Peters wanted to join coaching staff
CHRIS LAKEY World Cup hero Martin Peters was a player who made few mistakes - but he freely admits that leaving Norwich City was one of them. Peters reveals all in his long-awaited autobiography The Ghost of '66, which documents a career in which he developed into one of the greatest players ever to wear an England shirt.
World Cup hero Martin Peters was a player who made few mistakes - but he freely admits that leaving Norwich City was one of them.
The Canaries legend spent almost five and a half happy years at Carrow Road, before taking up a player-coach role at Sheffield United.
It was a decision he came to regret - and admits that he even made an anonymous phone call to a local newspaper in an effort to try and get a job back at Carrow Road when his playing days had ended.
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“I'd enjoyed my time at Norwich and, looking back now, realise I was a fool to leave,” says Peters. “I felt privileged to have played for such a fine club and still enjoy going back to Carrow Road.
“Their fans voted me the best player ever to pull on a Norwich shirt and that meant a great deal to me.”
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Peters' time at Bramall Lane was short-lived - a little over a year later he was sacked after the Blades were relegated to the Fourth Division.
It was then that he and wife Kathy moved back to Norfolk - and after failing to get himself a pub licence and turning down offers from home and abroad, Peters hatched a plan to get himself back into the Carrow Road set-up.
“Secretly I was hoping that Norwich City might offer me a job on the coaching staff,” he explains. “Ken Brown had succeeded John Bond as manager and I thought that he might consider giving me a job.
“Perhaps I was a bit naïve. When I heard nothing from Norwich, I came up with a cunning plan. At least, I thought it was cunning!
“Cardiff City had just asked me whether I'd be interested in playing for them. I rang the local Norwich evening paper anonymously, offering them this snippet of news in the hope that they would print it.
“My theory as that if they ran a story along the lines of 'Cardiff want Peters' it might excite a bit of interest at Carrow Road. I was so desperate to get back into the game that I would have gone to Norwich to coach the kids.
“Sadly, nothing came of my devious plan.”
Peters reveals all in his long-awaited autobiography The Ghost of '66, which documents a career in which he developed into one of the greatest players ever to wear an England shirt.
Now 62 years old, Peters' career began at his local club, West Ham, where he made his name in the 60s, making 302 league appearances and scoring 81 league goals. He won a European Cup Winners Cup medal and, of course, the World Cup with England, scoring the second goal in the 4-2 victory over Germany.
Peters moved to Tottenham in 1970 for £220,000 plus Jimmy Greaves and enjoyed even more success, winning two League Cups, and the UEFA Cup.
By the time he joined Norwich - for a bargain £50,000 in March 1975 - he had won 67 England caps and although many saw it as the twilight of his career, he made 232 appearances for the Canaries - more than he had done for Spurs.
A mark of his standing was the fact that he twice was named Player of the Year and is credited with influencing the careers of a number of the club's youngsters.
“From the outset Norwich were an absolute joy,” says Peters, told by then manager John Bond that his taste of Second Division football would be a brief one.
“He didn't really need to sell the club to me. I already had a good feeling about it,” recalls Peters. “I had happy childhood memories of Norfolk because that's where we used to go on the train from London for our family holidays.
“Now, with London a regular target for IRA bombers, inflation and unemployment raging and the dustmen on strike, Norfolk struck me as a safe and peaceful haven for my family.
“Norwich seemed the ideal stage for the final chapters of my career. I was thirty-one.”
Bond was true to his word as City were promoted, with Manchester United and Aston Villa, although until he scored his first goal, Peters admitted he felt some unease among the fans.
“Some thought I was a flash Londonder who'd turned up late in the day just to take the money and run,” he says. “That was never the case, and they eventually realised that - I spent more than five years at Norwich and enjoyed every minute.”
Survival was Bond's aim, and during Peters' time at Norwich, the club finished 10th, 16th, 13th, 16th and 12th.
Peters realised the end was closing in.
“Almost subconsciously, perhaps preparing myself for a future as a coach, I'd been helping to advise and encourage some of Norwich's young players, the best of whom included Kevin Bond, the manager's son, Kevin reeves, Greg Downs, Mark Barham and Justin Fashanu,” he says.
Some fell by the wayside, and none more so, in Peters' eyes, than the tragic Fashanu, whose career went downhill after he joined Nottingham Forest and suffered a torrid time under Brian Clough.
“Sadly, his life went downhill after that,” says Peters. “He'd made a remarkable impression as a youngster but couldn't sustain it.”
Fashanu hanged himself in a London lock-up at the age of just 36.
“The Norwich players of that era were really sad when they heard about Justin,” adds Peters. “Although a bit brash, he was popular and, in other circumstances, may have had a long and rewarding career.”
Peters' departure from Norwich was abrupt: Bond told him he was leaving for Manchester City and Peters took up Sheffield United's offer.
A year later he was back in Norfolk, continuing a love affair with the county that shines through in his book. And although his subterfuge had failed to get him back onto the Carrow Road staff, he formed an unexpected alliance with Gorleston.
Having been approached by Jimmy Jones, then and still chairman of the east coast club, Peters played for the Greens on Saturdays and worked for the businessman during the week.
Jones wanted Peters for PR work during the week - and to up the attendances on matchdays.
“It sounded OK to me,” says Peters. “The salary was hardly a fortune, but at least it was a weekly wage. Some weeks, I did nothing but play and train on two evenings. Other weeks I'd make personal appearances in pubs and clubs where Jimmy had an interest.”
Peters describes Jones as “one of those benevolent enthusiasts without whom football at the lower levels would probably struggle to exist”.
However, he clearly knew that his playing days, at whatever level, were a thing of the past.
“During this period I also coached in holiday camps in such places as Skegness and Clacton, but I was slowly coming to the conclusion that I was not about to be swamped with job offers from the professional ranks.
“It was hard to believe but it looked as though I'd had my one and only stab at management. I had to come to terms with the fact that, after nearly a quarter of a century, professional football was no longer going to be a significant part of my life.”
t Martin Peters will be in Norwich on May 27 when he will be signing copies of his autobiography at Ottakar's in Castle Street from 1pm. It is a free event, no ticket required. For details or to reserve a signed copy, visit the store or call 01603 767292. The Ghost of '66 is published by Orion Books on May 3, priced £18.99 (hardback).