“When I saw the McNally comment about death and relegation, I thought little does he know that I nearly did both!” – Former Norwich City coach Steve Foley re-lives his Fulham nightmare
06:30 12 April 2014
Norwich City’s trip to Fulham brings back some painful memories for the club’s former first-team coach Steve Foley.
The Canaries were relegated at Craven Cottage on the last day of the 2004/05 season, when Foley was part of manager Nigel Worthington’s coaching team.
The disastrous 6-0 loss that day was made even worse for Foley when he was rushed to hospital after collapsing in the dressing room after the game.
Doctors would later find that Foley had an abscess in his lung, which was causing him breathing difficulties.
So when Foley saw a controversial comment from City’s chief-executive, David McNally, being repeated this week in the wake of Chris Hughton being sacked on Sunday, Foley found himself rather annoyed.
In an interview in January, prompted by pressure from fans for Hughton to be dismissed, McNally said: “We will not contemplate relegation, in a sporting sense it is worse than death.”
Foley saw the comment repeated this week and said: “When I saw the McNally comment about death and relegation, I thought little does he know that I nearly did both!
“It was a bit of a stupid comment, it might have been a bit of a flippant thing to say, but my memory of that day is losing 6-0 to Fulham to be relegated and then being carted off to hospital after I collapsed in the dressing room.
“If it wasn’t for the surgeons back in Norwich then it could have been ‘bye-bye’ for me.”
Fortunately for Foley he has made a full recovery and, after losing his job at Norwich in 2006, is now working as a coach for Ipswich Town’s youth academy.
“It was obviously a big game, so my daughter had gone as well,” Foley continued. “So I didn’t want her to see me crawling across the pitch, so I remember leaning on the club doctor on the way back to the dressing room.
“I was in hospital for three weeks and for 10 days of that the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. It ended up that I must have had pneumonia at some point but when you’re coaching in football you never have time for a day off, you just get on with it if you have a cold and get back out on the training pitch.
“So then the abscess had just kept growing in my lung.”
Foley joined City as a coach in 1996, so knows new City boss Neil Adams well from his time as a player. He has also often spoken with Adams, and fellow City academy coach Darren Huckerby, through his work with Ipswich’s academy.
He said he still “won’t have a bad word said” about City despite his exit and hopes Adams can steer the club to Premier League safety.
“He’s a good lad is Neil,” Foley added. “He was always a thoughtful player but my biggest memory of him was always taking a bag of balls at the end of training and practicing penalties, which he had a very good scoring record of.
“If he takes that some sort of bravery into management then he will do well. Without being horrible, he’s not really got anything to lose, because if they do go down, everyone will still blame Chris (Hughton) anyway.”
Follow David Freezer on Twitter @davefreezer