Tributes pour in for Canaries legend

Only one man has ever come close to breaking Johnny Gavin's record as Norwich City's all-time leading goalscorer.

Only one man has ever come close to breaking Johnny Gavin's record as Norwich City's all-time leading goalscorer.

Terry Allcock, who ended his City career five goals short of the Republic of Ireland international's total of 132, was among the first to pay tribute following news this week of the death of his former Carrow Road team-mate.

Outside-right Gavin's club record tally came in just 338 games during two spells with the Canaries between 1949 and 1958.

Allcock was on course to overhaul Gavin's total when he rattled in 113 goals in his first five years at Norwich, but after switching to more of a half-back role, he scored only 14 in the next six years.

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However, Allcock, 71, would be the last one to worry about personal glory - and, after learning of Gavin's death, he was quick to acknowledge his former colleague's place at the top of the scoring chart.

He said: “To score as many goals as Johnny did from a wing position was a great achievement. He was a very aggressive player, very knowledgeable on the game.

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“He had a marvellous record at Norwich. It shows what an exceptional player he was and I am sure anyone who is still alive who saw him play would endorse that view.

“To have played for a club like Tottenham, too, speaks volumes for his ability.”

Allcock arrived at Carrow Road just a matter of weeks before Gavin's final game for the Canaries.

He said: “Our careers only just overlapped at Norwich because I arrived in March 1958 and Johnny played to the end of that season, the last eight or so fixtures of his period of time here, although I met him many times over the years at reunions.

“Even though I knew he had been in poor health, it was still very much a shock when I heard the news.

“It's a tragedy when anybody of that status goes and he will be sadly missed by a lot of people, I'm 100 per cent sure of that.”

Born in Limerick and a £1,500 bargain buy for City, Gavin scored 79 goals in 221 games in his first stint with the club before joining Tottenham in 1954, where his pay rose from £18 to £20 per week and he scored 15 times in 32 matches.

He returned to Carrow Road a year later in a part exchange deal that took centre-half Maurice Norman to Spurs, adding a further 53 goals in 117 appearances on his return, before moving to Watford.

After his professional career, Gavin had spells with Cambridge City and Newmarket Town, and worked as a publican and a painter and decorator.

He returned to Carrow Road from his Cambridgeshire home in later years for several players' reunions and was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame.

On one return trip for a legends' dinner in 1997, he said: “I was dumbfounded to see the state of the ground. It is marvellous and I am honoured to be part of all this.”

Speaking of his goal tally in 2001, Gavin said: “The record has stood for a long time and I don't think that at the pace players are moving between clubs now that anyone will beat it.

“I have seen Terry Allcock get so close and I don't know how he didn't break it, but he was more or less put back to wing-half so that saved the record. I thought Kevin Drinkell might do it but he got a transfer. I fancied Darren Eadie as one who might get it but of course he moved away as well.”

Goalkeeper Ken Nethercott, 82, who played with Gavin throughout his time with City, recalled him as fast, fearless and a great finisher.

He said: “Johnny was a very, very quick player, very brave, and brilliant in the air, considering he was not that tall. A lot of his goals were scored with his head. And remember, the ball we played with was a lot heavier in those days.

“He could jump as high as the crossbar and he wasn't afraid to get hurt - the number of times he would come in with blood on his shirt or he'd broken his nose. And 132 goals? Not bad for a winger.

“There were four or five of us always together - me, Johnny, John Duffy and Tom Docherty, who now lives in March. Johnny was a lovely chap and this is a great shame.”

As a mark of respect, City players will wear black armbands for next Saturday's home game against Sheffield Wednesday, which will be preceded by one minute's applause.

Gavin died at the Arthur Rank Hospice, in his home county of Cambridgeshire, on Tuesday night with his wife, Bridie, 78, and his family by his side.

Sharon Budworth, from Huntingdon, the youngest of the couple's five children, paid tribute to her father's bravery, on and off the field.

She said: “We're all very, very proud of him - he's always been such a strong and lovely man, even to the end.

“I'm very proud of him because he had quite a lot of illness, but he was a remarkably fit man. He just had this inner strength to learn to live with everything that life threw at him and just took it on the chin and got on with it - he was just so strong.”

Mrs Budworth said her father would be fondly remembered by his five children, 13 grandchildren, and seven grandchildren.

FAI official website: “Gavin, who was born in Limerick, won seven caps between 1949 and 1956 and had the unique distinction of book-ending his international career with his two goals.

“He made his debut against Finland on September 8, 1949, and set Ireland on their way to a 3-0 victory, and their first ever win in a World Cup qualifier, by scoring direct from a corner.

“His last appearance in an Ireland shirt was against Denmark on October 3, 1956, when he netted from the penalty spot to give Ireland a 2-1 victory.”

Norwich City chairman Roger Munby: “Everybody at Norwich City is saddened to hear of the passing of our all-time record goalscorer.

“His place in Canary legend is secure forever and our thoughts are of course with his wife, Bridie, children Catherine, Mary, Patrick, Susan and Sharon, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Peter Roberts, The Division One Story (1978): “Johnny is still something of a legend among those who recall his right wing aggression, and scoring potential, especially going in to meet those crosses from the left from Tom Docherty.”

Ted Bell, On the Ball City (1972): “His total of 132 goals still stands as a club record - a remarkable achievement for a man who played most of his football for City on the right wing.

“Deadliest of finishers, Gavin never showed his eye for the scoring chance more effectively than when he had Tom Docherty operating on the opposite wing, pin-pointing long crosses into the Irishman's path.”

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