Spud Thornhill: Bryan Gunn and Darren Eadie - it’s a joy to know them as heroes... and friends
How many people can say they are friends with their all-time favourite people or heroes?
Not many, I bet. But I can – another reason why I will always be grateful for following Norwich City.
There are people who are devout followers of big-name musicians - like my wife, who is a massive fan of Ipswich Town supporter Ed Sheeran (boo).
There are devout fans of other so-called big clubs, but I doubt any of these types of people will ever be able to meet or be friends with their hero. Unlike me.
My all-time favourite Norwich City players are Bryan Gunn and Darren Eadie. Gunny is so passionate and caring about our club, there won’t be another player quite like him. Then there is Eadie, who I watched come through the youth team into the first team, ripping teams apart. There is no doubt these two are top of my all-time heroes list and my favourite Canaries.
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When Gunny arrived to Norfolk in November, 1986, I was an 11-year-old, obsessed Canary. Those days, I would be at the ground at midday to greet the players as they got out of their cars in the club car park behind the River End stand. (It will never be a stand named after a sponsor in my eyes). I would walk beside Gunny with all the other regular City players like Steve Bruce, Kevin Drinkell and Ian Culverhouse as they walked to the players’ entrance, which was just beside the River End terracing.
Most of the players regularly made a fuss of me. I can even remember when we played Huddersfield in an FA Cup tie in heavy snow in January, 1987. I approached Bruce for him to sign my match programme – I’d get all the players to sign it before every game.
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Bruce was not keen on the snow: “Too much snow for me, Spud. Do you want play instead of me?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I replied. “‘Only joking, Spud,”
Gunny saw me regularly and soon got to know me. He always took the time to chat to me and the other regular fans who always greeted the players.
One of the all-time favourite photos I have in my house was taken when I was the referee for the centenary game in 2002 when a Norwich XI played Harwich & Parkeston. Gunny was City’s captain. There I am in the middle with Gunny, the Harwich captain and the two linesman.
Even after my fourth official appearance against Preston in 2017, Gunny contacted me that evening asking if I would like to be fourth official in the Legends game against Inter Milan. Gunny made sure that happened. The weekend of the game, Gunny was his normal amazing self to me and everyone he saw.
Not only is Gunny a great man, he was magnificent for the club. Far too many saves to talk about, and always putting the team and result first.
Then there is Darren Eadie. I loved watching him ever since I saw him play for the youth team. He then moved on to the reserves before breaking into the first team. I remember singing his praises so much before he played for the first team. I made sure every Norwich fan I knew, knew about him.
He was unlike many other players who I’ve praised – many came through the ranks only to fall away and not to have a career at Norwich.
I must admit, I think I may have embarrassed Eadie when I told him one of my two cats is called Eadie. The other is Wesley.
Now, when I see either Gunny or Eadie they always have time for a chat. And it’s not always football. Honestly. I’m sure they won’t mind me saying we are friends.
Move onto the present day and I can see both Gunny and Eadie in Tim Krul and Todd Cantwell.
I may not have watched Cantwell’s youth career as much as I did Eadie’s, but what I did see of Todd, I knew we had another huge star who is going to have a great career.
Those two may not have the long careers at Carrow Road like the former Norwich stars, but what these guys have done this season and, importantly, recently with their involvement off the pitch, has been first class.
In years to come I am sure there will be fans speaking highly of Todd and Tim like I do of the players of my youth.
I just wonder if there will be any cats called Toddy or Timmy.
Take care, stay safe