During the quieter moments of the Derby match and at half time, our conversation had revolved around: “Are you coming to Southampton?”
Not one single affirmative from about eight of us. A quick straw poll revealed a fifty-fifty split: apathy or price protest. Or, In my case,a combination of both.
I cannot believe I didn’t weaken at the last minute, but I somehow held firm with my convictions. My partner gained a visit to Cromer Homebase (she’s seriously arty and likes to scrounge free wallpaper samples and buy reduced-price paints for her creations) and later the dog had a lengthy walk along Trimingham beach to Overstrand and back. I can throw his ball further, so he much prefers to go with both of us.
But this was a matchday Saturday afternoon. And I was – unbelievably – enjoying a sense of freedom. Sure I missed seeing my friends, but as they weren’t there, there was nothing to actually miss. We’re not going to win the FA Cup anyway, I realise that, but it actually felt good to be away from it all for once – I have never truly recovered from the Luton ‘experience’.
Anyway, from what I can gather from the highlights, we put in a decent collective shift and deserved our draw. I was also pleased for Steven Whittaker, a consummate professional for all his apparent faults.
Of course, this means a replay at St Mary’s, and that got what passes for my brain ticking.
Back in 1992, I went to The Dell for our quarter final. A 0-0 bore draw and we were shoehorned onto old trestles with ‘seat’ numbers on the back. Anyone on a packed Sleazyjet aircraft who complains of sitting next to a large person on one side and a small child with an ear-splitting shriek on the other hasn’t lived.
The generosity of a kind publican near to the ground who let me leave my car there for free was the only highlight of that day, really. Apart from the well-deserved result, of course.
Onto the replay. Nobody who went to that game will ever forget it. No disrespect or reference to the current Southampton side, but in this particular match all those years ago they were truly the filthiest outfit I have ever seen. Francis Benali played that night, for a start. And so, I believe, did Terry Hurlock.
Matthew Le Tissier was sent off for a stamp, Barry Horne likewise – the repercussions of his ‘job’ on Flecky will follow. I have never willed a Norwich City side to score as much as I did that night. Eventually after what seemed like an eternity of our battering ten and then nine men, Gossy mishit a shot which bounced up and Chris Sutton looped it over the keeper (probably Tim Flowers?).
I was unusually in the River End that night and I have never seen that stand go ape in that manner before or since. The Barclay must have gone double ape.
Then, the aftermath and the repercussions – Flecky and his oxygen tent, or whatever it was – somehow seemed to deflate us. Although Flecky (or a shadow of him) did make it for Hillsborough, we all know what happened against Sunderland. I’ll draw a veil over that if I may, and also over Villa Park a couple of years earlier, although in the case of the latter for a completely different reason that I am sure readers will appreciate.
So this time the replay is at their place. I hope it’s just as exciting and the result is the same as that of 1992, but I won’t be going and all the very best to those Yellows who are. Give the boys a shout from me
Finally, a point to the marketing magicians at Carrow Road:
You got a kick in the teeth with your pricing policy for this match: so many of us found other things to do on the day as a direct result of it. Think of all the sales of lukewarm coffee, overpriced plastic bottles of lager and near-inedible pies you missed out on flogging to people who just weren’t there to buy them.
If we do beat Southampton in the replay and get a home draw – whether Man U or Accrington – if you want £25 for a ticket I won’t be coming to that one either.
And Alex Neil’s comments about Timm Klose’s reaction to his injury and subsequent treatment leave me speechless.