Will John Deehan be remembered as one of Norwich's great goalscorers
or as the manager that presided over the rapid decline of Norwich's
fortunes that dropped them into Division One with as yet no return
to the Premiership ?
If we examine Deehan's playing career, we can see why "Dixie"
was such a favourite with the Carrow Road faithful. Prior to his
move to Norfolk, Solihull born Deehan's playing career was spent
in the Midlands although as a youth he did have a trial with Arsenal.
He joined Aston Villa as an apprentice in August 1973 before turning
professional in April 1975. He made 110 appearances in the Claret
and Blue of Villa, scoring 40 times. Winning international recognition
for his goalscoring, he gained 7 England Youth and 11 Under 21
caps before sitting on the bench for a full international against
Brazil. Ron Atkinson signed him for West Bromwich Albion in September
1979 for half a million pounds. At the Hawthorns his goals dried
up and he netted just five times in 47 appearances.
Joining Norwich in December 1981, initially on loan, Dixie made
his first appearance in Canary Yellow in a specially arranged
friendly against Ipswich at Great Yarmouth. Four goals in this
match convinced Ken Brown to sign
him permanently and he made his full debut on 28th December 1981
at home to Luton, scoring Norwich's goal in a 3-1 defeat. Forming
a powerful partnership with Keith Bertschin , their goals lifted Norwich from 14th
to a promotion clinching 3rd place. Bertschin scored 12 goals
that season whilst Deehan got 10 in 22 goals.
John was a consistent scorer for the Canaries over the next four
years and was in the team that won the
Milk Cup in 1985 and the Second Division Championship the
following year. John's 70 goals in 199 appearances leaves him
currently as Norwich's sixth highest all-time scorer. His record
was as follows:
1981/82 (Division Two) 22 league games, 10 league goals, 3 FA
1982/83 (Division One) 40 league appearances, 20 league goals,
5 FA Cup appearances, 4 Milk Cup appearances, 2 Milk Cup goals.
1983/84 (Division One) 34 league appearances, 15 league goals,
5 FA Cup appearances, 2 FA Cup goals, 4 Milk Cup appearances.
1984/85 (Division One) 40 league appearances, 13 league goals,
3 FA Cup appearances, 9 Milk Cup appearances, 5 Milk Cup goals
1985/86 (Division Two) 22 league appearances (plus 4 as sub),
4 league goals, 1 FA Cup appearance as sub, 2 Super Cup appearances.
During the 1985/86 season, John suffered from an ankle injury
and could not displace Wayne Biggins and Kevin Drinkall in the Canary front-line. Instead he played
a number of matches in defence and midfield. In June 1986, he
joined East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town in an exchange deal with
midfielder Trevor Putney. After 49 games for the Portman Road side,
scoring 11 times, John moved into coaching initially teaming up
with Mel Machin as player-coach with Manchester City. After Machin's
sacking as manager of Man City in November 1989, John initially
took the caretaker manager's position for two weeks until Howard
Kendall was appointed. In January 1990, John teamed once again
with Machin at Barnsley as Assistant to Machin's managerial role.
Dixie even managed to make another 11 league appearances scoring
twice for the Tykes.
In June 1992, John returned to Carrow Road as Assistant Manager
to Mike Walker. The Walker-Deehan partnership brought City their
most successful season finishing third in the Carling Premiership
and qualifying for Europe (see Andy Linighan's entry for Norwich's back door route to
Europe). Success in the UEFA Cup over Vitesse Arnhem and Bayern
Munich led to a high profile tie with Inter Milan that saw City
lose a respectable 2-0 on aggregate. Disillusioned with Robert
Chase's lack of ambition and unwillingness to invest further funds
into the City side led Mike Walker to accept the manager's position
at Everton in January 1994. John Deehan was appointed as manager
of the Canaries. The remainder of that season saw City win only
twice and slip to 12th place.
The summer sales of Chris Sutton,
Colin Woodthorpe and David Smith, following that of Ruel Fox the previous February, saw the money invested in a
solid defence with Carl Bradshaw, Jon Newsome and defensive midfielder Mike
Milligan all arriving at Carrow Road. However Sutton was not
replaced until August 26th when Mike Sheron signed for £800,000 less than 20% of what
Sutton's move had generated. Despite the further sales of striker
Efan Ekoku and goalkeeper Scott Howie, Norwich were in a strong position come Christmas
and ere in seventh place taking 30 points from their first 19
matches. This was primarily due to their strong defence but this
was overturned with an injury to goalkeeper Bryan
Gunn on 27th December 1994 at Nottingham Forest.
Despite Andy Marshall's heroics in
goal, the defensive barrier was breached more regularly than in
the first half of the season. Combined with a depleted forward
line, made even more ridiculous with the sale of Mark Robins to Leicester in January 1995 and one can understand
why Norwich took just 13 points from the 23 post-Christmas matches
and slid down the table into the relegation zone. After a 3-0
defeat at Newcastle on Saturday April 8th, Deehan resigned in
the hope that Gary Megson could inspire the players to victory over Notts
Forest, Tottenham, Liverpool, Leeds and Aston Villa. With transfer
deadline day having passed, Megson's depleted squad were unable
to accomplish Mission Impossible and a 2-1 defeat at Leeds on
May 6th saw the Canaries relegated to Division One where they
Deehan described his last days at Carrow Road as "like I'd been
in a car crash and I could either sit there and look at the wreckage
of what had happened and dither around or get up and start walking.
I got up and started walking" (source: The Pink Un Saturday
April 12th 1997). Deehan blamed chairman Robert Chase's insistence
on selling Norwich's stars without investing the transfer fees
received into the playing side. In the aforementioned interview,
Deehan wrote "What I can't forgive Robert Chase is that he made
life difficult for my family and I think I was probably a bit
ill myself in the end. I was going home and not sleeping because
I was trying to come up with the answer to an equation that was
unanswerable - how to help a young side stay in the Premiership
with no money".
After a brief spell with non-leaguers Wroxham, Deehan was appointed manager
of Wigan Athletic in November 1995 with former Canary number two
John Benson by his side. In season 1996/97,
he led Wigan to the Division Three championship but his position
has been under threat this year as Wigan have struggled in Division
Two. Although Wigan recovered to gain midtable security, John
quit his position in July 1998 to join Steve
Bruce at Sheffield United as First Team Coach. Deehan hit
the headlines on 21st November 1998 when he was arrested for "threatening
behaviour" (ie swearing) at Sheffield United's away game with
Queen's Park Rangers. John followed Steve Bruce to Huddersfield
in June 1999 with John acting again as Bruce's Assistant Manager.
Following Bruce's sacking on 16th October 2000, John and Lou Macari
were placed in charge of the United first team for the 3-0 defeat
at Sheffield United. Macari was appointed manager with Joe Jordan
as his assistant. Deehan would stay at Huddersfield as First Team
Coach.Deehan completed a dream move when John Gregory appointed
him as Aston Villa's first team coach on July 20th 2001. He was
promoted to Assistant Manager in November 2001 with Stuatt Gray
acting as first team coach. Following John Gregory's resignation
on 24 January 2002, Deehan and Gray took over the management responsibilities
until someone else could be appointed. That person was Graham
Taylor, whom had tried to strangle him after Deehan had scored
4 past Taylor's Watford in April 1984.
Deehan and Gray remained with Villa until early June 2003. Following
a poor season where Villa narrowly avoided relegation, Graham
Taylor parted company with the club. David O'Leary was appointed
as the new manager, and as such wanted to bring in his own management
team. Thus Deehan and Gray left Villa Park on June 11th 2003.
The following month saw John return to Portman Road, appointed
as a part-time scout within Joe Royle's
In early October 2003, John was appointed Director of Football
at Northampton to work with newly appointed manager Colin Calderwood
who had been plucked from overseeing Spurs' reserve team. The
partnership eventually came good with Northampton securing promotion
to League One on 29th April 2006. However Calderwood left a month
later to take over as manager of Notts Forest. Deehan was expected
to apply for the managerial role at Northampton but instead quit
to become Director of Football at Lincoln City in June 2006, with
John Schofield assisting him as head coach.
Deehan was relieved from his post of Director of Football at
Lincoln City on 15th October 2007 along with team manager John
Schofield. Although they had led the Red Imps to the League Two
play-offs in their first season in charge, losing to eventual
winters Bristol Rovers in the semi-finals, they were beaten 4-0
at MK Dons on 14th October leaving them second from bottom in
League Two. Deehan later carried out some scouting for Irish manager
New Bolton manager Gary Megson assembled a team of respected
ex-professionals at the end of November 2007 to help him find
the players he needs to haul Wanderers clear of the drop zone.
Former Everton manager Colin Harvey was appointed as Chief Scout.
Former Everton players - Alan Harper and Terry Darracott - were
brought in and are both well known to Harvey from his days at
Goodison. They have extensive coaching experience. The team includes
two former managers- Wimbledon stalwart Alan Cork and John Deehan.
In June 2008, Deehan expressed his interest in the managerial
vacancy at Cambridge United cused by the departure of Jimmy Quinn
by mutual consent. Other candidates include Justin Edinburgh,
Steve Claridge and Steve King.
In September 2008, John expressed his interest in returnng to
Lincolnshire after Alan Buckley was sacked from the manager's
position at Grimsby.
On 21st January 2009, Deehan returned to Norwich as the club's
new Chief Scout following the appointment of Bryan
Gunn as manager.
Following the appointment of Paul Lambert
as Norwich manager, replacing Bryan Gunn, in August 2009, Deehan
left the club.
He was then appointed as Assistant Manager to Lee Harper at Kettering.
He was sacked on 8th December just three weeks into the job. He
was sacked by Kettering's chairman for his substitutions that
saw Kettering lose 5-1 to Leeds in an FA Cup second round replay
(Player-manager Lee Harper was in goal for the Poppies)
On 18th March 2010, John was appointed as Head of Recruitment
at League Two strugglers Grimsby Town. Grimsby manager Neil Woods
told the club's official website: "He will come in and
help in any way that he can do. John is very experienced and will
help us build a database of short term and potential long term
player targets. He has a lot of contacts already and that will
be the main emphasis of what he will be doing. He will initially
be coming to our games to see us play and find out the level that
we are at."
Deehan left Grimsby on 20th May 2010 following their relegation
to the Conference.
On 25th January 2012, Deehan was appointed as Director of Football
at struggling League Two side Plymouth, to provide advice to inexperienced
manager Carl Fletcher.
Deehan left Plymouth at the end of the 2011/12 season and then
worked for the Premier League.
He joined the backroom staff at Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning
of February 2014, assisting head coach Stuart Gray with scouting
and player contracts.
On 5th December 2016, he joined non-league Solihull Moors as a coach in their academy working alongside former Norwich strike parner Keith Bertschin.
On 31st March 2022, his wife Linda reported that Deehan had been suffering from dementia for the past six years. She urged people to not be "afraid" to speak to her husband about football, if they encountered him anywhere. She said: "If you come across him at a match or elsewhere, please don’t be afraid to interact with him. Please understand that John may not be able to converse in the way he once did, but he still loves to talk about football and share a laugh. Please be considerate if he is having a bad day and struggling." She added that her husband has good days and bad days and is trying to live a "normal life", but admits the situation is challenging.