Norwich City top 100 appearances: Craig Fleming (11) – He was warned what would happen
PUBLISHED: 14:58 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:58 27 June 2017
Archant © 2006
382 appearances/13 goals
Craig Fleming had been warned. He may have been only 25 at the time – but Norfolk has that effect on people.
The defender had always enjoyed a good feeling in these parts, which made his decision to leave Oldham in 1997 for £600,000 that bit easier. A decade later, Fleming was being celebrated as a true City stalwart.
“I’m higher up the list than I thought,” smiled Fleming. “I’d started in the Premier League with Oldham as an 18-year-old and to be honest, Carrow Road was one of those grounds where I’d always done quite well at.
“You get that as a player. There are some places where you always seem to have a decent game, so I always had quite a nice feel for it.
“I always enjoyed playing at Carrow Road. It just felt right, even when I wasn’t playing for Norwich. You never have a clue you’ll spend that long somewhere when you first join, but obviously I did my homework on the place.
“I remember speaking to Joe Royle who’d spent a bit of time there and he basically said I’d end up retiring there if I go, it’s fantastic. So I’d been pre-warned to be honest with you. But to end up with what happened there, I didn’t think that would be the case when I first moved.
“I didn’t quite retire there because I had a little spell at Rotherham afterwards, but I’d more or less retired if I’m being honest with you.”
Fleming recalls City’s 2002 play-off final defeat to Birmingham on penalties “a low point and a high point all in one day”. But the second tier title of 2004 was the standout, and for more than one reason for Fleming.
“It was like a double whammy – winning the league and getting promoted, and then getting player of the season as well,” he added.
“I’d been runner up to Iwan (Roberts) a couple of times, so it was nice to finally get it. It was a massive honour to get it that year, but to be honest it probably could’ve been one from about 12 I would’ve thought. If any of us had got it that year, I don’t think anyone would’ve complained.”
Fleming’s 10 years were rewarded with a testimonial too – although his July 2006 fixture and apocalyptic downpour were not entirely in the spirit of the cause.
“It was a bit surreal to be honest,” added Fleming. “I remember it was a proper competitive game. Glenn Roeder was Newcastle manager at the time and he brought some Irish international winger off the bench towards the end, and I was playing right-back.
“This winger was absolutely lightening and I just remember Glenn shouting ‘get at him, get at him’ – and I thought, you haven’t really read this one have you?
“It wasn’t a normal testimonial where I end up scoring a penalty in the last five minutes. Instead I got the runaround from some kid.
Fleming added: “Maybe I stayed a little to long, but I didn’t want to play anywhere else. That was the truth of it.”