Boxing Day is Football day. Always has been and hopefully always will.
No doubt the future will see Sky TV and the Premiership secessionists wish to do away with it, but for us more traditional footballing types, Boxing Day serves to provide continuity with the game we have always known and loved.
This year, therefore, Stan was glad to see Millwall provide the Carrow Road opposition.
An ugly team with ugly supporters, it ensured an old-school flavour to the occasion. Even the Ref seemed to have been beamed in from the 1970s, letting so many scything tackles and blatant shoves go that Stan felt sure the man had cut his teeth refereeing Dirty Leeds and Cheating Chelsea way back in the days of ‘Bite yer legs!’ Hunter and ‘Chopper’ Harris.
And we won, via two good goals(plus three disallowed), a tight and professional performance, and in front of a full house.
Though not a classic, it certainly provided Stan with Christmas cheer and ensured the objective of a swift return to the Championship remained in focus.
Indeed, so chirpy was Stan after watching Wes, Holty and Martin tear strips out of the Lions that he dared look back at City’s past.
The last five years were swiftly done away with, but thereafter Stan began to recall great Boxing Day moments from his Carrow Road memory-archive.
Unfortunately, this Stan missed John Ryan score the only goal against Ipswich in 1977, having begun his pilgrimage to Carrow Road aged seven in January 1978.
From then on, of course, the Boxing Day fixture – so often against Ipswich in the late 1970s and early 1980s – was a ‘must do’, be it home or away.
Many were draws (1978, 1979), some were defeats (1980), but there was the odd victory.
Technically Stan’s favourite ‘Boxing Day’ win over the Scum came a day late, on 27 December in 1982. Yet, it still has to count.
Stan travelled to Portman Road with his dad; with his green Parker coat done up to the top to hide his City scarf and keep out the cold; and with an optimism based on the previous year’s promotion campaign.
And so it was that Marin O’Neill and Peter Mendham combined to do for the old enemy, brushing aside the likes of Thijssen, Mariner and Brazil to chalk up a great 3-2 victory.
Though being mooned at by a bus load of City fans on the way home threatened to put a dampener on the day, the game was a classic and the victory a sweet one.
To date, it remains Stan’s festive favourite.
Coming a close second, of course, would have to be Boxing Day 2003. Not for the game; a relatively drab 1-0 win over Forest. But more for that Huckerby-moment, when the great man came onto the pitch and the news that he had indeed signed for us was made official.
Somehow, we all knew promotion was in the bag.
The Fine City lit up that day, and Hucks became a true, Canary legend.
Other Boxing Days have been more eventful for other reasons. The Pape Diop victory over QPR in 1999 must go down as the feistiest that Stan has seen.
The man we reputedly signed by accident whilst trying to sign a namesake waltzed and, ahem, dribbled his way in and out of the QPR back four. With legs like sticks and signs of real pace, he looked set to become something of a star … only for his wife to demand a move back to Paris with half of South London keen to spill his blood.
As it was, 2-1 via and OG and Chris Llewellyn’s late finish ensured City didn’t just win the fisticuffs that day.
There have been stinkers of course. Losing 2-0 at Stoke in 1983; losing at Maine Road in 1989 and 1991; getting hammered 3-0 by Man Utd in 1990; and that absolutely devastating 1-0 loss at home to Southend in 1995.
But Stan would rather remember John Deehan seeing off Arsenal in 1984; or the 3-1 romp against Charlton in 1985, as Drinkell, Williams, Bruce, Watson and Woods led us to the old Division Two championship; or the triple scalps of Forest, Derby and West Ham through 1986 to 1988; or our spanking of Spurs at White Hart Lane in 1993; or even the Iwan-inspired away win at QPR in 2000.
Great days, indeed.
So this year let us hope that a 2-0 win over Millwall is but another stepping stone to promotion. A game remembered not just for Holt’s finish to a sublime Hoolahan cross, but for a key-stage in a historic season.
And as for Walsall… The score is just coming in … bugger, postponed.
Oh well, Charlton drew and we have a game in hand. The dream remains – On the ball, City…
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