Graham Paddon: Skilful, effervescent footballer

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Graham Charles Paddon, footballer and coach: born Manchester 24 August 1950; played for Coventry City 1968-69, Norwich City 1969-73, 1976-81, West Ham United 1973-76, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1978; married (one son, two daughters); died Scratby, Norfolk 19 November 2007.

Graham Paddon was a feelgood footballer. He brought to the game a cocktail of flair, zest and determination which, combined with his characteristically sunny outlook, endeared him to the supporters of Norwich City and West Ham United during his 1970s heyday.

With his flowing blond locks and constant darting movement between penalty boxes, it was impossible to miss the chunky little Mancunian on the pitch. Even more compelling was what he could do with his left foot, whether piercing a defence with one telling dispatch or thumping in a spectacular goal from long range.

He wasn't quite of international class, though he made one appearance for England at under-23 level as a permitted over-age player in 1976, but he was the type of skilful, effervescent entertainer without whom the domestic scene would have been so much the poorer.

Paddon served his apprenticeship with Coventry City, where he progressed impressively as a teenage midfielder under the expansive coaching regime of Noel Cantwell and made his top-flight début for the Sky Blues as a substitute at home to Queen's Park Rangers in February 1969.

There were plenty of Highfield Road regulars who predicted as bright a future for Paddon as for his fellow rookie play-maker Dennis Mortimer, and those admirers were surprised when Cantwell sold him to Second Division Norwich City for £25,000 that October.

He settled quickly at Carrow Road, thriving as a key constituent of the enterprising team being melded by the flinty taskmaster Ron Saunders. Operating mainly on the left of midfield, he was principally a prompter but he chipped in with crucial goals, too, especially in 1971/72, when the Canaries clinched their divisional title and rose to the elite tier. Four of Paddon's eight League strikes that term came in tense 1-1 draws and he demonstrated calm expertise from the penalty spot.

A season later, Paddon performed brilliantly during Norwich's exhilarating surge to the final of the League Cup, notably in the last-eight encounter with Arsenal at Highbury, where he cracked a splendid hat-trick. Ranged against top-quality opponents such as Frank McLintock, Charlie George and John Radford, Paddon bloomed luxuriantly, then he was outstanding in the two-legged semi-final triumph over Chelsea. He strove nobly in the Wembley final against Tottenham Hotspur, too, but could not prevent the north Londoners prevailing by the only goal of the game.

With his own star firmly in the ascendancy but with City destined for relegation that term under a new boss, John Bond, Paddon joined fellow First Division club West Ham United in December 1973, valued at £170,000 in a deal which saw prolific marksman Ted MacDougall move in the opposite direction.

At Upton Park, he dovetailed productively in centre-field with the vigorous Billy Bonds and the extravagantly creative Trevor Brooking. Paddon, who was also renowned for his chaos-inducing long throws, reflected aspects of both his high-profile comrades in his own footballing make-up, combining high energy and a willingness to dig into tackles with subtly perceptive distribution which equipped him ideally to mesh with the acute Brooking.

His high point as a Hammer came in 1975, when he played a prominent role in the FA Cup final victory against a Second Division Fulham side containing the ageing but still potent former England luminaries, Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery. West Ham won 2-0, with their second goal being poached by Alan Taylor after Fulham custodian Peter Mellor had spilled a Paddon drive.

That qualified Ron Greenwood's fluent combination for the European Cup-Winners' Cup, in which they exceeded some expectations by reaching the final. Once more, Paddon was integral to their success, netting unforgettably with a 30-yard piledriver in the 2-1 semi-final defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany and excelling in the 3-1 home success which produced a 4-3 aggregate triumph. The final against Anderlecht proved enthralling, too, with the Hammers taking an early lead before being disrupted by an injury to Frank Lampard Snr and conceding a controversial penalty on the way to a 4-2 reverse.

Paddon, now in his middle twenties, appeared to be at the peak of his powers and it surprised many supporters when he was sold back to Norwich – by now back in the First Division – for £110,000 in November 1976.

After an early setback, a broken leg suffered in a collision with Sunderland's Jim Holton in only his third outing after the transfer, Paddon flourished as skipper of the Canaries, going on to total 340 senior appearances during his two East Anglian sojourns. However, as he entered his thirties he could do nothing to prevent City's demotion in 1980/81.

During 1981/82 Paddon spent a brief spell on loan with Third Division Millwall before finishing his playing days in Hong Kong. In 1985 he became a youth coach at Portsmouth under Alan Ball, and in 1989 the England World Cup-winner recruited Paddon again, taking him to Stoke City, where he became assistant manager at a time of travail for the Potters, who soon slumped to the Third Division.

Come 1991, he was back with Pompey as assistant to the manager, Jim Smith, leaving when Smith was sacked in 1995. There followed scouting duties for Derby County, Liverpool and Leicester City, and another coaching post, in Brunei, between 2003 and 2005.

Ivan Ponting