Less than three weeks after destroying the Canaries he emerged into the cauldron of an East Anglian derby wearing the green and yellow - an assault on the senses on every level.
“I was taken to watch both Ipswich and Norwich as a child and you understand around here it is a massive, massive game,” he said. “To have that as my debut was obviously hugely exciting. I was so buzzing to sign for Norwich.
“I remember we were under the cosh and I scored against the run of play to make it 1-0, and it doesn’t get any better than that on your debut playing for Norwich at Ipswich and the crowd singing your name. Then we were up against it and they scored twice and towards the end I remember getting whacked off the pitch and sort of going down. I had a terrible cut on the knee, I had dislocated my shoulder, and was badly winded.
“I remember spending the next couple of days in Ipswich hospital so I guess you could say it was a sweet start that turned into a bitter one.
“I was operated on that same night because they were worried about infection.”
Sadly, injury would be a constant in Chadwick’s Carrow Road career. It would also prevent him from justifying Grant’s faith after the Scot departed three months into his second season.
“Granty was a brilliant man. Had a fantastic playing career, brilliant coach, but that time at Norwich there was a period where no manager could really seem to get it right until perhaps Paul Lambert went in there and drove the club on again,” he said. “I remember the final QPR game, the winning goal was so scrappy. A terrible game and we had been on a bad run. It was sad for me personally to see Peter go. It wasn’t as if the players had turned or anything like that. He was a popular guy and the players had a lot of time for him.
With bad results players lose confidence, the staff lose confidence and probably the manager does as well. He made that decision for him and his life. I don’t think he was enjoying it at time so you never know with time if he had got it right. He did what he thought was best for the football at the time.”
A long-standing shoulder problem prevented Chadwick emerging as a key figure for Glenn Roeder following a bright start. It was the start of the end.
“When he first came, for maybe a month or so I had got myself fit and was playing the best football I did at Norwich, albeit for a short period, but the shoulder was really a problem,” he said.
“I could still play the games but the physio and the surgeon said you had to think about the longer term and your mobility later in life. I was starting to get a bit of decent form together so it was disappointing to be out for another three or four months.
“Then when I came back for the following season it was just in my head that things hadn’t worked out here and maybe I needed a fresh start.
“I went and spoke to the manager and said I felt it was time to move on. He did want me to stay and be part of the squad but I wasn’t convinced I would be starting the games.
“It was such a sad spell, in terms staying fit at Norwich, but living in Cambridge when MK Dons came in that was ideal. I knew I was dropping down a league and I would be in the team and it was up to me to make it work going there.”