Norwich City A-Z: Z is for Zema to Zimmermann to a missed Wembley date
We’ve come to the end of our alternative Norwich City A to Z, and it is time to look at some of the players whose name was always last on the school register, as well as a ‘W’ that got away... CHRIS LAKEY completes the set.
Fans watching Norwich City’s game at Sheffield United at the start of the 2001-02 season can be forgiven for not noticing the incident which changed Zema Abbey’s career.
It was innocuous enough – Abbey, under pressure, fell and damaged his knee. Those who witnessed it thought he’d play on, but it wasn’t until 11 months later that he could consider a return. It was the second major knee injury of his career – two too many.
In the period he was out, City had won promotion and Abbey was in a football no-man’s land, even though the club gave him a three-month contract to prove himself. He couldn’t, he left, and his football career at the top end was over.
“In three years I’ve probably only played five months of football so I’ve got some catching up to do,” he said at the time.
Abbey was seen as a successor to Iwan Roberts – a big, powerful striker, but in 63 appearances he scored just eight goals and after departing Carrow Road went on to Wycombe, Bradford, Torquay and then into non-league.
Now 41, he won’t be remembered as one of the greatest – just as one of the unluckiest.
Of course, Z is notoriously difficult to get some good info on – but thanks to the excellent Flown From The Nest website, we can see City had Paul Zand on trial – “Spennymoor United’s young striker Paul Zand had trials with Middlesbrough, Ipswich and Norwich before joining West Auckland from junior side Esh Winning. He moved from Auckland to Spennymoor” – and Sean Zubick, a Canadian Under-20 international who ended up back over the pond.
Then there is the well-known tale of Bobby Zamora, who went on to perform admirably for the likes of Brighton, Spurs, West Ham, Fulham and QPR, as well as play for England, after being rejected by City as a youngster.
A young Zamora suffered from a condition called Osgood-Schlatter’s Syndrome – growing pains.
“During the period I was out, Norwich were phoning me every day so I joined them as soon as I was fit,” said Zamora. “That was for the last year as a schoolboy. I did alright but I was very small and I eventually got a call saying they were not offering me anything because they felt I was not going to be strong enough for professional football.”
Bringing us up to date, we have Christoph Zimmermann on the books at Carrow Road: a beast of a centre-half who came to Norwich from Borussa Dortmund II last summer, he started 30 Championship games last season. Highly memorable was the 2-2 draw at Wolves where he headed the ball whilst flat out on the pitch, sticking himself in the midst of boots and all. He’d already scored his first goal in professional football that night, but that was overshadowed when he got in the way of Morgan Gibbs-White, twisting his body to get enough on the ball to distract the Wolves player.
This is how he described it: “He (Gibbs-White) moved onto his left, I was on the ground trying to block the shot, but then he made another turn and the ball just went close to my face. I was thinking the quickest way for me to get something on the ball in that position was with my head.
“I couldn’t get there with any other part of my body. It just came to my mind that lying on the ground I must head it. I made a slight touch and that allowed Angus Gunn to come out.
“I was just fortunate nothing happened because it was my mistake in the first place. If I wasn’t willing to put my body on the line I would have no chance to play here for this club.”
That is what you call dedication to the cause.
Away from players, anyone remember the Zenith Data Systems Cup, which almost took City to Wembley in 1991? The tournament was created after English clubs were banned from Europe after the Heysel disaster in 1985. The five-year ban issued ensured City missed out three times on the chance of continental football.
The competition was split into northern and southern sections. City were in the latter and in 1990-91, beat Millwall 6-5 on penalties in the second round, then Southampton 2-1 and Ipswich 2-0, before losing 3-1 on aggregate to Crystal Palace in the semi-finals (1-1 at Carrow Road and 2-0 in south London). Palace met Everton in the final, at Wembley, winning 4-1.
So that’s it, the alternative alphabet is complete ...