Norwich City’s top 100 appearances: Rob Newman (40) – The lionhearted character who won over the Canaries faithful and captained the side in Europe in the process
249 appearances/17 goals
When Rob Newman sits back and takes a moment to think about his football career, you imagine he is pretty short on regrets. If there are any at all.
Shelling out £600,000 back in 1991 was a sizeable fee for Norwich City to spend, on a 27-year-old who had already notched a testimonial with his boyhood club Bristol City.
From there Newman’s heart and character ensured he was a significant part of arguably the greatest ever Canaries side.
“I joined Bristol City straight from school, so to actually have 10 years there was fantastic for me and it’s still a club close to my heart,” said Newman.
“But in those days we never had a lot of money. By the time I was in my twenties I’d already played a hundred games and it stood me in good stead. When Norwich bought me I’d played my first season in the second division and I’d have loved to have played in the Premier League with Bristol City – but that wasn’t going to happen.
“The move to Norwich was like a step up. I couldn’t really turn it down and I don’t think Bristol City could either. It was a good fee.
“They were similar clubs so I didn’t feel like I was going into a cavern. It was a smooth transition. Obviously there were better quality players at Norwich and I hoped that would make me a better player.
“I remember the first few training sessions and I was a bit bamboozled, scratching my head thinking jeez, these are good players. But then you rise to the occasion and it brings the best out of you as well. It was a fantastic experience for me.”
Maybe that would have been the case anyway. But what began as a shiny novelty turned into the most special of rides.
“We didn’t have a clue that would happen. It was unbelievable,” said Newman.
“I can remember going in there for the first couple of games. Because I’d never experienced playing against the top players in the top league in England, every time I was lining up against them – going out at Old Trafford, Anfield, White Hart Lane – you were thinking, I don’t care what the results is. I’m just happy to be on this pitch.
“Then when kick-off comes, it’s 11 versus 11, you’re playing for Norwich and you’re trying to win the game. So that’s how it started, but to actually achieve what we did in that first Premier League, to come third, it was unreal. It was a fantastic achievement even then, for a club of our size.
“As for Europe, it was luck wasn’t it? If Arsenal hadn’t won both cup competitions, we wouldn’t have played in the Uefa Cup.
“Because we failed to finish in the top two we felt we’d underachieved that season. So when that happened, it felt like someone was looking down on us. Then the rest was history.
“To be involved in that run was memorable, and it felt like such an achievement to be captain in one of those games too – given not so many years ago I was travelling to Darlington with Bristol City.
“When you do get chances like that, you appreciate them because of what you’ve been through and you feel like you’ve earned them over the last 10 years. When you’re not technically gifted, you have to work hard to get chances like that – and I fully appreciated what was being given to me.”
Newman’s seven years at Carrow Road underpinned that desire – and the City fans respected him for it.
It arguably made him Mr Dependable having played up front, in the middle and at the back for the Canaries. Even in goal.
“It comes back to the old comment: jack of all trades, master of none,” said Newman. “I remember Bryan Gunn getting sent off at Sheffield United back in 1995 as we were walking down the tunnel at half time, and Martin O’Neill asking who wanted to go in goal.
“I said I’d go in and I was gutted. It was 1-1 and the defence in front of me were fantastic. They really protected me, until one good ball came across and I thought I could go up and catch it.
“I completely missed it, they scored, we lost. I can tell you, goalkeeper is the loneliest position on the football pitch.”
Newman added: “It’s still a joke now, that when you never had pace you never lose pace. But to achieve what I did, I must have been half-decent in terms of football knowledge and football brain.
“The fans at both Bristol City and especially Norwich, I had a great rapport with. They knew my capabilities and that if it wasn’t happening, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. People appreciate that.”