With his Norwich players completing preparations for their game at Wycombe Wanderers, Mike Walker chose to walk out, destination Everton and the top job he had always coveted. John Deehan began that final training session as the City coach and ended it as manager.
"I remember it so very clearly," Deehan said yesterday. "I came into work and in Mike's office helped him pick the squad for the game. I left to go training and he indicated he would be up later to join in the five-a-side. I was just taking the lads out on to the field when I was told I was wanted by the chairman on the telephone. I said that with all respect nothing came in the way of training, but I was told I was wanted at the ground now. When I got there I saw Mike's letter of resignation. He had gone without saying anything to me or the players."
There must be better ways to launch a managerial career. "It was terrible preparation for such an important game. The staff were left marooned."
As it turned out, the professionalism of the team saw Norwich through.
"In some ways, what had happened worked as an inspiration. We had been to Munich and Milan in the Uefa Cup and you felt everyone was wishing Norwich well that season. Now, in the space of 24 hours, it had all changed. Bryan Gunn was important in the dressing-room because he said that for the first time everybody was wanting us to lose, because it would vindicate Mike and show the club were wrong."
A year on, the team continues to prosper and their not-so-new manager continues to demonstrate sound judgement and principles while, irony of ironies, Walker is out of work.
Only six sides sit above Norwich in the Premiership, while after tomorrow's start of a new FA Cup campaign at Grimsby, attention turns to the Coca-Cola competition and a quarter-final tie at Bolton. There is little time for Deehan and his assistant, Gar
y Megson, to contemplate first anniversary celebrations.
There have been changes in the 12 months, plenty of them. It is not difficult to see that the major difference between Deehan's team and Walker's is that this side are a lot less charitable. Goals against have been reduced, although he is the first to concede it has cost Norwich in terms of their attacking style as, obviously, have the departures of Ruel Fox and Chris Sutton.
Deehan helped accelerate Sutton's record transfer - believing the continuing speculation was harmful to the club - and has spent wisely the money made available to him. Jon Newsome and Carl Bradshaw have strengthened the defence, Mike Sheron has the stage to flourish and Ashley Ward could prove a real steal. But - and it is a recurring but for all those with Norwich's best wishes at heart - how can a trophy- winning side be built when the foundations are always being ripped away?
"To be fair to Robert Chase [the chairman], I have not had a problem with him on that score. When I told him that Jon Newsome would cost £1m, which was a new step for this club, he said that if he was the defender I wanted he would happily write the cheque.
"The chairman has always said that the priority was to stabilise the finances, improve the ground and then aim to win something. We are almost there with the first two, so I'm hoping I'm the manager who can benefit on the silverware side."
The accent continues to give away his Brummie roots. He ended his playing career with Manchester City and Barnsley, but Carrow Road was where he had enjoyed himself most as a player and where he decided to begin his managerial education.
"I was just thinking the other day that it had been quite a relatively quiet year, really, with no bust-ups and hardly any disputes with the players. Then this very morning I woke up to find the headline in the local paper claiming that Mark Robins wanted a transfer, which just goes to show you should never feel satisfied in this business."
Nevertheless, he is clearly happy with how things have turned out. If Deehan was to walk out today, now that would be a shock.
"A few days after it had happened, Mike Walker came back and said he had to do it that way because of legal implications," Deehan said, "But I think the football person in me would have told the lawyers that there had to be a better way of doing things. It created a big problem at the club for 48 hours. I will never forget it, because it left us a player short for the five-a-side!"Reuse content