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Duncan Forbes: the legendary hard man who made Norwich City history

PUBLISHED: 19:55 28 September 2017

Duncan Forbes training on Mousehold Heath in July, 1976 - a picture that is synonymous with the Ron Saunders era. Picture: Archant

Duncan Forbes training on Mousehold Heath in July, 1976 - a picture that is synonymous with the Ron Saunders era. Picture: Archant

Norwich City legend Duncan Forbes is too ill to write a his remarkable story – yet his role in Norwich City’s history is told in his own words in Tales From The City volume three.

Typical Duncan Forbes - powerful, dominating, brilliant - seen here in action against West Bromwich Albion. Picture: Archant Typical Duncan Forbes - powerful, dominating, brilliant - seen here in action against West Bromwich Albion. Picture: Archant

Mick Dennis, editor of the Tales series, explains: “Duncan seemed carved from granite, so it is devastating to think of him diminished by Alzheimer’s.

“But it is an important ‘Tale’ to tell and I knew he gave an interview not very many years ago for a chapter in a book that was never published.

“Everyone involved readily agreed to let me use the text. With the blessing of Duncan’s wife, Janette, I then filleted out the bits that weren’t actually by Duncan and nursed his words into a narrative account.

“I did so with the utmost affection, and I’d had some practice. I used to help Duncan with The Captain’s Column each week in the Pink Un.”

Duncan Forbes - City through and through. Picture: Archant Duncan Forbes - City through and through. Picture: Archant

As the current Norwich City team strive to recover from a disappointing start to their Championship season, a unique perspective to the club’s first ever promotion to the top division is to be published.

Forbes, legendary captain of the team who topped the second tier in 1972, admits the team did not take the pretty route to the top.

Duncan Forbes. Legend. Picture: Archant Duncan Forbes. Legend. Picture: Archant

“I wouldn’t say I was a footballing centre-half. No, I was a bit rough. At the end of the day, each individual player has a job to do and mine was to stop my man from scoring.

“If you look at the team that went up that season, it was a hard team: players who really didn’t want to lose. Ken Foggo had been there a while when Ron Saunders arrived as manager and had been a fans’ favourite on the wing. But he just didn’t have the lung capacity to do what Saunders wanted of him and so didn’t play many games.

“At that time, Saunders was definitely the right man for the club. He wasn’t a man you could get really close to, but I would always give an honest performance and I think he trusted me to do that.

“Every team had a big, tough centre-forward. There was Jeff Astle at West Brom, Roger Davis at Derby, John Radford and Ray Kennedy for Arsenal, at Chelsea you had Peter Osgood up front. He smashed me quite a few times.

Duncan Forbes with a copy of the Evening News from 1972 when City won promotion to the top flight. Picture: Archant Duncan Forbes with a copy of the Evening News from 1972 when City won promotion to the top flight. Picture: Archant

“Every player you played against then, you had a battle. If they saw you were weak, you’d be finished. So you would, early on, just go through them; let them know you were there. I wouldn’t go out to kick a player and get him injured, but I was able to tackle from the back – kind of take the man and the ball at the same time.

“Saunders never wanted to lose. And that attitude really showed in the 1971-72 season when there were three clubs – us, Birmingham and Millwall – chasing two promotion places at the top of the Second Division.

“Our last two home games were against Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon. We won them both 1-0 and I scored both the goals. The one against Sheffield Wednesday was at the River End, and the one that beat Swindon was at the Barclay End. I think they had 32,000 in that day. Days like that you never forget.

“We had two away games to finish the season, but only needed one win to get promotion. The first one was at Leyton Orient and I often think back to that night. Foggo and Graham Paddon scored, we won 2-1 and I remember coming back on the bus that night and there were all these supporters on the road in their own buses and in cars, and more waiting for us when we got back.

Duncan Forbes leads out the Canaries. Picture: Archant Duncan Forbes leads out the Canaries. Picture: Archant

“All of us players knew then that we were going to be playing in the First Division, the top division, and for me, that was the be-all and end-all.

“The following Saturday we drew 1-1 with Watford – Dave Stringer got our goal – and we had won our division.

“When you do anything for the first time it is unique – and that is why that team was unique and why Saunders was unique. I think he knew, looking at the players and the players that he got in, he had a team that could do the job.

“When John Bond became manager he wasn’t keen on my tackling. I’d go through the centre-forward and come away with the ball and sometimes Bond would actually say, ‘Did you really need to do that?’ But to be fair to him, he took us up to the top division again, kept us there, and brought in some terrific players.”

Duncan Forbes. Norwich v Aston Villa, August 23, 1975. Duncan Forbes. Norwich v Aston Villa, August 23, 1975.

THE LAUNCH

Mick Dennis, editor of the Tales From The City books, began his career with the Eastern Daily Press.

The third volume in the series will be published on Wednesday, October 4, and the launch event is at Carrow Road that night. Dale Gordon, Ken Brown, Terry Allcock and Simon Lappin will be among guests interviewed by Chris Goreham of BBC Radio Norfolk.

Tickets for the launch include a free copy of the book and can be obtained from Delia’s Canary Catering, and by typing this into an internet browser – bit.ly/TFTC3LIVE

If you cannot attend the launch, you can pre-order the book by putting this link into your browser bit.ly/TFTC3PRE

Dennis said: “With the Tales series, I set out to produce books that I would want to read but the real test has been making them good enough to win the approval of another Norwich supporter: my wife!”

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