Norwich City top 100 appearances - Robert Fleck (24): Two spells guaranteed Fleck's place in Canaries hall of fame
As our summer series moves into the top 25 of Norwich City's top 100 appearances, DAVID FREEZER looks back on the hard work and goals which made ROBERT FLECK such a popular Canaries striker.
299 appearances, 84 goals
Just three players managed more goals for Norwich City then tenacious Scotland international Robert Fleck.
The Glasgow-born striker scored 84 goals across two spells and eights seasons with the Canaries to sit fourth in the club’s all-time top scorers list.
Almost half, 41, of those came in the top flight to emphasise further the ability the Scot displayed during his time with Norwich – with only John Deehan (48) and Martin Peters (42) having scored more for City at English football’s top table.
Made the breakthrough with boyhood club Rangers and scored an impressive 29 goals in 85 games to persuade Dave Stringer to pay a club-record fee of £580,000 for his services in December 1987.
His work rate made him a hit with supporters and 66 goals were scored in 181 appearances during his first spell, his first Carrow Road goal being the winner in a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the First Division in March 1988.
Fleck missed the FA Cup semi-final loss against Everton at Villa Park in 1989 due to his father passing away but played in the 1992 semi-final defeat to Sunderland at Hillsborough – famously using an oxygen tent to help recover from a broken rib in time.
He joined Chelsea for £2.1million in August 1992 but scored just three goals in 40 games and, after brief loans at Bolton and Bristol City, he returned to Carrow Road at the start of the 1995-96 season, with a loan soon being made permanent for £750,000.
A further 18 goals in 118 games followed during a difficult time for City following relegation from the Premiership and Mike Walker allowed him to join Reading for £50,000 in March 1998, retiring a year later due to a back injury after limited success with the Royals, aged 33.
Enjoyed success in non-league as a player and manager with Gorleston, leading the Greens to the Norfolk Senior Cup in 2001, and also led Diss Town to Senior Cup success in 2003 and 2005.
Fleck has scouted for the Canaries at times since leaving Diss in 2006 but mostly works as a teaching assistant at a Norwich school for children with complex special needs, Parkside.
The former City striker spoke about his career change and life in Norfolk in an interview with this newspaper last year, having lived in Poringland for many years and run his ‘Football with Flecky’ after-school sessions, which led to him hiring the hall at Parkside.
“At the end of term they would ask me to come and do some football with some of their children,” he explained. “Whether they saw something in me then, I don’t know, but one day one of the teachers, who lives in my village, came knocking on my door and said there was a job coming up.”
The post was as a teaching assistant, working across the curriculum at the school for seven to 16-year-olds, and he was asked to attend an interview.
“This was literally the first interview I had ever had,” Fleck said. “Was I nervous? That is an understatement. I was sweating, I could hardly speak.
“I never had an interview in football, not as a player or manager so I’ll never forget walking into that room, there was the headmaster, the deputy head and a vicar. And the deputy was from Edinburgh and I’m from Glasgow and I thought ‘I’m not getting the job!’.”
He did get the job though and the man who had been City’s leading scorer for four seasons and played for Scotland in the 1990 World Cup, has loved the change of pace.
“I really enjoy helping the children, whether it’s working with them in the classroom or with life skills out in the city,” he continued. “And I try to make things fun. Life doesn’t have to be too serious. I try and bring a bit of sunshine!”
He left school without qualifications to begin his professional career with Rangers and said: “I would never, ever have thought that I would be working in a school. I hated school! I wasn’t very good at anything except sport so I’m still learning now. It’s great – and more important than football.”
Not that he isn’t grateful for his previous career, which was also rewarding.
“We were paid a lot of money,” he said. “But people don’t always know what footballers do for charity. When I first came down here I got involved with a young lad who didn’t have long to live.”
He is happy to not live off past glories though, adding: “No, I’m Robert, the teaching assistant. It’s like that was a different person. This is my ambition, being here. I’m quite happy to do what I’m doing.”