‘First team players would literally rip your heads off if you weren’t doing your job’ – Cureton
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHI
Lots of clubs, lots of goals, lots of appearances – Jamie Cureton’s story is a fascinating one, as Chris Lakey reports
Jamie Cureton was a precocious young talent in the mid-90s, but perhaps not the most dedicated of players in his formative days – and readily admits it.
Perhaps it was no surprise that the realities of playing alongside hardened pros and in front of paying supporters came as a shock to the cheeky pint-sized youngster from Bristol who had made Norwich is home while still a teenager.
Cureton had been spotted by City scouts in the west country and eventually began travelling to Norfolk with Darren Eadie. He scored nine goals in two games on trial, scored 82 times in 90 youth team matches and did pretty much the same with the reserves.
He was on the bench for the Uefa Cup games against Inter Milan and 16th man against Bayern in 1992 and made his senior debut against Everton on November 5 1994 and scored his first senior goal 13 seconds after coming on against Chelsea a month later.
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This was getting serious.
“I was a bit of a wayward kid, a bit cheeky,” said Cureton. “I just relied on ability a bit too much at that stage.
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“Once I stepped into that team it became properly real. The expectations – if you don’t do something right there is a lot more moaning, the expectations of the first team players – that was probably the biggest shock to me.
“First team players would literally rip your heads off if you weren’t doing your job. That was a bit of a shock. I had been around them for a long while, socialised with them and had banter, but never obviously played with them and they were different characters. We didn’t get paid loads but there were good win bonuses and that meant a lot to people and you suddenly realised these people were nice off the pitch but on the pitch it was their livelihood, their jobs and it was a case of this isn’t just fun, and that is how I treated it as a kid.
“I was used to playing on the streets, everything was fun and I loved football and I scored goals – I never had that playing for a specific reason.
“Youth team and reserves you were playing to get in a first team. All of a sudden you were in a first team and we are now playing for our livelihoods.
“There is a manager’s job on the line, there is three points, there is relegation, there is money, everything.
“It is not just a game now – you miss a chance or you don’t do this means everything to everyone. That was the best eye opener, this was life or death stuff.”
Cureton’s nomadic lifestyle began in 1996 when he was sold to hometown club Bristol Rovers in 1996. He went on to play for Reading, Busan, in South Korea, QPR, Swindon and Colchester before returning to Carrow Road, signed by Peter Grant, in 2006.
“I felt at the age I was at I never thought Colchester were going to challenge to get promoted,” Cureton said, speaking to the Non League Nosh podcast. “Hull had already bid for me and I had spoken to them and agreed a deal. Norwich came in for me and Charlton came in. I was under contract so I was stuck really. I was 31, just had the best year of my career – I can go and earn more money and to a club that potentially might get me to the Premier League and that was all I thought about. I was going to sign a three-year deal and with either of the clubs I would probably get a chance. I put a transfer request in, which didn’t go down well at all and in hindsight I probably didn’t need to do it because they were never going to turn down.”
But, despite there goals in his first two games, the return to Norfolk didn’t go particularly well.
“My career follows trend – even from being there as a youngster it was manager after manager. I think I had five when I was there as a kid, and I think four when I went back.
“Peter Grant buys me, pays nearly a million and within 10 games he walked out. I was gutted, I got on really well with him.
“Glenn Roeder – I played a lot under him, didn’t get on with him. I didn’t enjoy it, he was very rude, very disrespectful to everyone, not just players. I was an experienced player and I wouldn’t have it. I told him how I felt. I didn’t enjoy that period and the following season I went out on loan to Barnsley because I wanted games. He was bringing in loan player after loan player.
“The day he got sacked Bryan Gunn took over and he called me back instantly and I came back and scored on my return, against Barnsley.”
Cureton would end his second Norwich stint, under Paul Lambert, in 2010 when he went to Exeter, but the have boots will travel career goes on – he is currently playing for Hornchurch and has clocked up more than 1,000 career appearances and more than 350 goals.