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Legends are revelling in Lambert's City revolution

PUBLISHED: 12:22 03 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:54 02 July 2010

David Cuffley

Two of Norwich City's promotion heroes from a bygone era have taken great delight in the progress of League One's pacesetters. Exactly half a century after helping City to runners-up spot in Division Three - the last time the club appeared in English football's third flight - former team-mates Terry Allcock and Bill Punton have watched with growing admiration as the present day Canaries have carried all before them in an unbeaten run of 16 matches, 14 of them victories.

Two of Norwich City's promotion heroes from a bygone era have taken great delight in the progress of League One's pacesetters.

Exactly half a century after helping City to runners-up spot in Division Three - the last time the club appeared in English football's third flight - former team-mates Terry Allcock and Bill Punton have watched with growing admiration as the present day Canaries have carried all before them in an unbeaten run of 16 matches, 14 of them victories.

The City side of 1959-60, also managed by a Scot in Archie Macaulay, finished second behind Southampton to book their place in Division Two, chalking up nine wins and three draws from their final 12 home matches, a formidable record on home soil that has been more than matched by the current team in setting a new best of 11 consecutive league wins at Carrow Road.

Allcock, 74, whose club record for the most goals in a season - 37 in all competitions in 1962-63 - could still just about be threatened by Grant Holt on 23, believes there is no substitute for watching a winning team.

He said: "I've said before there is no fun being in the Premier League or Championship and losing every week but everyone is enjoying this season and the crowds are up.

"There are probably only four teams with the quality to threaten Norwich - Leeds, Charlton, Southampton, if they hadn't had the points deduction, and Huddersfield. But I think if they win two or three more games and the others keep slipping up they will be as good as there."

Former inside-right Allcock and outside-left Punton both rate skipper Holt highly as "an old-fashioned centre-forward" and believe he has been missed during his suspension, one match of which remains at Millwall on Saturday, even though City have won both games without him.

But Punton believes the back-up is there and has faith in the squad in manager Paul Lambert's hands.

He said: "City have done extremely well and I just hope they don't get any major injuries and suspensions. It would be marvellous if they could go up exactly 50 years after we did.

"This manager has stirred them up, got them well organised and his signings have been really good. Johnson looks a really useful player and the right-back, Martin, looks a good signing.

"And I like McDonald, because he chases lost causes. It's been hard for him to get into the team. He's had to be patient but he's scored two games in a row.

"He's come out of non-League football and I think that's a good place to look for players."

But there is one area in which the two ex-Canaries believe today's players are very fortunate compared to their own era.

Much was said about the poor state of pitches City encountered at Stockport, Colchester and Walsall this season - though they still managed three wins and 10 goals - but go back 50 years and slogging through mud was an accepted part of winter football.

Said Allcock: "I saw the Colchester game on TV and the ball was holding up on occasions, but to us that was a common scenario. If the pitch was heavy, all they did to alleviate it was put sand on, which made the pitch even heavier.

"There would be four diamond shapes in the corners of the pitch with grass on, but no grass in the goalmouths or in the centre of the pitch. The leather ball absorbed all the moisture and that made the game slower. Today, no matter how wet it is, the ball still moves pretty quickly.

"If we had snow and ice but the referee decided to go ahead they would sweep the lines and paint them blue and get on with it. You might have an inch of snow but it was frozen underneath. You just accepted it. There was no undersoil heating, no automatic watering."

Allcock has no difficulty recalling the worst pitch he experienced.

"That's easy - playing at Newport in a bad winter," he said. "There was so much water the ball was almost floating on it and you had to get your boot underneath it, flick it up and volley it. Some of those games should never have been played - it was a nonsense.

"I wouldn't say the players are spoiled today because they don't know any different. But they are very fortunate.

"It's one of the reasons I am a little sceptical when people say how much fitter today's generation of players are.

"I'd love to see them play for 90 minutes in some of the conditions we played in. The pace of the game today is down to the ball and the conditions they play in - they're the biggest changes."

Both men would dearly love to have had the chance to play on turf as good as Carrow Road has been since its £900,000 state-of-the-art rebuilding in the summer of 2004, a surface where the grass is interwoven with permanent plastic strands and divots are a thing of the past.

Punton, now 75, said: "The pitch today is absolutely superb, with the plastic that holds the roots together. When we played, even at Carrow Road there was very little grass on the pitch in the winter.

"If we made sliding tackles or tackles from behind, you would take a big lump of turf out but that won't happen now.

"The pitches like at Colchester and Walsall were par for the course at this time of the year. One of the worst I ever played on was Derby County - players could lose their boots in the mud."

Changes in kit, boots and the ball make comparisons between eras very difficult, Punton added.

He said: "Apart from the pitches, the lighter ball is so different. With the leather one, even though they used to put dubbing on it to keep the water out, after 20 minutes or half an hour it began to get heavier. You could pull a groin muscle taking a corner.

"When you saw it coming in the air, six or seven pounds of it, it was like a cannonball. You knew you had to head it but you'd be seeing stars for a few moments."

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