Iwan Roberts: How I could have shaped the future of Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 May 2018
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Delia Smith has often said that Norwich fans are the best in the world and she’s absolutely spot on.
You are a very special bunch and once again you showed it last Saturday by giving Wes Hoolahan the send off that he deserved as the curtains came down on his 10-year, 350 games and 53 goals Norwich City Football Club career.
Unfortunately I wasn’t at Carrow Road, however it looked a very emotional afternoon and rightly so, it’s not everyday you have to say goodbye to such a magnificent player as Wes. His face as he walked off to a standing ovation for the very last time at Carrow Road told you exactly how he was feeling.
Fourteen years ago I went through exactly the same thing, a send off that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and even though I smiled all the way round that lap of honour with Ben, Eva and Chase, my three children, I was hurting inside.
I was devastated to be leaving the club that I loved.
So what’s next for Wes? He will surely carry on playing as he’s looked after himself and is still in great condition and is as fit as a fiddle!
He will have plenty of options, I’m sure. It is going to be tough for him to walk into a new changing room after walking into the same one for 10 years, that’s for sure.
I had a few options when I left Norwich and it wouldn’t have mattered which one I’d taken, it wouldn’t have been the right one as quite simply it wouldn’t have been Norwich City.
I’ve said on a few occasions the treatment I received at Gillingham after Andy Hessenthaler stepped down as manager finished my career.
But I’ve thought about it long and hard over the years and if I’m honest with myself the minute I walked out of the reception door at Carrow Road for the very last time was the minute my career came to an end.
I simply didn’t want to play for any other club or live in any other part of the country.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but a few weeks before the end of the 2003-04 season I was interviewed for the Norwich youth team manager’s job as Keith Webb was taking over the reserve team.
I’d passed my B-license coaching course and was keen to progress into that part of the game and saw this opportunity as an ideal chance to do that at the club that I loved.
It was my first and last interview and I had no idea what to expect.
When I walked into the manager’s office at Carrow Road I was more nervous than when I made my debut for Watford when I was just 17.
Waiting in the room were then club secretary Kevan Platt and club director and my good friend Michael Foulger.
We sat there for nearly an hour talking football, the season we’d had and what I thought I’d bring to the role as youth team manager if I was given the role.
They obviously knew my passion for the club and how committed I would be in that role and the feeling that I got after I’d answered all their questions was that they would have liked myself to have taken over from Keith Webb.
However there was one stumbling block and it was a big one!
That big stumbling block was I’d have to stop playing football to fully concentrate on my new role, which I totally understood.
The problem was I hadn’t been told that my contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired in June and deep down I still thought that I’d be offered one more season at the club.
Had I known at the time what I found out a few weeks later I probably would have taken the opportunity of becoming the club’s next youth team manager, but seeing as I was 35 years old I still felt fit and strong and wanted to carry on playing for at least a couple more years, hopefully with Norwich in the Premier League.
I politely told them both that as a football player you’re a long time finished and I wasn’t quite ready to hang my boots up just yet and thanked them both and left the room.
We all know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but sadly I had no idea I was going to be released a few weeks later otherwise I think I would have made a very different decision at the time.