Norwich City top 100 appearances – Bill Punton (34): Record crowd, promotion and League Cup glory were all part of flying winger’s era
PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:44 14 June 2017
256 appearances, 29 goals
Scottish winger Bill Punton was signed from Southend in 1959 and went on to give City seven years of sterling service.
The former Newcastle United attacker’s pace left many full-backs chasing shadows, scoring four goals in 27 league games to help City finish second in Division Three and earn promotion to the second tier.
He started every match of the following campaign, scoring six goals, as Archie Macauley’s team finished fourth in Division Two.
The following season wasn’t quite as successful in the league, City finishing 17th and Punton scoring four in 23 games, but there was success in winning the League Cup.
Punton scored one of the goals as Willie Reid’s team beat Rochdale 3-1 away from home in the first leg of the final, before sealing the trophy in front of almost 20,000 people at Carrow Road with a 1-0 victory in the second leg.
The next season saw Punton scored four in 30 games in all competitions, with the Canaries reaching the sixth round of the cup and the winger playing in the 2-0 defeat to Leicester in front of a record crowd of just under 44,000 at Carrow Road.
“One of the best memories is the FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester, there were 44,000 at Carrow Road that day,” Punton recalls, now aged 83.
“Before they scored we had missed a penalty – Terry Alcock missed and I never let him forget it – and then they went down the other end and scored.
“It was a terrific crowd and they were a really good team who were doing really well, with Gordon Banks in goal – but we were the better side, we just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Originally from East Lothian, Punton played as a junior for Breadalbane in the Highlands, before crossing the Irish Sea to play for Portadown in 1952.
Less than two years later he was signed by Newcastle as a 19-year-old, spending more than four years in the north-east.
He spent the 1958-59 season at Southend before Norwich signed him for around £10,000.
“After seven years they sold me to Sheffield United and I know they got double what they had paid for me,” Punton continued.
“Sheffield United were in what is now the Premier League and were second from top when I arrived but Gil Reece had a double fracture to his right leg so they needed an experienced winger straight away, so came in and bought me.”
Punton would have played even more matches for City, were it not for injury problems.
“I was very quick, I could do the 100 yards in 10.2 seconds and the record was 10 at the time, so I used to pull muscles quite often, my thigh or my groin, especially in the wet weather,” he explained.
“In the cold weather I had special exercises to do, I saw a doctor and he told me to cover my legs in Vaseline to keep the cold out, because there were no substitutes in those days, so you would get strapped up and told to go out and be a nuisance.
“I remember Terry Alcock had a double fracture of his leg in a game at Halifax in the FA Cup and he had to carry on, he said to me ‘can you hear that cracking’.
“We played at Wolves and Ron Flowers booted me in the leg and I was carried off and the doctor gave me four stitches in my ankle and put my boot back on and sent me back out there.
“It wasn’t until we were on the way back and stopped for food, I was eating some soup and collapsed, and it turned out the stitches had burst!”
Despite playing in those uncompromising days the Scot was never booked or sent off – “you had to commit murder to get a red card in those days” – and the Scot knows the game has changed a lot since he stopped playing in the Football League almost 50 years ago in 1969.
“You used to get threatened at the start of the game,” adds Punton, who finished his career with a season at Scunthorpe after just over a year in Sheffield.
“I remember I had made my debut for Newcastle and scored at West Brom a few days before we played Sunderland and Billy Elliott said to me at the start that I had done really well, and I said ‘thank you very much’.
“Then the first ball through I took on my chest and the sky came down on me! He said ‘welcome to the real world’.”
Punton returned to Norfolk as player-manager of Yarmouth Town in 1969, retiring as a player in 1974 but continuing as manager until 1990.
He also coached Norfolk between 1988 and 1994 and still lives in Nelson’s County, having famously led Diss Town to FA Vase glory at Wembley in 1994 as he took charge of the Tangerines between 1990 and 1997, winning the Norfolk Senior Cup in 1996.
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