Former Norwich City hero relishing return to Carrow Road
Chris Lakey A familiar face from Norwich City's Milk Cup winning past will be back at Carrow Road today.Former Canaries favourite Chris Woods, now Everton's goalkeeping coach, will return to a ground where he shone during an eventful five seasons in the 1980s.
A familiar face from Norwich City's Milk Cup winning past will be back at Carrow Road today.
Former Canaries favourite Chris Woods, now Everton's goalkeeping coach, will return to a ground where he shone during an eventful five seasons in the 1980s.
Woods was City's custodian for more than 250 games between 1981 and 1986 and it is a spell he fondly recalls.
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Having joined the Canaries from Queens Park Rangers for �225,000 in March 1981, Woods went on to become a firm favourite with the City faithful. He was involved in two promotions to the top flight, was a cornerstone of the 1-0 win over Sunderland in the 1985 Milk Cup Final - which saw City taste Wembley success for the first-ever time.
“It's always great to come back to Norwich,” he said. “I really enjoyed my spell there as it was full of good times. Obviously we won the Milk Cup, were relegated then promoted again, so there was always something happening. A lot of great people worked at the club in my five seasons there, and all the lads got on very well,” he reflected.
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Amongst his highlights Woods revealed the Milk Cup triumph was a “great occasion” but also up there were the promotion campaigns when the Canaries had “really great seasons” and also breaking into the England set-up while at the club.
After leaving Norwich in a �600,000 deal in 1986, Woods went on to collect numerous medals during a trophy-laden spell with Rangers. And between November 1986 to January 1987, he set a British record by playing 1196 consecutive minutes of competitive football without conceding a goal. Now, 50-year-old Woods is passing on top tips to keepers in his role as goalkeeping coach at Everton - having been with the Merserysiders since 1998.
“Obviously I am looking forward to going back to Norwich again,” he said. “I guess a lot of the supporters these days may not remember me from my time at the club but I'm really looking forward to returning to Carrow Road.
“There have been a number of reunions held in recent years but they always seem to have fallen on a Sunday, making it difficult for me to get to Norwich and then back again for Monday morning training, but I still have a lot of friends from the club and it's good to see them.”
These Norwich-Everton links continued just last month, as Paul Lambert swooped to replace loan keeper Fraser Forster with rising starlet John Ruddy.
Woods had been influential in signing Ruddy from Cambridge for Everton a few years ago, and he admitted that his switch to East Anglia was a good move for him.
“John did really well in Scotland last season (while on loan at Motherwell) and I am sure he will do well at Norwich,” Woods said.
Everton were about to fly out to Australia for their pre-season tour, when the talented shot-stopper agreed to join the Canaries that day.
“John's move all happened before we were going away, so I didn't get the chance to speak to him, but I have spoken to him since and we've exchanged a few jokes amongst keepers,” Woods admitted. “I am sure he is looking forward to the game and taking on his former teammates. To be fair I hope it is a good game, and I really hope John has a good game as well. It's not very often you get to play your former club so quickly, and he will be up for it - I wish him all the very best.”
Replacing Ruddy at Goodison Park in the past week of training has been Jan Mucha, the Slovakian World Cup keeper, who joined the Toffees earlier this summer from Polish outfit Legia Warsaw. Both he and regular number one Tim Howard returned to Finch Farm this week after their extended breaks after the World Cup - and 27-year-old Mucha is determined to battle Howard for the starting spot.
“Jan's settling in okay and understands more English than he actually speaks, and so he's taking English lessons at the moment,” Woods revealed. “But he's had a hard week of training and he has to get used to us all, but I'm really looking forward to working with him and getting all the keepers together.”
Mucha joins fellow new signings Jermaine Beckford, Magaye Gueye and Joao Silva on Merseyside, and Woods revealed that the pre-season trip to Australia - where Everton won their first three games - was crucial in helping the new recruits settle.
“The new lads that have come in have had 18 days away in Australia and they got to know the lads during that period,” Woods said. “They were living in each others pockets and it was a good bonding time as we trained three times a day.”
Keen to keep their unbeaten pre-season run going, which was extended by a 3-0 win away at Preston last Saturday, Woods revealed that the Merseysiders would be going all out for victory today.
“Any game we go into we want to win,” he said. The manager is a real winner - in everything - he wants and expects 100pc commitment.
“Any season that we start we always go out there to win something and I know that, even if it doesn't perhaps materialise, our ambition is to go out there and win - you have to have that in football and we have got that at Everton,” Woods said.