Norwich City top 100 appearances: Dave Stringer (3) – Tales from a Norfolk boy done good for the Canaries
PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:47 21 July 2017
As our summer series looking at the top 100 appearance makers in City’s history comes towards the end, Mark Armstrong takes a look at a Canaries icon.
499 appearances/22 goals
Dave Stringer is the archetypal Norfolk boy done good.
Born in Great Yarmouth, he is one of the few players from the county to go on to achieve real success - both as a player and manager.
Stringer was almost lost to the game as a youngster when he started work as an apprentice in the Yarmouth dockyards before being picked up by Ron Ashman, who offered Stringer a professional deal.
It would prove to be one of the shrewdest pieces of business in City’s history as Stringer went on to amass 499 appearances between 1965 and 1976.
Stringer became part of a City side that would finally establish itself in the top flight of English football and his partnership at the heart of the defence alongside Duncan Forbes is still spoken about as one of the best in the club’s history. The fact he went on to become one of the most successful managers in the club’s history continued his City fairytale. But he credits his time in the shipyards as the place he earned a sense of perspective that served him well when entering the relative glitz and glamour of professional football.
“It taught me a few values: in particular going to work and knowing how life was outside of the football sphere,” he said. “The fact that it’s a nine to five job and you have to dig in there to make sure that you’re there on time.
“Being a footballer was a privileged life in many ways: hotels, going abroad at the end of the season and earning good money. I think when I was down the shipyard I was earning about three pounds ten shillings a week.
“I still remember my first Norwich City pay packet being £15 a week and I thought I was earning a fortune.”
City were stuck in the second tier for the early part of his career until the arrival of Ron Saunders turned the tide.
Saunders’ hard-line approach had Stringer and Forbes at its heart as the Canaries out-worked teams to finally secure promotion to the top-flight.
In fact it was actually Stringer that scored the goal at Watford to secure the Second Division title. But his most famous goal came 12 months later against Crystal Palace as his late strike preserved City’s Division One status. City’s League Cup final defeat against Tottenham had proved the catalyst for a downturn that saw City dragged into a relegation fight. Victory at home to Palace was imperative if they weren’t to immediately return to the Second Division.
Enter Stringer...“I don’t think I had a particularly good game. Colin Suggett scored. They equalised and it was 1-1 right to the end. And with a minute or so to go we got a corner and I thought ‘I’ll go up’.
“So I went up and I just kept running and funnily enough I arrived just as the ball was coming across. Duncan went up for the ball, took the ‘keeper, Jackson out, I arrived behind and just hit it and it flashed into the net. And that was it. The game was virtually over. Everyone was on their feet; grown men were in tears.”
Stringer left City for Cambridge after making just one appearance on the opening day of the 1976-77 season against Liverpool but he would return three years later as the club’s youth team coach.
Stringer took City’s fledglings to FA Youth Cup glory in 1973, leading a team with the likes of Jeremy Goss, Louis Donowa and Tony Spearing to victory over Everton in a replay.
Despite what he would go on to achieve as manager of the first team, he regards this as one of the highlights of his coaching days with the Canaries.
“It was brilliant - I think I enjoyed that as much as anything,” Stringer said in ‘12 Canary Greats’. “I really mean that. Just the way we were playing - you always had confidence that they were going to go out there and do it. The problem was keeping them together.”
Stringer took over from Ken Brown in 1987 and masterminded two FA Cup runs that agonisingly ended at the semi-final stage against Everton (1989) and Sunderland (1992). They remain the biggest regrets of his time as Stringer was deprived of star striker Robert Fleck in tragic circumstances before the defeat to Everton after the forward’s father had died from a heart attack. Fleck did play in the Sunderland tie but wasn’t match fit and John Byrne’s winner denied City of a trip to Wembley.
Stringer grew tired of his star players being sold from under him and resigned on May 1, 1992 to be replaced by Mike Walker.
Walker of course would take City to a third-placed finish in Division One before that famous Uefa Cup run.
But the groundwork but been laid by Stringer – a Norfolk boy done good.
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