Norwich City v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: (1) tribute to Duncan Forbes

From the NCFC website
From the NCFC website

We all know how much may rest on Saturday’s game. It is not, mathematically speaking, make or break but with each match that passes without the result we need, there is a limit to how much longer we can keep making that point.

But some things are more important. Duncan Forbes served Norwich City, Saturday’s opponents, for more than 30 years as a robust centre-half and then way beyond his playing career. He played 295 times for the Canaries between 1968 and 1981 (and that may just be the league games) and is remembered with great affection by the fans. Last year he was diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the worsening symptoms led to him being placed in a care home. The club is involved in various projects to help ensure his continuing care and support research into the disease.

As a mark of respect and solidarity, Salut! Sunderland presents a special, two-part edition of ‘Who are You?’, in which Duncan’s wife, Janette, talks in a YouTube clip (see below) about their life together and his illness and a passionate Norwich supporter, the Very Rev Christopher Dalliston**, Anglican Dean of St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle, returns to these pages to describe what he means to the Canaries. In the second part – – he answers a few of the customary WAY questions. Over to Chris …

Six foot two eyes of blue, Duncan Forbes is after you lalala lala lala!

He wasn’t actually six foot two and the chant was pinched from some other team – Leeds maybe – but hey, who cared? He was big, he was strong he was a legend and he was the centre back who helped the Canaries finally reach the top perch in English football in the 1970s and stay there (give or take a season or two) for the next decade.

It was the period when my love for the “football team in the yellow and green “ (lyrics from the club song of those days and among the naffest of ditties you could imagine) was being forged in the midst of triumph and adversity.

And there was Big Dunc at the heart of the engine room helping to stoke the fires. They were very different days, men were men and boys were kicked off the field (if the men could get near them!) and Duncan was certainly not the most subtle of footballers.

The Times famously noted his aggressive defending by writing “Forbes got his customary booking; the referee ought to take his name in the changing room rather than on the pitch thus saving time”.

But we all loved him – 13 years a player, like many immigrants (he was from Edinburgh originally and came to us via Colchester) he fell in love with Norfolk and Norwich and having finished his playing career went on to work with Norwich in the commercial department and then as chief scout. Thirty three years in all.

On match days you would see him hanging around the ground talking to the fans – he wasn’t seduced by the corporate hospitality brigade or at least it didn’t seem that way.

So there are all sorts of memories – perhaps finest among them his leading the team out at Wembley for the League Cup finals of 1973 and 1975 despite being on the losing team on both occasions.

Of course memories are one thing he sadly no longer has, so those of us to whom he was a hero and an inspiration – loyal to his club and his team mates – must hold them on his behalf and do what we can to ensure that the battle against Alzheimer’s is one that in some small way he can play his part in helping to win.

“Six foot two eyes of blue”…thanks for our memories.


Chris, in Norfolk prior to the start of the present season
Chris, in Norfolk prior to the start of the present season
Chris deals with the Salut! Sunderland questionnaire in a separate feature to be posted later.

** Chris Dalliston on himself: I’ve been at Newcastle Cathedral for over 10 years now and love the North East. We’ve got great plans to transform facilities at the Cathedral and make it a really special place to visit. Meanwhile this is my 46th year as a supporter. This year is also our 25th wedding anniversary and as I’m writing this my daughter is berating me for being able to remember that we beat Chelsea 2:0 on that happy day – my wedding day I mean!! (I’m definitely contemplating therapy).

*** Donations towards the cost of Duncan Forbes’s continuing care can be made via

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3 thoughts on “Norwich City v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: (1) tribute to Duncan Forbes”

  1. Best wishes to Duncan Forbes, he’s family and anyone else dealing with this nasty disease. I see it was third time lucky for Norwich in league cup finals, here’s to us next year ! We both need the points at the weekend , but one or both are going to be dissapointed . We’re due a league win and we play better away from home, its all set up …..

  2. I remember him well. My mate Jim Reeve, a Norwich lad and Canaries fan but with Sunderland as his second team, worshipped Duncan Forbes and would wax lyrical about him after a few pints in The Station in Bishop Auckland. The tackles got harder with every passing pint of Exhibition.
    City’s actions tell us that football clubs do care. I wish City well after this weekend.

  3. Fantastic gesture, I appreciate that as I am sure many City followers will. I was honored to have met the Big Guy more than once, he was as large a character off the field as on it.

    Not wishing you well this weekend, we need the points also, but hope it is friendly and very enjoyable. You have the manager I wanted to see at City, not this weak minded Hughton

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