Norwich City are back in the Championship and will be hoping they can repeat the success of their 2003-04 side who went from fighting relegation to a Premier League side in just four seasons.
Craig Fleming was a part of Nigel Worthington’s new look side which narrowly avoided relegation at the start of his reign. They reached the play off final the very next year, where they faced Birmingham City.
Norwich lost on penalties and Fleming recalls: “A few of the older heads like myself, thought that might be our last chance of getting back into the Premiership.”
The Carrow Road faithful would have been forgiven for thinking the same would happen again, after a League Cup first round elimination at the hands of Northampton Town.
The current Lowestoft Town coach remembers: “It was a big confidence drain. It wasn’t necessarily the result it was how we played; we were awful that night.
“It knocked us a little bit but we had players who had been around the Championship for a long time so we knew we were a decent team, very hard to beat.”
Although Norwich’s up-turn in fortunes under Worthington had been a surprise to some, Fleming always felt they were there or thereabouts.
After the League Cup loss, though, it was clear there was still a lot of work to be done so Worthington went about re-building yet again and this time his transfer marker acumen worked and finally got Norwich into the Premier League.
“The turning point was when we went out and got [Peter] Crouch and [Darren] Huckerby on loan. They transformed us from a hard to beat, workman-like Championship side knocking on the door of the play-off to serious contenders,” Fleming said.
“With Hucks’ electric pace and Crouchy’s aerial presence, hold up play and goal threat they really made us a team that could destroy sides.”
The signings up front complemented the Canaries’ experienced backline which, at an average age of 30 years old, was in it’s prime and were safe in the knowledge they had a talented young keeper, who is now a member of the England squad, behind them
“We had Robert Green behind us, who was one of the best keepers in the country and has gone on to be the best. Adam Drury was one of the best left-backs outside the Premiership.”
The whole season, including going top of the league at Portman Road, will live long in the memory of the whole squad but Fleming points to the last day of the season as his stand out moment.
He recalls: “It was Iwan Roberts’ last game for Norwich and he is obviously a legend at Carrow Road. We had already won the league and Crewe gave us a guard of honour, the whole day was just great. We played as well as we had played all year.”
Fleming’s outstanding season ended in him winning the prestigious Player of the Year award, voted by the fans and he said: “It is quite a big award at Norwich because it is named after a former player called Barry Butler.
“It is taken quite seriously amongst the fans and it is a big trophy to win so it capped a memorable season off.”
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