Norwich City legend Dave Stringer on working with Ron Saunders and Duncan Forbes

Dave Stringer.

Dave Stringer.

It was when Ron Saunders came, at the start of the 1969-70 season, that the club changed, and so did my career and life. My attitude didn't change, but Ron's attitude matched mine.

Ron Saunders on Mousehold Heath.

Ron Saunders on Mousehold Heath. - Credit: Archant

He was what the club needed at that time: someone to pull it up by the bootstraps. He did exactly that. He was a no nonsense man who didn't mess about at all. Either you did it his way or you were out.

For the first pre-season, he was in shorts and stripped to the waist and he looked the part: fit and strong. He sat on the ball in the middle of the group and he said, 'Right. I want to get this team into the First Division. Those who don't want to come with me, I'll see in my office after training'.

So we thought, 'There's going to be no messing with this one'. And I thought, 'You'll do me'. I thought he was someone I could look up to and respect.

His face had a jutting chin and he looked like he was carved from granite. And when he played in some of the games in training, he was a tough man. He drilled and drilled and drilled the team in the way he wanted us to play. We were so fit that we ran teams off the park. They couldn't stay with us. We got the ball forward quickly and the back line got up field as fast as we could, so of course the opposition forwards had to come with us. In fact they did more running trying to catch us up to keep onside. We made them work hard. So when the ball was coming back the other way, they just didn't have the energy to go forward. To get us that fit, the training was really fierce. Pre-season, the amount of work was amazing. For example we would probably do 100 exercises on our legs only, going around the outside of the pitch. We would jump over sticks while carrying weights, that sort of thing.


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The fashion then was for flared trousers, but Stephen Grapes, a young winger some of you will remember, couldn't even find a pair of flares that would go over his thighs because they blew up so that they were like tree-trunks because of all the work Ron made him and the rest of us do.

I had moved to centre back under Lol Morgan. And it was Lol who bought Duncan Forbes. We didn't play similarly, Duncan and me. Our personalities were very different, too. But the similarity between us was that we didn't want to lose – at anything we did. If you played table tennis against Duncan it would go on for ever. He would just keep getting the ball back and wait for you to make mistakes. He was so hard to play against, and he was like that as a footballer.

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Forwards playing against him just thought, 'Oh for goodness' sake, give me a rest.'

He was strong in the opposing penalty area as well, and we both scored goals. He would say himself that he wasn't blessed with the greatest of skills, but he stopped those who were skilled playing and he was very effective.

When he became captain, he was effective at that too, because he was a natural leader.

When Ron Saunders came, he said it would take him three years to get promotion, and he was right.

The first year was sorting out what he had, and getting players in.

The second year was drilling us into a side, and the third year was to go for promotion.

And that is what happened.

• Volume two of Mick Dennis' Tales from the City is out this weekend

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