The story of Lord Norwood’s journey from eating a hotdog on the subs bench to being Town’s great goalscoring hope
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town have signed hot-shot striker James Norwood from Tranmere Rovers. ANDY WARREN looks at the new Blue’s journey from non-league football to Portman Road.
Where it all began
It's been a long road to this point for new Ipswich Town striker James Norwood.
The 28-year-old has had to battle away in non-league football for much of his career to date, to only now make it back to the level he started at when he began his professional career at Exeter.
There must have been times even he didn't truly believe he would make it back.
Norwood's journey to Portman Road started long before his time at St James Park, of course.
Born in Eastbourne and privately educated at the renowned St Bede's School in the town, he was a decorated schoolboy footballer who won the English Schools FA Trophy and is said to have earned the nickname 'pink boots' from opposition players.
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He represented England Schools, scoring against France at Wembley in 2009, while also playing for the Eastbourne senior side while still in full-time education.
His ability was noticed by Exeter, who offered him a trial, and the rest is history.
There were to be a few more bumps in the road, though.
Norwood, Tisdale, a hot dog and a Diet Coke
Norwood was on trial at Exeter in 2009 when hunger struck.
He was sitting on the bench when he nipped to a nearby food stand, returning with a Diet Coke and a hot dog.
"League One footballer!" Exeter manager Paul Tisdale is said to have screamed at him.
"For me it was nothing out of the ordinary," Norwood said in a recent interview with The Times.
"I was at Eastbourne Town in the Rymans (League), sometimes playing for the ressies (reserves) where people would turn up hung over. I didn't understand what professionalism was. When you do a scholarship you learn the ins and outs of being a footballer, but I'd no idea.
"I spoke to Tis recently when we played MK Dons and we had a little laugh about how young I was and a couple of things that happened! I'd like to think I've grown up a lot and hopefully the fans can now see what I am capable of."
Remarkably, he still managed to win a contract at the Devon club.
Out on the left
Norwood made his Exeter debut as a substitute at Leeds in 2009, replacing Marcus Stewart at Elland Road, with Tisdale impressed with what he saw."It's remarkable that James should be on the field after only joining us a few weeks ago. He put in a really good 20 minutes and he showed some real touches of know-how, there's a bright future for him."
But first-team opportunities were limited at St James Park which meant Norwood played just four games for the club and was sent out on loan - firstly to Forest Green and then back to home club Eastbourne.
After not being offered a new deal at Exeter he returned to Forest Green full-time in 2011 and quickly made his presence felt, scoring important goals, earning a new contract and winning the club's player of the year award.
Despite playing much of his football wide on the left he managed 49 goals in 165 games for the Green Devils, leading them to the Conference play-offs in 2015 before being knocked out by Bristol Rovers.
That was to be his final game for the club as he opted to move on at the end of his contract.
Norwood's form with Forest Green earned him something of an international call-up in 2013, when he was named in the England C (semi-professional) squad.
In total he's won seven caps at that level and scored four goals, with three of those coming in a game against Bermuda.
When things click
It quickly became apparent that Norwood's move to Tranmere in 2015 was a match made in heaven.
Playing in his favoured central role he scored 21 goals in his first season at Prenton Park before adding 15 in his second, as the club lost the National League play-off final to former club Forest Green.
There was to be no sulking, though, as Norwood plundered 24 goals in 2017/18 to lead Rovers back to the Football League, with his last proving to be the winner in the club's play-off final victory over Boreham Wood.
Lord Norwood of Hougan Manor
A few years ago, during a trip to Pizza Express in Eastbourne with a group of friends, Norwood was told that you can buy peerages online and use it to earn free upgrades on planes and trains.
That piqued his interest and, £35, a certificate and a metre-square plot of land later, Norwood was officially Lord of Hougun Manor in Cumbria.
"A mate said explained that his parents bought him a lordship. I immediately got on my phone, Googled it, and before the starters came out, I had bought myself one! I said: 'Right, there are two lords at this table now!'"
"They send documentation through which explains all the perks that the title gives you. It's weird. People believe you really are a lord. I bought my dad one for his birthday. Obviously he couldn't have his son being a lord and him not.
I kept telling him he was a peasant, and that lords don't make cups of tea for people like him."
The season of his life
And so to a season in which everything seemed to go right for the new Ipswich Town striker.
He ended it with 32 goals and a promotion to his name, netting in 28 separate games, which was of course enough for him to win the League Two Golden Boot and Player-of-the-Year award.
"It's massive for me to win the award, obviously I came into this league to score goals and it's gone quite well," Norwood said of the Golden Boot prize.
"I've always been confident in my ability to score goals.
"I'd be disappointed not to get to 20 goals whichever league I play in. As a striker, that's the benchmark."
After helping Norwood win the League Two play-off final, he was inevitably asked about his future. In a BBC Merseyside interview, he replied: 'My future at the minute is going back on the coach and getting absolutely bevvied with all the lads that I love and taking the waking up with a hangover tomorrow."
He then proceeded to be given a parking ticket when attending the club's celebratory period on The Wirral, with the council tweeting to joke he was given the ticket as punishment for contemplating a move to Ipswich. The money was eventually given to charity.
Next was the squad trip to Magaluf, during which the new Ipswich striker proceeded to get team-mate Connor Jennings' initials tattooed on his body to mark his winning goal at Wembley.