Interview: Darren Eadie

The left side of England’s midfield has, in recent years, provided the country with a rather big dilemma. A whole host of largely right-footed players have tried, and often failed, to impress on the left flank, with the phrases “Ryan Giggs” and “if only” regularly bandied about after another candidate is unsuccessful, as if only to rub salt in the national team’s wounds. However, one player who critics have said could have been the answer to England’s left-sided problem, is former Norwich and Leicester winger, Darren Eadie.

Eadie became a fans' favourite during his time at Carrow Road, and in 2002, was voted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame. Photo: Blue Square Thing via Flickr

Eadie was called up to the national team twice – the first time in 1997 by then-manager Glenn Hoddle. However, injuries meant that he had to withdraw on both occasions, and ultimately, at the age of just 28, a recurring knee problem would cut his promising career cruelly short.

“You never think it’s going to happen,” the now 35-year-old Eadie explains.

“Even the day when I got told, I was thinking that there must be a way round it, there must be a way to get out of it.

“One day you have the back-ups, the next day you’re literally on your own, making your own way in life and almost starting again.”

His retirement came in the summer of 2003, ten years after making his debut for Norwich as an 18-year-old against Vitesse Arnhem, in the club’s first ever UEFA Cup match. Eadie, a boyhood Bristol Rovers fan from the West Country, recalls the series of events that lead to him moving to Norfolk as a teenager.

“As kids, we used to go round the country playing different teams, and I got picked up by Norwich who asked me to come over and play, and I fitted in fairly well – it’s a very similar way of life.

“Norwich always had a really good record of bringing young kids through, so that was one of the reasons I chose them in the first place. I thought it was the ideal place to kind of get those opportunities.”

Just two years after finishing third in the inaugural season of the Premier League, Norwich were relegated to the First Division in the 1994/95 season. Selling the likes of Chris Sutton and Ruel Fox to Blackburn and Newcastle respectively at the start of the campaign, had ultimately cost the Canaries their top-flight status. Eadie however, by this time into his 20s, remained loyal to the club who had given him his first chance in football.

“I was happy playing football at Norwich. I was on decent money and my family were all happy where we were.

“I didn’t feel like I needed to move on anywhere else, a little bit like Matt Le Tissier – just stay at the one club and play my career there.

“When you’ve been at a club for so many years it becomes sort of a special place in your heart.”

After scoring 17 league goals from midfield in 1996/97, Eadie was named Norwich’s Player of the Season, and his form attracted the attention of England boss Glenn Hoddle, who promptly called him up for the Tournoi de France – a friendly tournament between England, France, Brazil and Italy in preparation for the following year’s World Cup, though a foot injury lead to his eventual withdrawal from the squad.

“It’s very rare that players get picked for England when they’re playing in the equivalent to the Championship,” Eadie says.

“So being called up to the squad was a great achievement, even if I never managed to fulfil my goal of actually getting on the field for England.”

Eadie’s performances for the Canaries in the First Division regularly attracted Premier League attention, but it wasn’t until 1999 that he eventually upped sticks and reluctantly left Norfolk to ease the club’s financial woes.

“I didn’t want to leave,” recalls Eadie. “I couldn’t help that.”

“But Norwich said to me, ‘If you don’t go, the club’s going to go under because of the financial problems,’ so you kind of have to make that decision that’s right for everybody.”

Leicester manager Martin O’Neill, who had briefly been in charge of Norwich in 1995, was a keen admirer of the 24-year-old’s talents, and shelled out £3million for his services – then a record fee for the Foxes.

However, Eadie’s time at Filbert Street and the Walkers Stadium was disappointing. A series of injuries hampered his career in the East Midlands, limiting him to just 40 appearances in four years.

After being forced to hang up his boots in 2003, Eadie has since turned down several offers to step into management or coaching, unlike former Norwich team-mates Malkay Mackay and Chris Sutton, who have both made the move to the touchline to varying degrees of success.

“I just never saw it as something I wanted to do. I was happy playing and that was it.

“When you’re playing you don’t get the blame almost, but if you’re a manager you’re there to be shot at.”

Eadie now spends his time running a website site called Sellebrity, in which celebrities auction off their possessions, with the proceeds going to the Prince’s Trust – for which the former winger is a patron.

Despite never actually making an appearance in an England shirt, his talent on the football field was undeniable. However, football is a cruel game at the best of times, and nobody knows that more than Darren Eadie.

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