Jon Otsemobor: Dion the Daddy and tales from the City dressing room
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Jon Otsemobor’s time at Norwich City, in a team struggling to recover from falling out of the top flight in 2005, tested fans and players alike. Here he reflects on some of the huge characters who left their mark on him at Carrow Road.
Jon Otsemobor never did get back to the Premier League, but Norwich City was a big part of his footballing life.
The 37-year-old retired from professional football early, at Tranmere in 2014, but played more league games for the Canaries than any of his other nine clubs in a career that started out at Liverpool for the boyhood Red.
Otsemobor is an infrequent visitor to Norfolk these days but still owns the house he bought during a two-and-a-half-year stint, that saw him work with six different managers.
“I think Norwich, QPR and a couple of other clubs came in when I was at Crewe. I did it right and went to the clubs and spoke to them and visited the places and tried to get a feel for it,” he said. “At the time when I went to Norwich – everybody there supports Norwich – and I have to say I really enjoyed my time living down there.
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“The team wasn’t having the best of times most of the period I was there but I still have my house.
“I must have had that for 10 or 12 years now. I haven’t been back but I still speak to some of the lads in that part of the world.
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“When I went they had not long been relegated from the Premier League and I think there was still hopes they could get back there. That was another reason for me, I thought it might be a quick trip back to the Premier.
“Peter Grant signed me and he left in the October.
“We were going through a bad time on the pitch and his children were getting it at school. He was a top fella and an excellent coach but it was the first time he had been a manager.”
One of Otsemobor’s clearest early Norwich memories was an uncomfortable meeting with Dion Dublin.
“When I went there he was 38 or 39 and I was 24 and I remember speaking to Dave Carolan (fitness coach) and he said the lads here are fit, you better look after yourself during pre-season,” he recalls.
“I thought I always did that anyway so I wasn’t too worried, and it was like the second day in, doing these runs, and I got to that point where your mind is telling you to stop running.
“I had never had that at any of my other clubs but I did that day and the only reason was Dion Dublin was lapping me at 38.
“How on earth is this man doing those runs? We just kept doing it and I was completely out on my feet.
“He is the fittest 39-year-old I have ever come across in my life. But he was a top man. Like a father figure at times for the whole dressing room. Like if any of the lads had a problem, whether it was football-related or not, you felt comfortable going to speak with him. He was really good with me.”
Otsemobor had no such affection for Glenn Roeder, but could see the club was on the up again after working with Paul Lambert in the early part of his reign, until rival right back Russell Martin arrived midway through the League One title-winning triumph marked 10 years ago last week.
“Whether you were in the team, the bench or the stands you were rooting for him and the team to do well,” said Otsemobor, speaking on the Under The Cosh podcast hosted by a former City team-mate Chris Brown and fellow forward Jon Parkin. “Lambert is one of my favourite managers. The way he could rally the lads and his team talks. He would get all the lads together in the changing room and he would have them revved up.
“They went on and went straight up again to the Premier League.
“I know in that period he was loved there and a lot of that was down to the togetherness he had with the players.
“There was one spell before he came I was going through a bad period with the supporters. We had a lot of loan players in the team at one time.
“There might have only been me, Jamie Cureton and David Marshall contracted to the club. The rest was built on loan players, so everyone is playing for different things; we wanted to stay in the league, they were playing for the next thing in their careers. We got relegated and for those nine loan players it didn’t affect them.
“So I wasn’t playing so well and I remember him pulling me in front of all the lads after he came in and saying I did well in a particular game. It was something I needed and he recognised it.
“When I came out of the team I was suffering with injuries and, Russell Martin, a really good right back he brought in, did really well for him.
“So I thought it was the right time to leave, and there was Alan Pardew at Southampton who wanted to take me.
“I remember not so long after we played Norwich and I was getting abuse from the Snake Pit.
“But that is part and parcel of the game and we won that day so I wasn’t too bothered.”