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.
GK: Bryan Gunn
A Norwich City legend, Gunn was a Norwich player for 12 years, in which time he put in Man of the Match performances at home and in Europe - notably the win against Bayern Munich. His time as Canaries manager was less than impressive being sacked a week into the League One season having lost the opening game of the season 7-1 to his successor Paul Lambert’s Colchester United. His son Angus (also a goalkeeper) signed for Norwich this summer from Manchester City. Image Source: Twitter
RB: Ian Culverhouse
Starting his career at Spurs, Culverhouse was picked up by Norwich in 1985 for just £50k and would later be named Norwich City Player of the Year in 1991 and made the club's all-time XI in 2002 having spent nine years with the club. Culverhouse returned to the club in 2009 as Paul Lambert’s assistant manager having previously worked under him at Colchester and later left with him to Aston Villa. Image Source: Twitter
CB: Rob Newman
Having impressed at Bristol City, Newman made the jump to Division One and Norwich in 1991 for £600k as a central midfielder before being moved back into the heart of the defence. Renowned for his striking abilities, he won a dead ball competition at Wembley in 1994 boasting the hardest shot in the league. Image Source: Twitter
CB: John Polston
Another player to come from Spurs, the Canaries signed Polston in 1990 and captained the side in their first ever European tie against Vitesse Arnhem in the UEFA Cup run. He remained with the Norfolk side until 1998 where he joined Reading afterwards. He only managed 18 league appearances in three years and retired in 2001. Image Source: Twitter
CB: Ian Butterworth
Gunn’s assistant and a one-time caretaker manager of Norwich, Butterworth was another vital cog of Norwich’s remarkable three years but his career seemed to come to an end in 1994 when he retired due to knee injuries. He attempted to revive his career in the USA with Colorado Rapids but nothing substantial came of it and he spent the final years of his career in the English non-league. Image Source: Twitter
LB: Mark Bowen
Capped 41 times by the Welsh national side over 11 years, Bowen was the final piece in the Norwich back line, even being a threat going forward, finishing joint top scorer for the Canaries in 1990 which saw him voted Norwich City Player of the Year. He also scored the second goal in the Olympiastadion against Bayern Munich in 1993. Now a coach, Bowen has been a longtime assistant under Mark Hughes and is currently with his former Wales teammate at Stoke City. Image Source: Twitter
CM: David Phillips
A journeyman midfielder, Phillips is one of the few players to miss out on the UEFA Cup campaign, he had been a key part of the squad that finished third but a contract dispute during the summer of 1993 saw him drop down to Division One to join recently relegated Nottingham Forest. Image Source: Twitter
CM: Jeremy Goss
A youth graduate, Goss was a member of Norwich’s FA Youth Cup winning side in 1983 but his proudest moment was scoring the winning goal in the Olympiastadion against Bayern in the UEFA Cup tie and the decisive goal back at Carrow Road in the return leg. Goss left the club in 1996 but remains a popular figure in East Anglia. Image Source: Twitter
CM: Gary Megson
Another future Norwich manager, Megson had a rather journeyman career, playing for no less than nine clubs. Whilst still playing, the veteran was named assistant to John Deehan and was named Deehan’s successor in 1995 with Norwich on the brink of relegation. He failed in keeping the Canaries up and was replaced by Martin O’Neill. When O’Neill left for Leicester, Megson returned as manager for the rest of the season as Norwich finished 15th. Image Source: Twitter
ST: Chris Sutton
Having started his career as a defender, Sutton was converted to a forward with great success due to Norwich being short up front. It worked out perfectly and in the first Premier League season Sutton scored eight goals, second to Robins in the Norwich scoring charts. Sutton really took off the following season scoring 25 goals and securing a move to Blackburn Rovers where he was part of the Premier League’s most prolific striking partnerships with Alan Shearer, winning the Premier League title in 1995. He’s now a TV pundit on BT Sport. Image Source: Twitter
ST: Ruel Fox
An inaugural member of the Norwich Hall of Fame, Fox’s pace made him a nightmare for opposing defenders and moved to Newcastle United in 1994 becoming one of Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ coming awfully close to the league title in 1996. He won the only major honour of his career at Spurs in 1999, gaining three substitute appearances in the League Cup enough for a winners medal. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Mark Robins
The man attributed with saving Sir Alex Ferguson’s job at Manchester United when he scored in the Third Round tie with Nottingham Forest in 1990, Robins was sold to Norwich two years later as a replacement for the outgoing Fleck. Robins finished the season as Norwich top scorer with 16 but by 1995 left to have a rather journeyman career taking him to Ourense and Panionios in Spain and Greece. He’s currently the manager of Coventry City. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Ian Crook
An absolute steal, Crook signed for Norwich for just £80k as another player who began his career at Spurs. The midfielder struggled to make the team ahead of the likes of Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles but went on to have a great career at Norwich becoming the midfield hub of their most successful side. Since retirement, Crook has been a long time coach in the A-League and is currently assistant to Tony Popovic at Western Sydney Warriors. Image Souce: Twitter
UNUSED SUB: Mark Walton
The unused substitute on the day, reserve goalkeeper Walton had to sit behind Gunn most of his Norwich career, although he did play in their 1992 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Sunderland. Image Source: Twitter
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.