Paul McVeigh

The Shirt of Shirts

14

Apr 18

40

Last time out I wrote about how I was clearing out all of the shirts that I’ve collected throughout my career in professional football.

They once all meant a lot to me for a variety of reasons but the fact that I have managed to live my life in recent years with them all bagged up and forgotten in the attic suggests I really don’t need to have them around anymore.

Some have already found new homes. Whilst others are waiting to find theirs.

One in particular, which holds fonder moments for me than most, is the shirt I wore for Norwich City in the Division One Play Off Final at the end of the 2001/02 season.

It came at the end of a tumultuous season for both the club and me.

Norwich started it with a 4-0 defeat at Millwall whilst I was nowhere near the first team as Nigel Worthington had already told me I wasn’t in his plans and could move on if another club came in for me.

He might have thought that. But I had other ideas. I wanted to prove him wrong.

I got a chance to do just that in only our second match of the season. Chris Llewellyn came off injured whilst another new signing, Marc Libbra, wasn’t fully match fit which meant he had to start on the bench.

Alongside me.

It wasn’t the best of games. Especially when Chris Llewellyn had to be carried off with a broken checkbone. Okay, so it was a battlefield promotion and I was only benefitting because all of those ahead of me in Worthy’s pecking order were out. But it was a chance and I was going to make the most of it.

The game changed when Iwan Roberts also had to come off. Marc Libbra replaced him and, within thirty seconds, scored a worldy on his debut, one that everyone remembers.

At my expense really because I got our second on 90 minutes after Phil Mulryne set me up.

It was the spark that ignited a great season for me. 37 league starts and 10 goals scored as I formed a great strike partnership with Iwan.

We won five of our last seven games to sneak into sixth place and the play offs. I scored in three of them, including a late winner at Bradford and the second in a crucial win at Barnsley.

When I scored in our 3-1 win over Wolves in the play-off semi final, it was one of the best feelings I’d ever had in football.

That is until I walked onto the pitch at Cardiff prior to the final against Birmingham. What an occasion, what a day and what an atmosphere. Unbelievable. I’d gone from being the unwanted man to the starting striker in the biggest club match in the football world.

The fact we lost on the day was, of course, hugely disappointing. Iwan thought he’d won it for us with his goal, that the ‘golden goal’ rule applied in that match.

We lost on penalties. I wasn’t down to take one as Daryl Sutych had come on for me but that didn’t make the defeat any easier to take.

Yet I look back on that day a little differently now.

It was an amazing end to a season which, for both myself and the club, acted as a catalyst for bigger and better things to come.

We narrowly missed out the following season but I ended it as Norwich’s leading goalscorer.

The season after that saw us win the Division One title. I featured in all but two of our 46 league fixtures and scored five goals. Then, just three months after we celebrated that title win, I scored in front of nearly 68,000 people at Old Trafford.

Not bad for the man who Worthy wanted out.

Yet when I look back at my career, the Play Off Final is still the match that resonates with me the most.

I’ve still, you won’t be surprised to hear, got my shirt from that game.

For now, anyway because I’m going to give it away to one of the readers of this blog today at the Norwich City v Cardiff City game.

To have a chance of winning it, all you have to do is RT and Like it if you’re on Twitter or if you’re on LinkedIn then Like it and Share it on that platform.

I’ll let you know who won it by the final whistle and I will personally hand it over to you after the match at Carrow Road today!

I’ll always have the memories. But you are more than welcome to the shirt!!