Tributes pour in for City legend Gavin

CHRIS LAKEY Tributes have been pouring in for Norwich City's all-time record goal scorer Johnny Gavin, who has died, aged 79. In an era when the word “legend” is bandied about all too freely, Gavin stood out as a man who truly fitted the label, as his statistics prove.

CHRIS LAKEY

Tributes have been pouring in for Norwich City's all-time record goal scorer Johnny Gavin, who has died, aged 79.

In an era when the word “legend” is bandied about all too freely, Gavin stood out as a man who truly fitted the label, as his statistics prove.

In 338 games over two spells for the Canaries, the Republic of Ireland international outside-right scored 132 goals.

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

“The stats speak for themselves - Johnny scored a total of 132 goals in 338 games for us as the club competed in the old Division Three (South) in the 1950s.

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

Gavin always acknowledged that modern day football meant his record was more than likely to stay intact.

“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,” said Gavin in 2001.

“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 played with Gavin and was saddened to hear of his passing.

“He was a great player,” he said. “He could jump and was an excellent header of the ball. Most of his goals came from his head, and he wasn't afraid to get hurt. He had a few broken noses scoring goals and, of course, the balls were much heavier then. He was very fast too. He was a lovely chap.”

John Thomas Gavin was born in Limerick in 1928 and was working as a painter and decorator on the Irish railway system while playing for Limerick City. In 1948, three years after the war ended, his performances for Limerick were gaining him attention over the water in England.

West Ham were interested in signing him, but when he was approached by Norwich manager Doug Lochhead he decided to head to Norfolk - because he would have company to help him settle after friend and team-mate Kevin Holman agreed to the same move.

It cost City just £1,500 to sign Gavin, who scored 79 goals in 221 games in his first stint with City before joining Tottenham in 1954, where he scored 15 goals in 32 games.

But Gavin - who won seven international caps - didn't settle in London and returned to Carrow Road in 1955 in a part exchange deal that took future England centre-half Maurice Norman to Spurs, and went on to score another 53 goals in 117 appearances before moving on to Watford and Crystal Palace.

Gavin's century came up on September 15, 1956 in a 3-0 home win against Plymouth.

His scoring feats included four hat-tricks for the Canaries - and he also featured in the historic FA Cup defeats of the early 50s - the 3-1 win over Liverpool Road in 51 and the 2-1 victory at Arsenal at Highbury three years later.

He joined Watford in 1958 and went on to play for Crystal Palace, Cambridge City, Newmarket Town and Fulbourn.

When his playing career ended he had spells as a publican in Cambridge, where he lived until his death, and then as a painter and decorator. In later years he suffered from ill health and had a hip replacement. He was made an inaugural member of the Norwich City Hall of Fame in 2002.

Norwich City players will wear black armbands for the next home game, against Sheffield Wednesday on September 29, which will be preceded by a minute's applause.