Ryan Jarvis: Starting at Norwich... a mere 17 years ago
- Credit: Archant © 2004
He’s been a pro footballer for almost half his life – and in the first of a two-part mini-series, Ryan Jarvis speaks to Chris Lakey about the start of it all, at Norwich City
Ryan Jarvis has been around the football block, so it’s perhaps no surprise when the answer to the first question is that his memory isn’t as good as it was.
Fair enough: even though he’s a sprightly 33-year-old, we’re talking about a pro debut that was made amid much fanfare a little over 17 years ago.
Jarvis became Norwich City’s youngest ever first-team player when he came on as a sub at Walsall on April 19 2003 – he was 16 years and 282 days old. In November that year he became the club’s youngest goalscorer, in a 2-1 home defeat by Watford.
And on January 2005, he scored THAT goal against Liverpool.
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It was a lot to take in for a young man - and for those who think we never saw the very best of Ryan Jarvis, well, there’s an explanation which answers that particular question.
Jarvis is from well-known Norfolk footballing stock - dad Neil is a respected figure on the local scene and brother Ross was also at City and now plays for Lowestoft. It was no surprise when City boss Nigel Worthington began giving the then youth team player an introduction to the first team squad back in 2003.
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“I think at such a young age I coped quite well, it was about my thought process, it was quicker than other players and I guess quicker than my physical attributes, because I was never the quickest or the strongest so it was my thought process,” says Jarvis, now playing for King’s Lynn Town.
“Walsall was on a Tuesday night and it hit me when I went into the changing room. I think that is the first time I had ever seen a shirt hanging up. You know that first moment when you see the name on your shirt - that is a moment when you think ‘it’s real’. You change your number every week with the youth team but I had my own number and name on it. Suddenly it’s real, it gave me butterflies. Sixteen ... there aren’t many 16-year-olds come through these days, certainly not very often. I look at the younger players coming through now like Max and Todd and Ben and they are doing fantastic but they are a lot older than what I was, probably four or five years older than me.”
And at 16, he was rubbing shoulders “proper men”.
“I didn’t feel lots of pressure. I did have really good strikers ahead of me. I was seen as a striker, but Nigel Worthington often played me on the wing. It was in the days when it was old school. I was probably brought up in the wrong era, wrong generation of football. The way Norwich play now and a lot of teams play in terms of the style of football, that suits me a lot more. When I was 16, 17 it was a case of ball goes to full-back, which was Ads (Adam Drury) then it would be the channel ball, whip it down the line for Hucks or stick it up to Iwan (Roberts) and Iwan was 6ft 3in, 6ft 4in and no one could get around him. I was never going to be that type forward. And then they’d play a guy off him, someone like Macca (Paul McVeigh) and then there was Earnie (Robert Earnshaw). You had Dean Ashton and Leon (McKenzie) ... you can roll the names off. And they are all strong, physical, massive strikers. They were all the players ahead of me, the ones I had to try and get ahead of.
“Now you look at it, they have got a brilliant striker in Pukki, but that’s it - they have a lot of attacking midfield players like Stiepermann, Buendia and Todd. You look at that and then the challenge I had to get ahead of Iwan, and then Crouchy and Hucks and Leon, (Matty) Svensson ... I look at it and think, it was such a hard squad to get involved in, I am talking proper men, physical and the Championship was such a hard league. Looking back sometimes some people sort of say I under-achieved, but it was so hard. Different generations, different era of football.
The goal against Liverpool at Carrow Road came late on with City 2-0 down: Jarvis took possession on the right, cut in past Djimi Traore, and unleashed left-footed drive into the net. A peach. And one that often comes up in conversation - perhaps too often.
“It’s a great memory, I don’t get wound up about it at all. If I see someone in the street and we get talking and they say I remember that and I go ‘yes, nice one, decent’ and just carry on. It does get a bit boring and a bit repetitive but I didn’t have many good high profile moments for Norwich first team. I don’t not wish I’d scored it. It was a moment in my career I look back on and think that was a great time, a great moment.
“But I would have traded it for a successful starting place in the team, year on year in the team... 100pc.”
It’s a telling comment from a man who is sometimes referred to as an under-achiever, but in truth was just a victim of some unfortunate bad timing. A career that has spanned 17 years and well over 300 games can’t be bad.
“Some people say ‘do you wish you could have done more, do you think you under-achieved?’ Then I look at all those names from the time I was involved I think ‘do you know what, I might have done really well just to even be around it.”
Coming next - Jarvis and King’s Lynn Town