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Norwich City top 100 appearances: Duncan Forbes (15)

PUBLISHED: 10:30 23 June 2017

Duncan Forbes holds aloft the Division Two trophy at City Hall in 1972. Picture: Archant

Duncan Forbes holds aloft the Division Two trophy at City Hall in 1972. Picture: Archant

In our latest look at Norwich City’s top 100 appearance makers, Paddy Davitt looks at the iconic Duncan Forbes’ immense impact on the football club.

Norwich footballer Duncan ForbesNorwich footballer Duncan Forbes

15 357 appearances/12 goals

As long as there is a Norwich City, we must talk about Duncan Forbes.

The words of respected journalist Mick Dennis, who covered the club and the iconic centre back during his halcyon playing days at Carrow Road.

Dennis penned a moving piece for MyFootballWriter back in 2013 when the news of big Dunc’s on-going battle with Alzheimer’s first reached the public consciousness.

Duncan ForbesDuncan Forbes

The heartfelt replies to that article tell you why the modern-day hype around the use of legend in the sporting lexicon perfectly fits this teak-tough Scot.

“I never saw him play but the stories I hear tell you he was a true legend at the heart of the defence,” reads one. “He took time out to see my late grandma in her old people’s home. Whenever I saw him at reunions he always made time to talk to the fans.”

His fabled double act with Dave Stringer led Stringer to suggest if Forbes shouted in Norwich then his booming voice could be heard in Yarmouth.

He was the perfect leader. A commanding figure and an inspiration to team mates and those who followed from the terraces.

Duncan Forbes. Norwich v Aston Villa, August 23, 1975.Duncan Forbes. Norwich v Aston Villa, August 23, 1975.

“On a wet Monday night we played a cup replay against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, a neutral ground. The weather was so foul the attendance was just over 6,000. The conditions didn’t suit us and we were 6-0 down with three minutes to play. Big Dunc roared: ‘Keep going lads, we can still win this one.’”

The very best in the green and yellow transcend mere trophies and individual honours, promotions and cup finals. They form an emotional connection and an unbreakable bond. Forbes is one of those unique characters and as such occupies a special place in the club’s rich heritage.

His impact on the pitch, leading the club to two promotions and two Wembley appearances, was dwarfed by the affection he enjoyed off it in a variety of customer-facing roles at his footballing home.

Dennis estimated Forbes gave 33 years of his life to Norwich City. Ron Saunders was his manager for that glorious spell in the early 1970s, when the Canaries’ reached the promised land for the first time in their history and the 1973 League Cup Final.

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“He was straight as a die,” said Saunders, speaking to the club in 2014. “He loved the game and wanted everyone else to give the same effort that he gave. You speak to players when you take over a new club and those things about ability, effort, everyone working for each other struck a chord with Dunc. We were on the same wavelength right from the start. That wavelength is the same I always used to get lads playing for each other and the club. Him and Dave Stringer hit it off straight away. They thought along the same lines. It was a huge bonus to realise right from the day I took over you had two lads you could bank on they would give you 100pc and be upset if other players didn’t. When we were running them up Mousehold we would emphasize to them you can’t play good football if you are not fit. You have to get fit. Duncan of course he was shouting the same things as me, only a bit louder.”

Forbes’ legacy will endure through generations because he was a selfless servant who wanted only the best for Norwich.

“Duncan was very easy to manage because he was learning from you all the time,” added Saunders. “Anything new to him he wanted to know what the answers were. A lot of players, when you get after them, if that is the right expression, they feel they are being picked on. Duncan didn’t. He realised everything was for the benefit of the team.”

Norwich City had many fine players before Forbes and many who came after him but he is peerless. A football institution in these parts and his story should always be told.


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