Relegation one of my blackest days’
RICK WAGHORN For those who know their Norwich City history, the last time they travelled to Elland Road was May 6, 1995. “One of the blackest days of my playing career,” was the simple verdict of ex-Norwich defender Jon Newsome.
For those who know their Norwich City history, the last time they travelled to Elland Road was May 6, 1995.
“One of the blackest days of my playing career,” was the simple verdict of ex-Norwich defender Jon Newsome. “I wasn't very happy after that game. I remember doing an interview for Match of the Day afterwards and I think I came across as rather, er, stern.”
The one-time Leeds United centre-half - who had arrived at Carrow Road the summer before in a then record £1 million deal - had every reason to be thoroughly distraught. City had, after all, just been relegated from the Premiership courtesy of that 2-1 defeat. The bottom was about to fall out of many people's worlds. It would take the Canaries nine long years to briefly regain their place among the English elite.
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“It was never a penalty - we all know that,” said Newsome, recalling the moment that Leeds' African striker Tony Yeboah took a huge tumble over Rob Newman's legs and helped condemned the Canaries to their miserable fate that sunny afternoon.
“Basically everything that could go wrong, did that day. I remember it was 1-1 late in the game and Gary Megson and the dug-out were shouting at us 'Get forward! Get forward - we need to win the game!'
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“And then they went and nicked one late on and we discovered that we didn't need to win the game, a draw would have done.
“But that summed up that season, for me. We were unlucky,” said Newsome, whose memory is still very fresh when it comes to the reasons behind City's plummet southwards.
“We had that big, big injury to Bryan Gunn and the manager wasn't allowed to go out and buy a replacement. We struggled up top until Ashley Ward arrived. We'd sold Mark Robins and Efan Ekoku and Chris Sutton had gone the summer before. We played four games at the end where we lost each one by the odd goal and in each one we hit the woodwork - you just got the impression that the writing was always on the wall for us, somehow,” said Newsome, who had smashed a 35-yard screamer against the bar away in the 1-0 defeat at Spurs a fortnight before.
“The whole experience is totally demoralising. I know the supporters feel it as well, but for me as a player in that side it was, as I said, demoralising.”
What is interesting on the back of Norwich's recent experiences is when that demoralisation really kicked in.
“Funnily enough I felt it more as a player the following season - two or three games in. You'd get up on a Sunday morning and watch a tape of Match of the Day and, no disrespects, but you'd been to Luton away and you're watching Manchester United versus Arsenal.
“And you sit there, watching it and think 'I was playing them last year . . . I need to be back in the big league . . .' And then you have to sell players to balance the books, players leave - that doesn't help. It all kicks morale.”
Newsome returned to the top flight towards the end of the following season when he joined his home city club, Sheffield Wednesday.
But is he surprised where the Canaries find themselves ahead of tomorrow's return to bitter pastures old?
“I am and I'm not,” said Newsome, currently working in the car trade in Sheffield.
“It happens every year to the clubs that get relegated - hardly any of them bounce straight back. Because it's tough, really tough.”
Having watched Leeds play in the 3-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday the other week, tough is exactly what Newsome expects the going to be tomorrow.
“Leeds United are one of those teams that grind out results. I saw them at Wednesday. It was a very poor game, they won 3-0 and yet there were never three goals in the game.
“So going to Elland Road is going to be tough. Norwich have got to be solid. They've got to keep the natives quiet, go in 0-0 at half-time and the supporters there get frustrated. They'll get on the players' backs.
“I have to say, I'm afraid, I can't see Norwich winning, but if they can come away from there with, say, a 0-0, then they can go into the Sheffield United game next week with that little bit more confidence.”