Trigger Happy: When Norwich City fired Bryan Gunn 6 days into the 2009/10 season

Matthew Crist by Matthew Crist / 06 August 2018, 12:04

Bryan Gunn was something of a legend as a player with Norwich.

A safe pair of hands who had kept goal during the Canaries’ greatest years of the 1980s and ‘90s, even helping them to a record third place finish during the inaugural Premier League season in 1993; but when it came to managing the club things didn’t work out so well.

Gunn had arrived at Carrow Road from Aberdeen in 1986 and enjoyed the majority of his success at City, helping the side to achieve European football for the first time in their history by qualifying for the UEFA Cup and even making what he called the “save of his life” during a thrilling win over Bayern Munich in that memorable campaign.

One of only nine Norwich players to be voted Player of the Year twice he was also made an inaugural member of the club’s Hall of Fame so when he hung up his gloves in 1998 after a brief spell back in Scotland with Hibernian there was little doubt that he would return to the club where he was still regarded as a hero in one capacity or another.

And when manager Glenn Roeder left the club in January 2009 City saw their chance to promote from within and opted for a man who was a familiar face with the supporters and a character they felt was capable of bringing a winning mentality back to a club which had been in the doldrums for some time after falling out of the top-flight.

Having obtained his coaching certification while at Aberdeen, Gunn seemed the obvious choice and after working behind the scenes in a variety of roles, including match day hospitality and coaching, he was finally given his chance in a caretaker capacity as the club looked to avoid the drop once again following a dreadful start to the season.

In his first game as temporary manager the decision looked to have been vindicated as, after a 4-0 win over Barnsley, Norwich midfielder Darel Russell allegedly dragged the chairman, Roger Munby, into the changing rooms after the match and demanded that Gunn be appointed on a full-time basis.

The board agreed, as did 3,000 people who joined a Facebook campaign, and Gunn was appointed on a temporary basis until the end of the season, though he couldn’t prevent Norwich from sliding out of the Championship and into the third-tier of English football for the first time in 50 years.

Despite the disappointment of relegation Gunn had done enough to prove that he was the right man for the job and was installed as Norwich City boss on a permanent basis that May as the club began the long journey of climbing back up the footballing ladder.

He also had the full support of the board - including celebrity chef Delia Smith and her husband Michael Wynn-Jones - who kept faith with the former goalkeeper and funded 11 permanent signings during the summer and as the pre-season optimism grew almost 19,000 season tickets were sold.

After a programme of pre-season friendly matches in which Norwich remained unbeaten, Gunn’s first official game as full-time manager of Norwich City would be a home fixture against nearby rivals Colchester United and to say things got off to a bad start would be something of an understatement as his side were battered 7-1, a record home defeat for the club.

City were 4-0 down before half-time and fans were seen streaming out of Carrow Road long before the final whistle with two of those who had remained reportedly throwing their season tickets in the direction of Gunn on the Norwich bench while hundreds protested outside the ground after the match.

Opening Day Classics: Norwich City 1-7 Colchester United [2009]#ColU pic.twitter.com/XYFPB5QK8K

— TheNinetyTwo (@TheNinetyTwo_) 3 August 2017

The press were equally ruthless calling the performance “dismal” and “disastrous” and even questioned Gunn’s ability to manage and whether he was ever the right man for the job in the first place.

Things appeared to be improving the following Tuesday when Norwich took out their frustration on lowly Yeovil Town in a 4-0 League Cup win but it was too little too late and Gunn was sacked just six days after his first game in charge.

“The board met this week following Saturday's unacceptable record home defeat in our opening league game of the season," announced the club's chief executive David McNally.

"After lengthy consideration, we unanimously felt a change was in the best interests of all parties concerned, in order to give us the best possible chance of achieving our objectives.”

His short tenure in charge of Norwich City remains Gunn’s only experience in football management as he later went on to pursue a career as a company director and then a sports agent; but to this day claims that his only regret is that: "there must be a generation of fans who only know me as the manager who lost 7-1 against Colchester… My own memories are different."

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