Is this the Norwich City way? It reminds Ruel Fox of another Canaries vintage
- Credit: Archant
Youth products. Expansive football. The themes of Norwich City’s Championship title success are well known. They are also familiar to those from another bygone Canaries era – as MICHAEL BAILEY discussed with City Hall of Fame member Ruel Fox.
Norwich City have been here before - and it took the club to its highest heights.
The football landscape was considerably different back in 1992 as the Premier League arrived, and the Canaries took on its inaugural season as favourites for relegation.
Within 12 months, City were being heralded for their attractive football and superb youth development as a number of names completed their transition from unknown apprentices to top-flight stars - with some big transfer sales thrown in.
Chris Sutton, Ruel Fox, Lee Power, Jeremy Goss, Robert Ullathorne and Daryl Sutch - all fitted into Mike Walker's expansive style that one season later, proved too much for some of Europe's best clubs to handle.
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Some 26 years on and the level may have been different - but in terms of young players making their name and some of the most attractive, technical football ever played in yellow and green, the Championship title-winning class of 2019 echoes the club's past.
And that should be an exciting narrative heading back into the Premier League come August. It certainly excites one of the key players from that inaugural squad.
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"It's been fantastic and it just shows if you stick by your manager and beliefs, be patient and your players buy into what you're trying to do, it can be a success," said former City winger and Hall of Fame member Fox.
"Fair credit to everyone at the club and I'm so happy and proud to be associated with them, because they are a fantastically run club and they deserve every success they get.
"That's what I've have noticed: it's gone back to giving youth a chance. There are a lot of players that a lot of people have never heard of, especially those that follow the Premier League.
"A template to set themselves is like Wolves, in terms of them not changing the way they play since they were promoted. The good thing for Norwich coming up is their style of play is similar.
"There didn't use to be many footballing sides in the Championship but you notice that now going down as far as the top eight, they all try to play a good brand of football - and that's what the Premier League is about.
"You see the way Wolves adjusted to it and I'm quite confident Norwich will too. Of course there is still a big divide between the quality of the players but I feel the way Norwich are playing, they can have a fantastic season. I'm quite excited about it."
Fox had to be patient for his first-team career to really click at City ahead of moves to Newcastle, Tottenham and West Brom. It took a fair bit of time and a lot of faith - from Ken Brown, Mel Machin and Walker in particular.
"They were always encouraging the youngsters to go and train with the first team and have a bit of fun, and you felt part of the club from when you were 15-16," recalled Fox. "It wasn't a nervous thing to step up in training.
"Faith in youth is the key because it shows the system is working, for one. It also gives the players a boost because if a young player is doing well and if you feel there is the chance of progression into the first team, then you are going to attract more of the quality youngsters.
"Even though Norwich have attracted some of those players from other clubs - Ben Godfrey (York), Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis (Luton) - they are getting their chance at Norwich City.
"A few clubs play good football but to come to Norwich and be top of the league for so long, and the maturity they've shown… All players want is to be given chances and if you've then got a manager who believes in you, it stands you in good stead.
"At other clubs, they don't give them that chance - and it's an issue with a few of the Premier League clubs. All these youngsters they've got, they are all loaned out all over the place but the main problem is they don't get games for their own club.
"And Norwich can take advantage of that. There are a lot of good quality players who are at clubs who just want games, and you will find there is a lot of quality - so if they are given a chance, they can only better themselves."
Born in Ipswich, Fox still works in the town at Thurlow Nunn Premier Division outfit Whitton United, where he was first discovered and where he now also runs fitness boot camps.
"I've been quietly watching it all for Norwich - for obvious reasons! Most of the people I work with at Whitton are Ipswich fans," Fox joked.
"It's a bit of a shame that Ipswich have gone down but it might be a bonus. They probably needed this to happen to them so they could refocus on what the club is about.
"We're talking about Norwich and there is always that rivalry between the two clubs - and there was always one club that seemed to be doing OK and the other was just below them, and vice versa.
"This season, the gap could not have been bigger. The table shows what they are doing at Norwich is working and hopefully Ipswich will look at that, and revamp themselves - because the club is well run, just like Norwich. But something has gone wrong between their ambition and what they have actually done that has led them to being relegated."
While Fox has had to contend with Ipswich fans all season, he makes the journey north along the A140 on Thursday, May 16 - back at the club where he enjoyed so much success.
Play With A Legend returns for its third event at Carrow Road with popular former Canaries stars Darren Eadie and Paul McVeigh joining Fox; each captaining a side of paying punters in the three-team tournament.
"I'll keep playing as long as I can," added Fox. "The aches and pains last a bit longer but it's great to play in, and for me to come back to Carrow Road is a massive thing.
Being the club we were back in 1992, then finishing third in the Premier League - it's fond memories, will be great to get back there and I love speaking to the fans about how they're feeling about the club."
- Limited places are still available to play alongside Fox, Eadie and McVeigh - for more information, visit playwithalegend.com/2019-norwich
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