Johnny Gavin - a permanent place in the history books
Johnny Gavin’s place in the history books as Norwich City’s leading goal scorer is likely to remain forever.
The beautiful game is very different from that of 1948, when Gavin came over from Ireland to sign for the Canaries. Limerick-born Gavin had been working as a painter on railways and, despite interest from West Ham, decided to follow his pal, Kevin Holman, and sign for City.
The price: £1,500. The result: 132 goals in 338 games, stunning by any standards.
Gavin, inset, whose debut was against Bristol Rovers, had two spells at City - he moved to Spurs in 1954 and although he scored 15 goals in 32 games at White Hart Lane, he struggled to settle and in November 1955 he returned to Norwich as part of the deal that took Maurice Norman the other way. His first spell at City yielded 79 goals in 221 games with 53 goals in 117 appearances in his second period. He may not have settled in north London, but he clearly had a liking for Norfolk: his first game back was against Southend, and he scored four goals before bagging hat-tricks in four more games, against Bristol, Torquay, Gillingham and Reading. He brought his century up in September 1956 against Plymouth.
At the age of 30, Gavin decided it was time to move on and joined Fourth Division Watford, where he scored a dozen goals in 1958/59 before moving to Crystal Palace. He left Palace to play in non-league football, at Cambridge City and then Newmarket Town where he spent the 1962/63 season, the last of his playing career.
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He retired and ran a pub for a few years in Cambridge, where he lived until his death in September 2007, five years after being made an inaugural member of the Norwich City Hall of Fame..
Goalkeeper Ken Nethercott, who played with Gavin, said: “He was a great player. He could jump and was an excellent header of the ball. Most of his goals came from his head, and he wasn’t afraid to get hurt. He had a few broken noses scoring goals and, of course, the balls were much heavier then. He was very fast too.
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“He was a lovely chap.”
Gavin’s footballing career finished in 1963, after 15 years in England, where he scored a total of 165 goals in 463 league matches. In these days of multi-millionaire players and agents, players like Gavin are a rarity – it is unlikely his all-time Norwich City goal-scoring record will ever be surpassed.