This weeks’ Press Red is a special one to one interview. Former Norwich City winger Darren Eadie scored 35 goals in 168 games for the Canaries in the mid 90s, before financial trouble at Carrow Road forced him to leave for Leicester in a record transfer for the Foxes. Eadie suffered from knee injuries that eventually forced him to retire after his contract at Leicester expired.
Ahead of Norwich’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday, I was delighted to have the opportunity to have a chat with Darren about his career, his battle with injury, the potential of signing for hated rivals and his thoughts on his former teams’ chances on Saturday. I don’t mind admitting that as a youngster growing up, Darren was one of my favourite players – the tricky, goalscoring left winger and inside forward that England were crying out for, and scorer of all kind of great goals. So it is with great indulgence and delight that I was able to talk to one of idols from my adolescence – that he spoke frankly and openly was fantastic, and I for one found his thoughts very interesting.
Darren, it can be said with a degree of fairness that you’re a Norwich City legend. I’ve said this to you before but it’s a bit surreal for me to be talking to you as you were one of my favourite players growing up!! You broke through in the period of probably the most fondly remembered Canaries team – the early 90’s side that got into Europe, finished third in the Premier League and famously won in Munich. What was it like breaking through as a player when the whole face of the game was being changed, with the advent of the Premier League and so on?
It was a great to be part of a new era in football. Even at that early stage, I think all players could sense that there was something huge in football starting to happen with the input of Sky TV and lots more televised games. Especially the beginning of Monday night football which appeared to be quite Americanised like the American football in the states, all fireworks and cheerleaders! As an 18 year old being involved in the clubs’ finest moment was just brilliant. I thought it would be like that every week!
Sadly, you never went on to fulfil your great potential due to injury – but in your spell at Carrow Road, as I said, you still managed to cement your place as an all time great, being voted into their “Hall of Fame” in 2002. Despite what must obviously still hurt, considering in a natural career you’d probably just have retired, you still achieved what many don’t go on to, with Norwich fans holding you in such high regard. How do you look back on your career now?
With great pleasure and great pain. I started early at 18 in the Premier League and managed to play for eleven years before the injuries took their toll. Playing in the Premier league, Europe, getting called into the Full England squad under Glenn Hoddle and being voted by the Norwich fans into the ‘Greatest ever Norwich 11″ are all things that I am very proud of and as you say many never reach those goals. But there will always be that ‘what could have been’ in my mind… Especially the England team. I managed to get my call up whilst playing in the Championship which is an achievement in itself, but being left footed and a left midfielder stroke winger I could have had a long England career due to the shortage of such a player for such a long time.
That’s true – something I said a lot at the time!! You retired in 2003 after a spell with Leicester City that draws many parallels with Owen Hargreaves’ time at Manchester United. You suffered injury problems prior to becoming an expensive signing and unfortunately those continued to plague you until you were forced to retire. What goes through your mind when you’re injured at a time you are desperate to impress your new club and supporters?
It’s very difficult. As you say, you want to pay back the manager, players, and most importantly, the fans for spending that kind of money and showing that faith in you. Injuries unfortunately are part and parcel of the game and probably the one thing totally out of the players’ control. Very, very hard to sit and watch even now.
Hargreaves himself has spoken quite frankly over the last fortnight and many United supporters didn’t take well to it; of course, there are many still upset about his decision to sign for Manchester City. It might be a bit of a controversial question to ask – if Ipswich had offered you a contract after your Leicester contract expired, would you have taken it?
Fortunately that was never going to happen, as I found it very difficult to even run. But being a footballer and just loving to play I’m sure no fan would begrudge a player coming back from such a long spell out to play again. If it was the only option… then of course, I love the game too much.
Moving on to United now – as I said, I was and am a bit of a fanboy and always wanted us to sign you in the mid 90s, particularly after the great season you had in 96/97. United had Ben Thornley breaking through as an understudy to Ryan Giggs but there was arguably a space in the squad after we sold Lee Sharpe! You have said to me before that Giggs was somewhat of an inspiration to you, and you could see similarities in your style of play. You demonstrated remarkable loyalty to Norwich and it’s said your sale “saved the club”. To satisfy the 16 year old version of me – a question I can’t not ask now I’ve got the chance – would you have wanted to have signed for United in that time?
Who wouldn’t !! I really loved my time at Norwich and I still live there now. There are not many clubs I would have left for. But as regrets go, if you ever turned down the chance to join Manchester United you must be mad.
You’ve gone on record as saying Gary Neville was the toughest defender you’ve faced – what are your memories of playing against United, and among those you played alongside in training in the England squads you were selected for, who was the best?
Gary Neville was by far the best right back I ever played against. Playing against United was always fantastic. Such a great iconic stadium full with 75,000 supporters, and great players I played against over the years like Beckham, Giggs, Cantona… the list is endless. In the early years Norwich always had decent results against United and even the last time Norwich were in the Premier League we took 3 points off you at Carrow Road. As for the England squad – at the time it was full of stars like Beckham, Shearer, Scholes but probably the most gifted to play with was Gazza.
Norwich were promoted back to the Premier League after a whirlwind two seasons under Paul Lambert. Your start has been pretty good. Many are saying it’s down to consistency. What do you think Norwich can realistically hope to take from the season?
Norwich have made lots of signings in the summer, about eight, I think, but not for any big money. They are a real solid team unit, all striving to prove they can play in the Premier league where very few of them have been before. This creates a no fear mentality. I really believe from what I have seen from Norwich and the rest of the Premier League teams, they are more than capable of a mid table finish. And maybe causing a few shocks along the way, starting Saturday at United!
Do you feel they have the potential to upset a seemingly unstoppable United team? Norwich equipped themselves well at Stamford Bridge recently but, until we drew against Basle on Tuesday, we were on a record streak of wins…
A point would feel like a win and a win would feel like winning the league.
You’re certainly keeping yourself busy in recent times. You make local media appearances, as well as help promote the Princes Trust – which leads me onto “Sellebrity”, an online auction website which sells items donated by celebrities. It’s recently launched – and can be found here – how’s the early days gone?
Really well. It has been received very well by everybody I meet and people are being very generous. We are always looking to grow and hope to receive more and more donations as we go along. A perfect place for that one-off unusual gift, whilst raising funds to support UK charities. Some really exciting donations coming over the next couple of months… Watch this space !!
Thanks to Darren for his time. We hope he will join us to give us thoughts about the game and also when we travel to Carrow Road later this season. You can also follow Sellebrity on Twitter.