The Monday Profile: Jamie Cureton
When Andy Gray, as was his wont, offered Norwich City’s then 19-year-old striker some sage advice about a young player having to get used to robust tackles if he was to make it in the Premier League, even the former Sky analyst’s famed levels of prescience probably didn’t foresee that Jamie Cureton would be enjoying his first and last season of top flight football while still only a teenager. Cureton had just been clattered by the Ipswich Town goalkeeper, Craig Forrest, in the run-up to a goal scored by Darren Eadie that capped a 3-0 win for the Canaries at Carrow Road (second of the three clips), prompting Gray’s words. The Bristolian forward had already scored the evening’s first goal that Monday night in Norfolk in March 1995 after running on to a Jon Newsome through ball and rounding Forrest with what I hesitate to call aplomb but for which, in Cureton’s case, I will make an exception.
Aplomb seems like an apt word because only innate self-confidence could explain the judgement of a striker who, the following season, decided to dye his hair fluorescent green before another derby game at Portman Road. Unfortunately, try as I might, I have been unable to find pictorial evidence, but Cureton’s act of hubris with his hair – allegedly the result of a bet with Norwich teammate Andy Johnson – appeared to have been vindicated when he put the Canaries in front, only for Ian Marshall to equalise and then the turf to intervene for the home side’s winning goal.
That derby game in 1996 took place in Division One after both East Anglian clubs had been relegated from the Premier League the year before. Norwich’s Cureton-assisted win in 1995 – which, being 11 years old at the time, I remember both for the game and also the police horses needed to control the crowd outside the ground after the final whistle – was the Canaries’ sole victory from their final 20 games and, consequently, not enough to address their slide down the table. Despite having since scored more than 200 goals throughout his career, Cureton would never make it back to the Premier League.
Even after the inspiring example for veteran strikers that Shefki Kuqi has recently set, it is highly unlikely that Cureton will be getting another crack at the top flight. Now 35, the player is currently with Exeter City in League One but, although the fame and acclaim that once seemed possible might have eluded him, the 13 goals he has scored for the Grecians this season do demonstrate his continued prowess as a lower league striker. Indeed, it was in the third tier that Cureton enjoyed prolific spells with first Bristol Rovers and then Reading after leaving Norwich in 1996. Four years with his hometown club brought the diminutive forward 78 goals until he moved on to the Madejski Stadium, where he struck a further 55 times and helped the Royals to promotion in 2002.
After the largely unsettled period that followed Cureton’s departure from Reading – which even included a short spell with Busan Icons in South Korea – he was eventually brought back to Norwich in 2007. Prior to that homecoming, though, a reunion with Ian Holloway at QPR had failed to rekindle the results of his Bristol Rovers years and the striker had passed through Swindon’s books on his way to Colchester United, where he scored regularly for the first time since his days in Berkshire and at a level (the Championship) in which he had not consistently delivered before.
Cureton’s second spell at Norwich resulted in a disappointing goal return and a second relegation in 2009, this time to League One, and he was subsequently frozen out under Paul Lambert. Scoring once more at Exeter though, including against Hartlepool on Saturday, it would seem that the player has found his level again in the truest sense of the phrase.
William Abbs appears on loan from Saha From The Madding Crowd.