Neville Southall knows a thing or two about loyalty at a club. He played 747 times for Everton in a career that spanned three decades. This season he joins the Paddy Power Blog as columnist to offer no-holds-barred insight on what’s become of the beautiful game. He shares some of his worst memories of Norwich ahead of Everton’s opener.
The Norfolk Broads. A city steeped in atmosphere and peppered with unique architectural treasures. That’s what the tourism guides tells you.
No mention of gobby kids.
It was my first appearance at Norwich back in 1983 and I was really looking forward to it. Warmed up, the place was buzzing, went to get the ball and got spat on.
It was the most disappointed I’d ever been. You go to some grounds and expect abuse but not Norwich. Some kids behind the goal just gobbed on me. It shocked me.
The season after, November 1984, someone had a shot from about 25 yards and it went right through my legs. Shit. What I didn’t know is that the ball got stuck in the mud behind me. Someone ran in from about 20 yards and tapped it in. We got beaten 4-2. I’d a bad game.
In 1984, when Colin Harvey was in charge, I dived in the first half, made a save but caught my little finger in the ground and dislocated it. I managed to waggle it back in myself. Then, coming off the pitch at half time I was a bit disorientated and walked straight into the Norwich dressing-room. They turned and looked, ‘what an idiot’.
The 1986/87 season, I’d just come back from a horrendous injury in Dublin where I dislocated my ankle during Jack Charlton’s first game in charge. I was out for 9 months. Came back in the October, but by the end of the season I was dead on my legs. Mentally knackered. We managed to win the league with Pat Van Den Hauwe scoring a winner at Carrow Road. That was a great place.
Years later, we went to Norwich and my mother had just died. I couldn’t tell the lads because if we have a bad game they’ll blame me. I didn’t want to give them the opportunity. My mum would have wanted me to play so I did. We drew 0-0. Not bad.
I’ve got really mixed memories of Norwich. Probably one of the few grounds where I’ve had a lot of problems, on and off the pitch. But it made me determined every season to go back there and do well. Let’s hope the lads do so on Saturday.
Over to you Roberto…
Norwich is a small ground and the crowd is always up for it. They play great football and Chris Hughton is a quality manager.
If you can keep the crowd quiet for 20 minutes, you’ve got a chance. See off their first wave of enthusiasm, then your game can actually start. Unless you’re really fortunate and sneak a goal.
Up front Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel both have movement and pace. They’re natural goalscorers. RVW scored 45 in 87 games at Sporting with Hooper notching 82 in 138 appearances for Celtic.
Norwich create good chances and if you’re a home fan you’ve really got to fancy one of those two to score on Saturday. Good strikers making their home debut usually score. Everton will be aware of that.
Last season, Everton only conceded 40 goals. They’re sound at the back but Martinez doesn’t have a defensive bone in his body and RVW knows how to find the net.
However Martinez’ football will light the place up. Everyone I’ve spoken to at the club feels he’s a breath of fresh air. The players will play in their proper positions and they’re going to have a massive go at winning games. That’s something that’s brilliant for people going to Goodison Park this season. Fans might not enjoy all the results, but we’ll enjoy that Martinez is a positive fella. That rubs off on the players and the supporters.
Big Nev’s Big Prediction
Everton 1-0 at 11/2 would be a magic result.