The big kick off (no pun intended with regards to the current goings on around England) on Saturday will see the Blues hopefully fare better against Premier League newcomers than they did last season. Current manager Roberto Martinez will not be wanting a repeat of the Blackpool game at the DW Stadium that occured this time last year! Speaking of managers, the link between the clubs that I will be featuring for this game is a former Norwich City star who went on to manage both clubs, step forward John Deehan.
John was born in Solihull on 6th August 1957 and went on to a very successful career as a player before stepping into management. His first club was Asyton Villa for whom he made his debuut in the 1975/76 season. He made 110 league appearances for the Villans during which he netted 40 times. No doubt the highlight of his career was the day he received a League Cup winners medal in 1977 after Villa beat Everton at the third time of asking at Old Trafford on the 13th April. The opponents that day were Everton who had another former Latics manager in their ranks, namely Bryan Hamilton. Also playing for the Toffees were Duncan McKenzie and Mike Lyons who also have Latics ties.
In September 1979 he signed for West Bromwich Albion but it is probably fair to say that his time at the Hawthorns was not the most productive of his playing career. After making just 47 league appearances for the Baggies in almost three seasons, during which he scored 5 goals he was on the move again, this time to Norwich City in December 1981.
His time at Carrow Road saw Deehan experience almost every emotion it is possible for a footballer to experience. In 1985 he was a member of the team that beat Sunderland in the League (Milk) Cup Final, along with future Latics manager Steve Bruce and future Latics reserve team manager Dave Watson. Together these Latics men also suffered relegation from Division One just a few weeks later along with Stoke City and their cup final opponents Sunderland. The Canaries were the first ever team to do the unwanted ‘double’ of being cup winners and suffering relegation from the top flight.
The following season he was part of the Norwich team that regained their top flight status and his final career total for the club consisted of 162 league appearances and 62 goals. His impressive spell at the club saw him inducted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame in 2002.
He left Carrow Road to join Ipswich Town in July 1986 as part of a player exchange involving Trevor Putney. His time at Portman Road yielded 49 league appearances and 11 goals. His next port of call was Manchester City for whom he signed in the summer of 1988. It was at Maine Road that he went into coaching and he was relatively successful with former Norwich star Mel Machin who was City’s manager at the time. Despite the pair working wonders at City to gain promotion to the top flight they were both dismissed on 27th November 1989.
Deehan then had a short playing spell at Barnsley for whom he played 11 league games, scoring twice.
His next port of call was his former stomping ground when he became the assistant manager to Mike Walker at Norwich City. The pair guided the Canaries to a third place finish, and UEFA Cup qualification for the first time in the club’s history in the inaugural Premier League season (1992/93), and he eventually replaced Walker as manager when the former made a controversial move to take over the managerial reins at Everton.
He guided the Canaries to a respectable 12th place in the league following his first full season as manager but in season 1994/95 things went awry for Deehan following the then record breaking transfer of his star striker Chris Sutton to Blackburn Rovers. The team started sliding down the league and he resigned leaving Gary Megson to try and retain the Canaries top flight status. He failed.
On 7th October 1995 Latics manager Graham Barrow was in charge of a Latics team that capitulated 2-6 at home to Mansfield Town at Springfield Park and this was the signal for Deehan’s arrival at the club just a few weeks later. Up until his appointment the club was deemed to be heading out of the Football League but his brilliant coaching techniques resulted in the Blues missing out on the promotion play offs following a shock defeat at home against Northampton Town on the last day of the 1995/96 season.
It was the Deehan era in which chairman Dave Whelan began to invest heavily in the team and it wasn’t long beofre the big money signings came in. Kevin Sharp arrived in a then record breaking transfer deal and the Springdfield Park faithful were delighted when club legend David Lowe arrived back on the scene in a deal that eclipsed Sharp’s. Deehan also added former Canary Wayne Biggins and other players that became crowd favourites such as Graham Lancashire and Gavin Johnson.
These players complimented the existing players well and along with the legendary ‘three amigos, of which cyrrent manager Roberto Martinez proved to be the best, his team won promotion to the Second Division in 1997. Things turned sour when a war of words with Mr Whelan resulted in him leaving the club and teaming up with his old friend and former Latics manager Steve Bruce at Sheffield United.
His parting shot at Mr Whelan was the warning that the club would be heading nowhere should his policy of not offering managers long term deals continue. The chairman finally learned the lesson following brief spells by contractless Bruce Rioch and Steve Bruce!
Things didn’t go to plan and he resigned his post at Bramall Lane a year later and then took up his place at Bruce’s side again when he took over at Huddersfield Town in the summer of 1999. In July 2001 Deehan was appointed assistant manager to John Gregory at Aston Villa, another of his former clubs. Then in January 2002 he was named joint caretaker manager following Gregory’s much punlicied resignation. He left his post when Graham Taylor returned for a second spell as manager of the Villans in February 2002. Did he not like that!
John is now out of the game following a spell as Director of Football at Northamton Town and Lincoln City. He was also a part of the Bolton Wanderers scouting team for a while, and in September 2008 he applied for the job of manager of Grimsby Town, but he failed in his bid when the Mariners opted for former Latic Mike Newell.
He still wasn’t finished at Carrow Road as in January 2009 he became the cheif scout before being lured to Kettering Town as assistant manager but he left in December 2009, less than a month into the job. His last position in the game was as Director of Football for Grimsby Town who were by then managed by former Latic Neil Woods.
He has been out of the game since 20th May 2010.