That relegation feelin': 2005

Now, we’re not saying Norwich are doomed. But this is the second part of Richard Jeffery’s look back at our three worst relegations in history. Today it’s 2004-05 – when a great late-season run put us in pole position on the final day of the season…

Hucks is happy here. He didn't quite look like this at Craven Cottage

Hucks is happy here. He didn't quite look like this at Craven Cottage

It was the most embarrassing day in Norwich’s entire history, and it was the day our relegation was sealed.

Nigel Worthington had built a decent team over several seasons, we’d made the play-off final a couple of years before and finally we were propelled to promotion as champions on the back of a feel good-factor which was bound up in Hucks, Crouchy, Iwan, Leon, Top of the league at Portman Road, he scored against the scum etc.

We were back. As inaugural members of the Premier League (or Premiership as it was known at that time, pedantry fans), we’d returned to our rightful place at the top table after being absent for 10 years. We made a pretty dire attempt at staying in it overall. There were huge mitigating factors however, like we had no money and we signed the Doc as a centre-forward.

Our other transfer business was low-key. Thomas Helveg, who had been an excellent right-back with over 100 caps for Denmark and a stellar career in Italy, Mattias Jonson, Swedish International Winger (his most memorable contribution to the season was being the kickee in Jay Bothroyd’s hilarious sending off for Blackburn). Simon Charlton also came in. He replaced the then not disgraced Malky Mackay, who’d been a big personality in the dressing room and was much missed. We also signed David Bentley on loan from Arsenal, who was basically a huge bellend in almost every way.

The first half of the season was pretty forgettable. We didn’t win a game until we beat Southampton on November 20th, and only got one more win before Christmas. Despite that our 9 (nine) draws, had us on 15 points at the festive period. Believe it or not, we weren’t bottom. That was West Brom. Bottom at Christmas, every team who’d been bottom at Christmas in the history of football (since 1992) had been relegated. Unlucky West Brom, or so you’d think.

We made an astute signing in January, Dean Ashton from Crewe. He scored all kinds of goals, led the line brilliantly and linked play, and those strengths gave us the quality focal point up front we’d been lacking. With him about the place we picked up a little. If only we’d signed the required quality in the summer and not waited until January...

With Seven Games Remaining and Time Running Out faster than a Robbie Brady sprint to make a saving tackle, there was a memorable win over Manchester United; Fergie, Rooney, Ronaldo et al. This started a run of four wins and a draw in six games, (the kind of run we desperately need now in fact…). So when it came to the final game of the season we’d given ourselves a real chance of staying up.

This was the tightest relegation battle in the history of football (since 1992). On the last day every one of the bottom four could still stay up, or go down. After every one of the last three rounds of matches, the team who’d been bottom ended up out of the relegation places. We were in 17th place, two points above bottom side West Brom, with Southampton and Crystal Palace both a point behind us.

It was billed as Survival Sunday, with all the over-the-top publicity you’d expect from Sky surrounding it. The nation looked on. Gripped. There was a palpable buzz around Norwich.

It was in our hands. All we had to do to ensure survival was to win our final game, away against a mid-table and ‘on the beach’ Fulham side, and we’d done it. It’s in the bag lads!

OK, so we hadn’t won an away game all season, but it felt that destiny was on our side. Accordingly the splendiferous yellow army travelled in huge numbers, ready to party, taking not just the away allocation, but the whole of the Putney End, where neutrals can buy tickets at Fulham.

And:

Faces painted,
balloons inflated,
thirst sated,
breath bated,
the yellow army unabated,
survival awaited.

But:

Fulham underrated,
sadly equated,
to hopes desecrated,
Francis berated,
Bentley slated,
us to relegation fated.

Yes, needing a win to be sure of staying up we were stuffed 6-0 by a Fulham side with nothing to play for. Six. Nil. Six fucking nil. On live TV. In front of the entire nation. Everyone in the country saw our pathetic capitulation. Everyone. Or at least that’s how it felt.

As a consequence West Brom became the first team who were bottom at Christmas to stay up in football history (since 1992), courtesy of a home win over Portsmouth. The other Survival Sunday results were Southampton losing at home to Manchester United and Palace, managed by Iain ‘Bouncebackability’ Dowie, the man with a Masters Degree in Engineering and a face only a Mother could love, snatching relegation from the jaws of survival by conceding a late equaliser to Charlton.

It seemed to the yellow army, those at Fulham and those huddled round their TVs, that a lot of our players couldn’t give a Huck, who was one of the exceptions. This was later confirmed by Lee Clark, who played for Fulham that day, when he was our assistant manager. He said how mentally weak we were that day and how some of our players didn’t seem to care.

So that’s number two on my relegation countdown.

Will we find ourselves in a similar situation this season, where on the last day our fate is in our hands? Many of you would take that now. If that’s how it pans out, we’ll probably be OK at Goodison in front of a huge travelling support against what will be a mid-table and ‘on the beach’ Everton. Oh.

Have a guess at what Richard Jeffery (@twitchut) thinks our worst relegation is. Tweet your guesses to @LYPB using the hashtag #releguessinggame. No prizes – a bit like if you’re relegated. Choices are: 1939, 1974, 1981, 1995, 2009, 2014.