WHERE ARE THEY NOW? THE 2002 PLAY OFF FINAL TEAM; PART 1

19/01/17

2002 was excellent wasn't it? An unheralded team of journeymen, tiny defenders and players on loan scoring against their parent clubs, culminating in coming from behind to make Wolves fans cry and a trip to Cardiff.Andrew Lawn looks at what happened next to the team that fell at the last hurdle and into our hearts. Part 1 begins with the goalkeeper and back 4.2002 Play Off Final team

I have two Norwich themed pieces of art (yes Mrs Wife they are ^aart^a) on the walls at home. One is a photograph by the excellent photographer Stuart Roy Clarke of City fans flowing over Norwich Castle^as mound, the other is a panorama of the Millenium Stadium seconds before the 2002 Play-Off Final kicked off and City would post a classic of the 'AlongComeNorwich' genre by becoming the first side to lose, when occupying the north dressing room.

In the photo you can see 3 quarters of the stadium, half a sea of yellow, half blue. In front of them are the two teams lined up (both solid in a solid 442), the ball on the centre spot and the referee (Graham Barber) doing his obligatory count. At the very bottom of the photo you can just make out a little row of TVs (I assume it was taken from the press box) and there you can see Robbie Earle^as head, in the final throes of the pre-game hype.

I stopped and looked at it the other day and marvelled at just how much I loved that squad of players. I went through the line-up in the context of what would transpire over the next 120 minutes and having nothing better to do, I decided to find out what happened next.

Incidentally, Robbie Earle was sacked from ITV in 2010 after he pre-empted Marcus Evans by partaking in a World Cup ticket scandal. He now plies his trade as a commentator for the Premier League on NBCSN.
Graham Barber retired after taking charge of the 2004 FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Manchester United, before taking advantage of free movement and heading off to live in sunny Spain. But that^as enough about those on the periphery, here^as how the City squad panned out^a|

GK - Rob Green
The best goalkeeper I can remember us having (although I only started properly going as Bryan Gunn^as career wound down). Greeeennnnoooo was an early hero for me. From memorable wonder saves including one against Stoke in front of the Barclay which still replays in slow motion in my mind, to winding up opposition fans by pulling out of goal-kicks, Green was exceptional and became only the sixth City player to play for England when he came on at half-time in a 3-2 friendly win over Colombia. Then he went to West Ham.

Initially successful in East London, Green won their Player of the Year in 2008. His form was such that Fabio Capello named him number 1 for England^as opening 2010 World Cup match. The pinnacle of his career, was also the beginning of a long slide back to the Championship as Green let a weak Clint Dempsey shot slip through his grasp. In a textbook confidence trashing move, Capello dropped Green for the next game (for David James?!). Seven years on, Green is back in the Championship and first-choice stopper at Leeds. Outside of football he is studying for an Open University Business Management degree.

RB - Darren Kenton
You^all never beat the Kenton. Another hero of mine, who I believed should have played for England, but whose post Norwich career suggests otherwise. 158 games and 9 goals for City earnt(?) Kenton a move to Southampton when his contract expired.

The move south wasn^at all that successful and Kenton made only 29 appearances over 3 years which also included a loan spell at Leicester. A permanent move to Leicester followed, but again Kenton was in an out of the team and was even played in midfield by Martin Allen. While the overall spell in the Midlands was disappointing, Kenton did at least find time to play and scored against us. Brief spells at Leeds and then Cheltenham followed, before Kenton left the UK behind and pitched up at the Rochester Rhinos in New York, staying for a year before seemingly retiring in 2010 aged 32.

CB - Craig Fleming
There^as only one F in Fleming, was like Kenton a diminutive aerial colossus. Born in Halifax, Fleming began his career with his hometown club, making his debut at just 16. Two years on, Fleming moved to then Premier League Oldham Athletic, where he was described by Sir Alex as ^athe best man-to-man marker in the country^a after picking Ryan Giggs up by the chest hair and placing him delicately in his pocket.

City signed him for lb600,000 in 1997 and he would go on to stay for a decade, playing 382 times, leaving him 12th on our all-time appearance list. After leaving Carrow Road Fleming had a very brief 1 game loan spell at Wolves (eugh) and a 17x longer spell at Rotherham, before returning to Norfolk and the salubrious surroundings of King^as Lynn. The Wash could not hold the interest of the Yorkshireman for long though and following a spell on the bench at Lowestoft, Fleming is now a youth team coach at Southampton.

CB - Malky Mackay
We all know how this turned out. Malky began his career at the famously amateur Queen^as Park, before joining Celtic. From the Bhoys in Green, Malky rocked up at Carrow Road, initially on loan, before completing a lb400,000 permanent switch. The blue-eyed 6^a2 defender became a key part of City^as back 4 and scored a derby brace against those fellows from down the A140, all helping Mackay finish 2nd in the 2003-4 Player of the Season vote. Promotion to the Premier League prompted Mackay to be released, a fate that would befall him again 12 months later at West Ham. A third Championship promotion in 3 years would follow, this time at Watford and where Mackay would finally be trusted to make a top-flight appearance, alongside his first foray into coaching.

Malky would move from coach to boss at Watford succeeding Brendan Rogers. Having steadied a sinking ship, he was appointed manager at Cardiff City. Long story short, the Scot was moderately successful implementing a direct approach that saw the Bluebirds promoted to the Premier League in his second season. Seemingly allergic to being in the top-flight however, Malky was sacked in December. Initially public sympathy was Malky^as until it emerged that he had sent text messages that were racist, sexist and homophobic. The Richard Key^as excuse of ^abanter^a didn^at wash with the public, but didn^at deter Dave Whelan from hiring him at Wigan. However fan protests and the withdrawal of some sponsors, meant his position was untenable almost immediately and Mackay was sacked less than 6 months later.

LB - Adam Drury
Our defence was short back then wasn^at it? (and this was before we signed Simon Charlton) 3 of the 4 were under 6 foot, completed by Mr Dependable; Adam Drury. A full-back in the traditional mould, Drury was there to stop crosses and nab the ball off dribbling winger^as toes - the opposite of Ivo Pinto if you will - he was excellent at it. Signed from Peterborough on the same day we got Gary Holt and Paul Peschisolido, Drury was another who would go on to have a Hall of Fame career at Carrow Road, encompassing 326 games.

^aWhile primarily (solely) a defender, Drury scored one of the most dramatic goals in Carrow Road history when he nodded in the equaliser in a 4-4 draw with Middlesbrough, rescuing a point for a City side who were 4-1 down with only 10 minutes to go. After leaving City, Drury went to Yorkshire and had spells at Leeds and Bradford, before retiring.

Read part 2; the midfield and strikeforce.

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