Farewell gentleman Ken, hero of heroes
DAVID CUFFLEY Tributes have been paid to one of Norwich City's all-time greats after the death of goalkeeping hero Ken Nethercott.
Tributes have been paid to one of Norwich City's all-time greats after the death of goalkeeping hero Ken Nethercott.
The Canaries' FA Cup giant-killer and former England B international died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital yesterday at the age of 82.
Former team-mate Terry Allcock described Nethercott as “second to none”. Sandy Kennon, his successor in goal, said he was “a real hero”.
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In an age when the word “legend” is too freely applied to former players, no one would dispute Nethercott's right to legendary status - except the man himself, forever modest about his achievements in well over a decade at Carrow Road and always keen to stay out of the spotlight.
The Bristol-born keeper did Army service in Italy before he was signed by City manager Cyril Spiers, and made his first team debut at Northampton in a Division Three South game in September 1947, just a week after being demobbed.
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In all, he played 416 times for City between 1947 and 1959, putting him eighth in the club's all-time appearance list, and is best remembered for his heroism in the game that proved to be his last.
It was in the FA Cup quarter-final at Sheffield United on February 28, 1959, that Nethercott dislocated his shoulder with half an hour remaining and City trailing 1-0.
However, in the days before substitutes, he insisted on carrying on as they fought back to draw 1-1 and earn a replay.
Nethercott had helped Archie Macaulay's third division side knock out Manchester United and Tottenham in previous rounds, but alas, the injury at Bramall Lane ended his career.
Years later, he recalled: “Lots of players with bad injuries carried on playing in those days. That's what you did because teams didn't have substitutes. If you went off the field, you were letting the side down, so if at all possible you ignored the pain and got on with it. It was only for half an hour and I had nothing to do, so it didn't matter.”
Allcock has no doubts about Nethercott's rightful place in City history.
He said: “That game was a reflection of the type of man Ken was. I broke my collarbone once and the pain was excruciating, so I know what it was like, but he played on with one hand. Sadly that proved to be his last game.
“I played at Norwich with Kevin Keelan, Sandy and other goalkeepers in between but Ken was the best of the lot, in my opinion.
“He was brave, his use of the ball was second to none and as a person he was so unassuming. Ken was a very quiet, modest, likeable guy.
“He was the perfect gentleman on and off the field. I recall games when he played the opposition almost on his own and then he'd come in afterwards and shake hands with the rest of us in the dressing room and say 'Well done'.”
Kennon, the South African who stepped in for the 3-2 replay win over the Blades and played for City for the next five years, described his predecessor as “a real hero” and remembered one “miraculous” save Nethercott made from Tottenham's Bobby Smith in the fifth round replay in 1959.
He said: “Smith had got up high and knocked the ball over the keeper's head. And Ken dived backwards and just managed to tip it over the bar - it was just magnificent. At that time I remember thinking 'What have I done?' I'd come to Norwich to play, and I couldn't see how I was going to get him out of the team.”
The FA Cup provided another of the highlights of Nethercott's career when City beat Liverpool 3-1 in 1951. His one international outing came for England B in a 2-2 draw against Scotland in Edinburgh in 1953.
Oddly, and to City's eternal shame, Nethercott was never granted a testimonial.
He played briefly for Norwich City B team - “but I felt like a grandfather with all those young boys” - then for Wisbech, then spent 25 years working for Rowntree Mackintosh. He lived at Drayton Road, Norwich.
Roy Blower, Lord Mayor of Norwich and a lifelong City fan, described it as “a very sad day”.
He said: “I find it very difficult to put into words. Ken was a great man - one of life's true gentlemen. People like that come along once in a blue moon.
“I remember standing behind the goal at Bramall Lane on the day he was injured and he was Mr Courageous to play on like he did and, of course, it ended his career.
“I sponsored the banners with pictures of Ken and Johnny Gavin at Carrow Road because they were two of my heroes and now they have gone within a few months of each other.”
Ken Nethercott leaves a widow, Edith, one daughter and a son-in-law.
His funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium, Horsham, on Monday, December 24 (10.15am).
The club will consult with his family before deciding on any formal tributes.