Cult heroes: Linighan the legend and the goal that changed the course of City’s history
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
In the latest in our Norwich City Cult Heroes series, Steven Downes looks at the man who scored a vital goal for the Canaries... but with a twist to the plot.
Who scored the most important goal in Norwich City’s history?
Dave Stringer, Simeon Jackson, Asa Hartford/Gordon Chisholm, Cameron Jerome, Nathan Redmond?
No, I give you the one and only Andrew Linighan, my Cult Hero.
Most people would go for the scorer of a cup-winning goal, or one that clinched promotion, as the player netting the biggest green-and-yellow goal ever.
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But promotions burn and then fade for Norwich, who have the record for the most ups-and-downs in Europe in the last 11 years.
And the Milk Cup was great, but it wasn’t the FA Cup.
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No, the Uefa Cup run in 1993 stands out alongside the 1959 FA Cup run as the most special segment of the club’s history: the European debut v Vitesse, and a 3-0 win; Bayern away, with the Jeremy Goss volley and a Mark Bowen header, then mounting siege defence to hang on for 2-1; Bayern at home, Goss again, 1-1 and a 3-2 aggregate win; Internationale home and away, heroic defeat.
Linighan scored the goal that clinched City’s place in the Uefa Cup - and he wasn’t even playing for the Canaries at the time. That he had to intervene was the ironic twist in a bitter, eight-year tale for Norwich and their fans.
The Canaries ‘qualified’ for Europe in 1985 (Milk Cup winners), 1987 (5th in Division One) and 1989 (4th in Division One). But the Heysel Stadium disaster and English clubs’ subsequent ban from European competitions left fans feeling they’d never get what they deserved.
In 1993, a 3-3 draw at Middlesbrough gave Norwich a highest-ever third place in the top flight. But English clubs were only recently back in Europe, so third place was not enough to make even the Uefa Cup (imagine the fuss nowadays, if Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal were scratching each other’s eyes out to make the top two every season).
There was, however, a potential way for Norwich City to get in - and it was ridiculous.
It needed the same team to win the League Cup and the FA Cup: a situation as common as a capacity crowd these days at Portman Road.
Arsenal beat Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup final. Then, to further stretch probability, the same teams contested the FA Cup final.
So Norwich needed Arsenal to win, thus opening the back door to Europe.
They did, with a header from ex-Canary Andy Linighan, which was let in, in abject manner by Norwich City goalkeeping legend Chris Woods. I still think there may have been some unusual betting patterns.
Linighan was already a hero at Carrow Road before he invoked the old school tie (old club shirt) rule in 1993.
He joined from Oldham Athletic in March 1988 for £350,0000 as the replacement for the replacement for Steve “Judas” Bruce, who joined Manchester United a few months earlier.
John O’Neill lasted a few minutes of his debut before John Fashanu ended his career, so Dave Stringer bought Linighan.
It was yet another stroke of transfer genius by Stringer, who paired Linighan with Ian Butterworth, in between full-backs Mark Bowen and Ian Culverhouse, ahead of goalie Bryan Gunn, in the squad that finished 4th in the First Division and reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1988-89.
He was a gentle giant, who dominated in the air, and had a composure on the ball that was not fashionable for centre-backs then.
He was also the only one of the 22 players on the pitch who did not wade into the brawl when Norwich lost 4-3 at Arsenal in November 1989. Prescient, or just not interested in a scrap?
He left too soon - another victim of the Robert Chase policy of pushing players out of the door when clubs waved a cheque-book. Some, though, could say the £1.25m July 1990 move to Arsenal was City’s greatest-ever bit of transfer business.
After all, it paved the way for a hero to become a cult hero by netting City’s greatest-ever goal.