‘We could have, and probably should have, won the league’ - when City were one of the greatest teams in the land
- Credit: EDP pics © 1996
Rob Newman was a key member of a glorious era in Norwich City’s history – Mark Armstrong discusses what more that vintage could have achieved
Norwich City and the FA Cup have had something of a tempestuous relationship, as fans well know.
Daniel Farke’s legacy as Norwich City head coach is already one of taking the club back to where supporters feel they belong, against the odds.
If he were to bring the FA Cup back to Norfolk then they would probably have to build a statue of the German at Carrow Road.
That’s of course all on hold this season, and no one truly knows if or when the club’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United will take place.
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But it offers a chance to look back at the last time they were in the last eight of the competition and Southampton were the opposition. A 0-0 draw meant a replay at Carrow Road and it turned into something of a classic.
Neil Ruddock had given the Saints the lead before Matt Le Tissier was sent off after clashing with Robert Fleck. City huffed and puffed and finally got back on level terms thanks to a fine strike by Rob Newman before Sutton’s looping header finally saw off the Saints, who had been reduced to nine men following Barry Horne’s dismissal in extra-time for stamping on Colin Woodthorpe.
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It was a Carrow Road show-stopper and Newman was front and centre. It looked like Norwich were on their way out before the former Bristol City man’s intervention.
“I just remember that being a proper cup tie – there was still mud on the pitch would you believe it?” said Newman, who made 249 appearances for the Canaries over a seven-year period. “We were losing 1-0 and I just ventured forward into the box and it was one of those ones when I knew where the goal was without looking at it. I just got a really good connection with the ball and fortunately it went in the far corner of the net.”
Newman was at the heart of a golden era for the Canaries. An FA Cup semi-final, a third-placed Premier League finish and of course the Uefa Cup run that included beating Bayern Munich – it might have been a different era but it still takes some getting your head around to imagine Norwich in those sort of battles now.
“We were a proper team – everyone was very good at what they did,” said Newman. “We didn’t have any world class players – but we had very good players and each and every one of us knew our jobs.
“If one of us had a bad game then a team-mate would be there to pick up the slack for you. We had a great togetherness on and off the pitch – the team spirit was second to none.
“We could have, and probably should have, won the league in ‘93. We probably just lacked that little bit of experience of that situation but for us to finish where we did was almost like winning the league – we went far beyond anyone’s expectations.
“I think we showed at the time that money isn’t always the answer. It helps, but I think it showed what you can do with a good set of very well-drilled players.
“If you had said to anyone at the start of that season that we would finish third then they would not have believed you. It was a great ride and a fantastic experience.”
Norwich were of course seen as a little fish in the big Premier League pond and, as such, players started to be linked with big-money moves.
Newman admits he sometimes wonders what the side could have achieved if they had been kept together.
“It was obviously disappointing from a player point of view (to see the side broken up),” he added. “Norwich had a team where pretty much everyone in that side was worth around £1m or more. It felt at that time that we were on a roll and if we had added to the squad then who knows?
“We let some very good players go and replaced them with players that weren’t as good. When you do that then you’re only going to head in one direction.”
City chairman Robert Chase is often cast as the villain of the piece, cashing in on the City gems of that era, but Newman insists he did a lot of things that stand the club in good stead to this day.
“I never had any problem with the chairman,” he said.
“I won’t be one of the ones that criticises the choices that he made. I think he was also responsible for buying up a lot of the land around Carrow Road now, which the club have benefited from.
“Some players wanted to leave for more money, which you can understand, and some of them went on to prove what very good players they were. As for me, I knew I wasn’t going to play anywhere higher at that stage of my career. I was just happy to be playing in the Premier League - a better club than Norwich would not have wanted me.”