Canary callback: Norwich City’s first ever Premier League XI

Rob Tonkinson

In 1993, Norwich City so nearly did a Leicester before the Foxes were even a Premier League team, the favourites for the drop were at one stage in pole position for the league title.

Having escaped relegation to the Football League by three points, having failed to win their final eight games and sold top scorer John Fleck to Chelsea in 1992 nobody gave the Canaries much hope of survival let alone finishing third.

Instead Mike Walker’s side put together one of the strangest seasons in Premier League history, finishing in a UEFA Cup place just two points shy of second place Aston Villa with a -4 goal difference.

So enigmatic were Walker’s team that only three teams conceded more goals than Norwich – Tottenham (8th), Oldham (19th) and Middlesbrough (21st) – ironically, Oldham staved off relegation via goal difference.

On their day, however, Walker’s Canaries were the most exciting team in the inaugural season of the Premier League, being involved in countless 3-2 or 4-2 score-lines.

When it rained it poured for them, however, they were thrashed 7-1 by Blackburn Rovers, 4-1 by Liverpool and 5-1 by Tottenham Hotspur at different periods in the season.

Undoubtedly, though, this two-year spell was one of the finest in the club’s history, in their debut UEFA Cup season they would shock everyone by beating Bayern Munich in the second round and becoming the only English side to defeat the German giants in their former Olympiastadion.

Future Arsenal favourite Dennis Bergkamp would score the winners in both legs of the third round for eventual winners Inter Milan but the Canaries short spell in Europe was a memorable one.

To start the first ever Premier League campaign they travelled to one of the title favourites, George Graham’s Arsenal.

The Gunners had won the title in 1991 and with Ian Wright having finished Golden Boot winner in 1992 many pundits believed it would their year again after finishing fourth the previous season, the opening game at Highbury would almost be an indication for their season to come – although they became the first English team to win both the FA & League Cups – they ended the season tenth.

Having raced into a two goal lead thanks to Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell, their collapse in the final twenty minutes was uncharacteristic to say the least and was mainly attributed to the back pass rule change playing on the minds of most defenders.

New signing Mark Robins latched onto a free-kick to pull one back before David Seaman’s mistake gifted the equaliser for David Phillips and Ruel Fox’s breakneck speed got in behind for the Canaries’ third.

Captain Tony Adams was then caught in two minds whether to pass the ball back to Seaman or control it himself and the usually solid centre-back stumbled, allowing Robins to gallop on and score his second.

Norwich were in dreamland.

Norwich’s ascent to third and their exploits in Europe remain one of the early Premier League’s fondly remembered fairytales, sadly most of the team was moved on early, especially after manager Mike Walker’s move to Everton in 1994.

By 1995, the likes of Sutton, Fox and Robins had all moved on and despite finishing third in the first ever Premier League season, the club were relegated to the First Division in 1995.

After flirtations with promotion, including a loss to Birmingham City in the 2002 Division One Play-off final, the club finally returned to the top flight under Nigel Worthington in 2004, but were relegated again after one season despite a famous victory over Manchester United at Carrow Road.

In 2009 they were relegated to League One but bounced back after one season under Paul Lambert who also promoted them to the Premier League in 2011.

Since then, they’ve mostly bounced around the two divisions but have picked up famous scalps over Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.