'Earnie's gonna get us! Cardiff City
Robert Earnshaw began his career at Cardiff City under then manager Frank Burrows. He was already attracting some praise for his pace and pretadory instinct from a young age but a spectacular overhead kick against Hartlepool United to salvage a draw for City in the first game of the 1998-99 season saw him heralded as the 'saviour' of Cardiff City and the answer to all our goalscoring problems but Burrows, despite being under pressure, held off using Earnie and refused to subject him to too much football early on. It was a master stroke that ultimately may have cost Burrows his job as he was sacked following a poor run of form in January 2000 to be succeeded by Billy Ayre. Many managers would have turned to a raw and naive Earnshaw to save him and that may have hindered Earnie's pregression. As it was, Zambian-born Earnshaw became prolific in all competitions and was instrumental in helping Cardiff to the Championship, via the play-offs, in 2003 forming an almost telepathic relationship with Peter Thorne. By this stage Earnshaw was already receiving International recognition and scored the winning goal against then World Cup runners-up Germany, cooly latching onto John Hartson's flick and slotting home to seal a memorable 1-0 win for Wales, he also scored an impressive hat-trick against Scotland to enhance his reputation and fans of Celtic were clamouring for his signature. Many Premiership clubs were also interested but Sam Hammam claimed that he would not sell his 'crown jewel' in order to fulfill his dream of bringing Premiership football to Cardiff. It was in bleak circumstances however that Earnshaw left, he seemed to grow tired of being the big fish in the Cardiff pond and longed for a chance to prove himself at the higher level. Gary Megson, then at West Bromich Albion, took the gamble and paid £3million to Cardiff to ease their worrrying financial crisis, but Megson was soon to lose his job and new manager Bryan Robson was shown not to be a fan of Earnshaw. He played most of his 2 seasons at West Brom from the bench and despite finishing top-scorer for the Baggies to save them from relegation, he was criticised for a weak all-round game. Earnshaw was barely given a chance to prove himself as WBA struggled for goals despite many fans pleading for him to start and he had a transfer request turned down by Robson before being allowed to leave and resurrect his career at Norwich at the end of last season for £3.5million. He scored 6 goals then, as well as leading the scoring charts for this season with 9 goals.
Earnshaw was the first player to score a hat-trick at 3rd,2nd,Championship and Premiership levels as well as League Cup, FA Cup and International. A truly remarkable feat.
Earnshaw will always be fondly remembered at Cardiff after scoring 85 league goals in 140 starts and all new strikers and their exploits will often be compared to the Zambian Prince, Andy Cambell will testify that it is a difficult name to live up to. Earnshaw has faced his hometown club with West Brom and this will be the second time he lines up against them in a competitive match for Norwich City, last time he scored the winner in a 1-0 win for the canaries in April last season. Lets hope we dont have to witness the trademark somersault tomorrow and that Purse and Loovens can keep the little guy quiet all match. Cardiff fans, better than any, (and certainly better than Bryan Robson!) know how dangerous he can be and that goals can appear out of nothing.