Memory Lane: All Earnie wanted was that loving feeling
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press/Evening News
Robert Earnshaw was City’s biggest goal threat at the start of the 2006-07 season when he spoke Paddy Davitt
Norwich’s deadly striker Robert Earnshaw just wants a little loving. The Welsh wizard was a free-scoring bright spark in an otherwise depressing end to the Canaries miserable Championship campaign last season.
Earnshaw banished any lingering West Brom-induced demons with eight goals in 13 starts before a brace for the Principality ended a 20-month shortage against Trinidad and Tobago.
The likeable hitman memorably penned his own Hawthorns postscript when suggesting he needed to turn “water into wine” to curry favour with Bryan Robson after a fractious 17-month stint.
Clearly Nigel Worthington is a firm believer in Earnshaw’s powers. Having sanctioned a sizable six-figure dip into the Carrow Road coffers the Norwich manager came out fighting when the summer transfer-merry-go-round stopped briefly in Norfolk. Worthington scotched talk of a reunion with former international boss Mark Hughes, and bullishly proclaimed the little Welshman was a key cornerstone in Norwich’s chances of a Premiership return – sweet music to the 25-year-old’s ears.
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“To hear stuff like that is brilliant,” he says. “You do everything you can to impress the manager and coaching staff and for him to speak about me in that way makes you feel very good. I must be doing something right. I didn’t really know too much about the Blackburn speculation until I actually came back to training – to be honest I don’t think about those things. I’ve been linked to this club or that plenty of times in the past and until someone contacts me to say there is something in it I don’t pay any attention.
“I only want to play football. That’s the thing I focus on – I’m ambitious like anyone else and want to test myself in the top leagues and top competitions. At 25 all I’m thinking about is getting better and better.”
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Earnshaw readily admits he was in no rush to reach for the bucket and spade after a seamless transition to life in Norfolk.
“Part of me definitely didn’t want the season to end,” he says. “It was going so well at club level and then scoring for my country and playing regularly – I just wanted more games. When you move to a new club and a new place it can be quite tough.
“West Brom was the first time in my career and it did feel strange. You are trying to fit in with the coaching staff and players from the start and show them what you can do. I just settled in straight away at Norwich. The boys here were great to me and I scored early on so that helped. Norfolk is a nice place to live as well. I like being out in the countryside where it’s peaceful – the only thing is you are so far away from the rest of the country.”
The Zambian-born attacker – a veteran of three football league promotion campaigns with Cardiff – is confident the Canaries can sneak up on the rails in what undoubtedly looks a high class Championship field.
“It’s a tough looking league and plenty of sides will think they have a chance of promotion,” he says.
“Normally you would expect a couple of teams who got promoted to come straight back down again. That wasn’t the case and even the club that did (Sunderland) are a massive outfit. There are so many different types of team you don’t have to play just one certain way to get promoted.
“Reading ran away with it but then you see how Watford went up through the play-offs. To be fair they were on fire towards the end of the season and playing the sort of football that could get them promoted, but I don’t feel they necessarily had the best players.
“The key is to adapt and get a system which suits the squad you have. That depends on how the manager wants to go about things but in this division you have to try and keep the ball, frustrate sides and when chances do come along be ruthless.”
Earnshaw’s predatory instincts will form a key component of Worthington’s battle plan – however the manager ultimately decides to deploy his main strike weapon.
Norwich’s premier frontman has a refreshingly honest take on the interminable World Cup-induced debates regarding the relative merits of lone strikers, deep-lying frontmen et al.
“That’s a load of rubbish – really,” he says. “It’s only something you hear about in this country. Top players should be able to play different systems with different players. Look at Brazil and how Ronaldinho plays in the same team with Ronaldo or Adriano – it’s never an issue.
“I’ve played alongside John Hartson and Craig Bellamy for Wales and you just try to adapt. With a big man you know he will get flick-ons and win stuff in the air whereas someone like Craig has out and out pace so you know he likes the ball to run onto.”
Earnshaw and his Welsh pals are desperate to finally make a splash on the international stage this season when they begin Euro 2008 qualifying.
John Toshack’s Dragons must again punch above their weight after being drawn against European powerhouses Germany and the Czech Republic alongside celtic cousins the Republic of Ireland.
“When I first heard the group it did make me cringe,” admits Earnshaw, who made his debut against this year’s World Cup hosts in 2002. “Now I can’t wait for those games to come around. Watching the World Cup whetted the appetite because you want to be at the big tournaments.
“The pressure might be on the top sides in our group but in Wales there is always pressure from the fans for us to win games.
“We want to go one stage further than the last Euro campaign when we got beat in the playoffs. That was a hard group as well. We had Italy and won at the Millennium Stadium but they battered us over there. It would be great to be part of a Welsh squad who gets to a major championship for the first time in 50-odd years.”
Achieve that along with firing the Canaries back into the Premiership promised land this season and Earnshaw is guaranteed plenty of tender loving care.
This article first appeared in the Canary Preview Magazine in 2006/2007 and is reproduced with permission of Norwich City FC.