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Football - Mr Norwich City

Geoffrey Watling was widely considered to have saved Norwich City Football Club in 1956/57, becoming chairman, a post he held for sixteen years, the longest serving chairman. After that he served the club as vice chairman for many years before becoming President, a position he held until his death. In 1996 he helped the Club through another financial crisis that prepared the way for Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones

As the year turned to 1957, the Canaries were in deep financial trouble. An Appeal Committee was set up to raise £25,000 just to keep Norwich afloat, and on February 4th an Extraordinary General Meeting was held at the Samson and Hercules - premises then owned by Mr Watling.

In an interview in October 1998, Geoffrey explained what happened ...

"I'd worked hard to try and put things right for the Club. A new Board of Directors was formed, and out of the blue I was elected Chairman. I told them I didn't want the job but it was too late."

That season City finished bottom of Division Three South, but the rise in their fortunes could be traced to the day Geoffrey Watling took control of an ailing club.

"It was a difficult time" he admitted. "Not only had I to try and get things right off the pitch, but I was team manager for a time."

That was until Archie Macauley was appointed manager, and so began a golden age for the Canaries. They were promoted in 1959-60, but of far greater significance was Norwich's massive impact on the nation in 1959 when they reached the Semi-final of the FA Cup as a Third Division outfit.

"It was a wonderful thing," he recalled with obvious pride. "So many people had worked so hard to bring about a transformation at Carrow Road, and all of a sudden we were beating Manchester United and Tottenham. And beating them with style - that was the most pleasing thing about it.

"The whole country was talking about Norwich City and wanting us to get to the final. It was just very special being part of it all."

So began the renaissance of Norwich City Football Club. Culminating thirteen years later with the Club reaching the top flight for the first time in their history.

Again, Mr Watling takes pride in the team effort that allowed a hard-working if unspectacular side to make it to the top.

Some fans will argue that the 1958-59 Cup run was the Club's biggest ever achievement, others will point to the Milk Cup triumph at Wembley in 1985 - but for most, promotion in 1971-72 will always remain the supreme achievement.

"Everyone was so dedicated to doing it the players and the supporters together. There was just a feeling that we were destined to get where we felt we belonged."

Mr Watling refuses to pick out the individual players who'll always have a special place in his affections, but you instinctively sense that Duncan Forbes and Dave Stringer - the defensive backbone of that promotion-winning team - are high up there.

Geoffrey Watling was chairman of Norwich City for sixteen years - an absolutely purple period in the Clubs long history.

In 1996 following relegation from the Premiership NCFC were once again on the brink of financial disaster and it was Geoffrey Watling, then President, who was once again forced to rescue the Canaries from severe embarrassment by buying the shareholding of the previous chairman Robert Chase - and effectively led the way for the new administration to take over in 1996.

Shortly after, he commented:

"It was sad to see so many people unhappy at the way the Club was being run. It really was a very unfortunate time' he said "But things are on the up again and I think the supporters are appreciating what they're seeing and what the Club is trying to do."

“Geoffrey Watling was a true gentleman whose impact on the club shouldn’t be forgotten” Pink’Un Forum member.

The Geoffrey Watling Charity

8a Ber Street, Norwich, NR1 3EJ

Registered Charity Number 1025258

The Object of the Charity is to pay or apply the annual income of the Charity’s funds to such charity or charities or for such charitable purpose or purposes as the trustees shall from time to time in their absolute discretion determine.

1,580 grants made to March 2021.

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