Of all the players
that Norwich City have sold in the 30+ years that I have been following
the fortunes of the Canaries, the one that I regret most is that
of Andy Townsend. He added strength, determination, leadership and
vision to the City midfield. Although he made just 88 appearances
for Norwich, I am convinced that if he stayed greater success and
honours would have headed to Carrow Road.
Like many other Canaries, Andy began his career in the lower reaches
of the Football Pyramid. He began his career with Welling United
in August 1980 whilst working as a computer operator with Greenwich
Council, earning a paltry £5 per week with Welling in the Athenian
League. After making 105 appearances for Welling, he was signed
by Weymouth in March 1984 for £13500. Scouts from Southampton
spotted his talent and in January 1985, Lawrie McMenemy signed him
on professional terms in the old Division One. He made his football
league debut against Aston Villa on 20th April 1985 as Southampton
qualified for Europe only for them, along with Norwich and others,
to be banned in the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster. Although
he broke his leg the following summer in a friendly at Weymouth,
Andy blossomed into a "constructive, penetrative performer" (Mike
Davage in Glorious Canaries). However he was not guaranteed
a regular slot in the Saints' midfield and sought a transfer. Despite
interest from West Ham, he joined Norwich on 25th August 1988 for
£300,000 having made 83 appearances for Southampton scoring
He made a scoring debut for the Reserves against West Ham on 30th
August 1988 and a substitute appearances against Middlesbrough on
3rd September before replacing the suspended Trevor Putney for his first full appearance in a 3-1 win
over Spurs on 22nd October. He retained his place in the Norwich
midfield and ended the season with 36 league appearances (5 as substitute)
with 5 goals. He also made 6 FA Cup appearances with 2 goals against
Port Vale in the Third Round on 7th January 1989. 1 appearance was
made in the League Cup and another in the Simod Cup against Ipswich.
He also made a total of 5 Reserve team appearances scoring twice.
His contribution to Norwich's successful season (4th in the league
and the semi-final of the FA Cup) saw Andy selected for the Irish
international team making his debut against France in February 1989.
By the time he would leave Norwich, he would have 17 caps for Jack
Charlton's Republic of Ireland side.
The following season was less successful for the Canaries as they
dropped to 10th place. Andy made 44 appearances that season - 35
in the league, 4 in the FA Cup, 3 in the League Cup and 2 in the
Zenith Data Systems Cup. He managed only 3 league goals with no
strikes in the other tournaments. His form was impressive enough
for Chelsea to bid £1.2million and for Andy to join the Stamford
Bridge outfit in July 1990, just a month after a successful World
Cup in Italy where he played in all 5 of Ireland's matches. After
making 110 appearances for the Blues, scoring 12 goals but winning
no trophies, he transferred to Aston Villa in July 1993 for the
sum of £2million. He finally won some silverware when Villa
won the Coca Cola Cup final against Manchester United in 1994. He
captained Villa when they reclaimed the trophy in 1996 with a 3-0
victory over Leeds.
In September 1997, he transferred to Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough
for £500,000 having made 134 league appearances for the Villains,
scoring 8 league goals. He made 37 appearances in his first season
on Teesside scoring twice as Boro won promotion to the Premiership.
He is now performing regularly in the Premiership with Boro partnering
Paul Gascoigne in midfield. This led to a strong friendship between
Townsend and Gazza which had landed Andy in hot water. The press
reported in May 1999 that the two of them had been in a car that
was stopped by police on suspicion of using an air-rifle to shoot
at wild animals on a "hunting expedition".
The Sunday People speculated on 23rd May 1999 that Townsend
was to return to Villa, as a player but also in a coaching role
with their reserve team boss position currently vacant. The option
to join Villa's backroom staff would be appealing to the veteran
midfielder as he kept a home in the Midlands. Unable to break into
the Boro first team, he joined West Bromwich Albion on 17th September
1999. Norwich chairman Bob Cooper revealed that Norwich were interested
in signing Andy but that his wage demands were too high. The same
problem curtailed attempts by ambitious Dr Martens league leaders
Boston United when they sought to bring Andy in on loan at the end
of December 1999.
After reports in the Sunday People on 16th April 2000 suggested
that Andy might be forced to quit the game due to a recurrent knee
injury, Andy did indeed announce his retirement on 10th July 2000
and has since left West Brom for a career in the media. He can be
found commentating on ITV
On 21st April 2016, he was appointed in a consultancy role by Bolton Wanderers. Wanderers had already been relegated from the Championship with Jimmy Phillips currently interim manager, assisted by former Sunderland boss Peter Reid.