Farewell to Graham, a Canary golden boy

David Cuffley Somewhere in a dark corner of my loft is a big cardboard box stacked to the brim with copies of Shoot! magazine. There is more than one box, in fact, as I had every issue delivered for the first 10 years it was published.

David Cuffley

Somewhere in a dark corner of my loft is a big cardboard box stacked to the brim with copies of Shoot! magazine.

There is more than one box, in fact, as I had every issue delivered for the first 10 years it was published.

The magical first copy came out at the start of the 1969-70 season with a picture of guest columnist Bobby Moore on the cover, and free inside were those cardboard “league ladders” where you could plot your team's progress each week.

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The centre spread was usually a colour team picture, and Shoot! was not on the market long before it was Coventry City's turn to feature, the Sky Blues squad lined up proudly behind manager Noel Cantwell.

There, somewhere in that team line-up was a fair-haired 19-year-old called Graham Paddon. I can't recall whether the words (now Norwich) appeared in brackets after his name but they may well have done because, by October 1969, he had become manager Ron Saunders' second major signing at Carrow Road for what proved to be a bargain £25,000.

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It was quite a month. Concorde broke the sound barrier for the first time, the 50p coin came into circulation, Rupert Murdoch bought The Sun and Monty Python's Flying Circus made its TV debut. And a Manchester-born teenager called Graham Paddon signed for Norwich.

Little did anyone realise the significance of Saunders' shrewd recruitment policy as he gradually made valuable additions to his existing staff with the capture of striker Peter Silvester and midfielders Paddon and Doug Livermore.

For his first couple of seasons in charge, the Canaries were solid but unspectacular in Division Two. They stubbornly refused to move far above mid-table in my slightly dog-eared league ladders, finishing 11th then 10th.

But come the start of the 1971-72 campaign, Sau-nders' careful team building began to bear fruit, with attacking midfielder Paddon to the fore. His lethal left foot secured City's first point with a penalty at Luton on the opening day - the first of his 10 goals in all competitions that season.

The Canaries went the first 13 league games unbeaten at the start of that golden title-winning season, their super fitness giving them the edge, as Paddon once recalled.

“That was one of the reasons we did get promotion, because we weren't the greatest talented team, although we did have a lot of talent, but our fitness was far superior to anyone else in the league,” he said.

“Ron said to me 'You'll be a decent player when you get fit'. I said 'I am fit'. He said 'Not my fitness'. Mousehold used to terrify me.”

Terrifying or not, Saunders' methods paid dividends and Paddon, the golden boy, played his full part in a memorable march to the Division Two championship. In the closing stages of the season, he scored twice in the 5-1 home win over Blackpool, supplied the cross for skipper Duncan Forbes' priceless winner at home to Swindon, and tucked away his fourth successful penalty of the campaign on the night the Canaries clinched promotion with a 2-1 win at Orient.

“I believe some guy even cut out the penalty spot and took it home as a souvenir,” remembered Paddon years later.

The following season, City's first in Division One, brought more glory and a further 12 goals for Paddon in all competitions. They didn't lose a single game in which he scored that season, with his hat-trick in the League Cup quarter-final at Arsenal - exactly 35 years ago last Wednesday - the undoubted highlight en route to the Canaries' first Wembley appearance.

With his long, flowing hair and beard, he was every bit the dashing Cavalier in a team often unfairly dismissed as Roundheads.

Such success inevitably brought attention from the more fashionable clubs and when Saunders resigned in 1973, new boss John Bond had been in the job just a few days when he struck a deal with former club West Ham, swapping Paddon for striker Ted MacDougall plus £30,000.

Paddon's arrival triggered the Hammers' recovery from the threat of relegation, while City went down. An FA Cup final win over Fulham in 1975, a place in the European Cup Winners' Cup final against Anderlecht the following year and an England Under-23 cap against Hungary were the highlights of his time at Upton Park, and he later described West Ham as “undoubtedly the best club I played for”.

But it was to Norwich he returned in November 1976 when Bond paid £110,000 to recapture the player he had previously sold.

Alas, for Paddon, a broken leg at Sunderland in his third match back wiped out the rest of his 1976-77 campaign, and for the next two seasons, he did not command a regular place in the side.

He was seldom as potent an attacking player in his second spell with the Canaries, but was virtually an ever present in his last two full seasons under Bond, then Ken Brown, who made him captain in 1981 after Kevin Bond's departure.

With Paddon as skipper and new recruits such as Chris Woods, Dave Watson and Martin O'Neill playing a key role, City almost pulled off a heroic escape from relegation.

Fittingly, the last of Paddon's 37 goals for Norwich came against his first club, Coventry, whose fans were set to join in the special tribute to their former player before kick-off at today's Championship match at Carrow Road.

In all, Paddon made 340 appearances for the Canaries, 197 in his first spell and 143 in his second, and earned a place in the club's Hall of Fame. In 2002, he returned for the 30th anniversary reunion of Saunders' title-winning squad.

Graham Paddon's sudden death at his Norfolk home, at the age of 57, was announced on Monday. He leaves a partner, Sandra, and children Guy, Jenny and Heather.

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