When John Bond turned to Viv Busby to fill Ted MacDougall’s (big) boots
Viv Busby had an unenviable task when he was signed by John Bond as a ‘replacement’ for Ted Macdougall – Ed Couzens-Lake recalls Busby’s days at Carrow Road
It’s considered ‘good PR’ these days to bury bad news with a slightly more palatable alternative that helps to soften the initial upset felt.
John Bond knew enough how to handle a bad story back in 1976 - and he needed to. There was never going to be any way of extracting positives out of Ted MacDougall’s imminent departure from Carrow Road.
After 134 first team appearances and 62 goals, MacDougall found himself pining for Hampshire, so when Southampton waved a cheque for £40,000 in the direction of the Carrow Road boardroom, it was a case of “so long, and thanks for all the goals”.
The man given the singularly unenviable task of replacing MacDougall in the hearts and minds of Norwich supporters was 26-year-old Busby Busby, who joined the Canaries from Fulham for just £40,000, the same amount Norwich had received from Southampton for MacDougall.
Busby had hardly been aching to get away from Fulham. Far from it; he was very happy where he was. His mentor at Luton was manager Alec Stock, who rated Busby enough to take him to Fulham with him so, after 16 league goals in 77 league games for the Hatters, Busby headed off to the bright lights of London and Craven Cottage in time for the start of the 1973/74 season.
Moving to Fulham was a step up for Busby in no end of ways, not least the calibre of player he now found himself playing alongside.
“John Lacy, John Cutbush, Alan Mullery, Jimmy Conway... ”. A long pause follows before Busby speaks again. “... and Bobby Moore, of course”.
Busby played and scored in one of Fulham’s pre-season matches prior to the 1976/77 season. It was in the old Anglo Scottish Cup tournament at Craven Cottage, a 1-1 draw against the Canaries.
“I went around Duncan Forbes and Roger Hansbury to score that one. Believe me, not many people got around Duncan, bless him.”
Busby thought nothing more of it but, a little over a month after that game, he was summoned to Stock’s office.
“I wondered what I’d done wrong. Alec didn’t mess about, he said that Bondy (John Bond) had been on to him and that Norwich were interested in signing me as they needed a striker to replace Ted MacDougall.
“I wasn’t interested in moving and said so. I was happy at Fulham and didn’t feel as if I wanted to go anywhere else. But Alec wouldn’t listen, he went on to say that things were starting to happen at Fulham, new people were getting involved at the club and he thought that meant he probably wouldn’t be there himself for very much longer. He summed it all up by saying, ‘personally speaking, Viv, I think you should go’.
“What could I do? I went up to Norwich to have a chat with Bondy and he sold the club to me. No problem. He was quite a character, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But I could tell he wanted me at Norwich and that he was a manager who looked out for his players. So after not wanting to leave Fulham, it became an easy decision to do so in the end.
“I moved into a place near Long Stratton. There was a stud farm near us in the village which was really peaceful. We loved the country life we had up there, it was perfect as far as we were concerned, for bringing up our daughter.”
Busby’s best performance of that first season came in the New Year’s Day game at home to Leicester City when he became a member of that special breed of players who have scored a top-flight hat-trick for the Canaries. Norwich won 3-2 with one report of the game describing Busby as ‘rampant’.
The 1976/77 season was the only full campaign Busby had with Norwich – he ended it with 11 goals from 17 appearances, scoring stats that would unquestionably have been better had his season not been interrupted by a series of niggling injuries.
Norwich finished the season in 16th place. A little disappointing, perhaps, but there were grounds for optimism at the start of the following campaign which started with a 3-1 win at West Ham, the Canaries first away win in the league for nearly 18 months. Busby started the game in attack with Kevin Reeves and, despite a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City on September 3, a late Roger Gibbins goal against Bristol City a week later meant Norwich were ninth and looking more than capable of holding their own in the top flight for another year.
That game against the Robins turned out, however, to be Viv’s last for Norwich, with his sudden demise from the first team in the wake of that match as much a surprise to him as it was the club’s support, especially as the Canaries start to that season, if not spectacular, had certainly been a promising one.
Plenty of crossed words and a move to West Brom that fell through didn’t help Busby’s mood.
He had played in the game against Bristol City where, in front of a crowd of just 13,940 at Carrow Road, he didn’t even play the full 90 minutes after being substituted and replaced by Gibbins.
It seemed a case of ‘the King is dead, long live the King’.
“Sure enough, just after that game, another summons from Bondy who said, ‘Stoke are in for you, get up there and meet George Eastham’. He was an ex-player of theirs, a lovely man. Maybe too nice to be a manager, the complete opposite of Bondy”
“Stoke, of course, were in Division Two. So he wasn’t worried about selling me to them”.
Busby signed for Stoke and spent four years at the club.
John Bond was a larger than life football manager. But then Viv Busby was a larger than life professional footballer.
Which meant the sparks were always going to fly, both on and off the pitch.