Let’s play word association.
We’ve heard them all. Chelski. The Special One. New money. Roman’s plaything. John bloody Terry. And so on and so on. That’s Chelsea today, a Russian oligarch’s 21st century toy. An anti-football club and the ‘second’ team of very few.
Now go back in time, back, back, baccccck, to December 1972. Go and speak to a football fan, any football fan and ask them to have a game of word association with you. You can start. Chelsea. What is he or she likely to say then?
Well, clearly, none of the above. It’s 1972 for goodness sake. Chelsea are Chelsea, the Special One is just nine years old and scampering around at school in Setubal and the only new money around is that funny new pounds and new pee thing that has replaced our beloved £, s and d. Not so much new money as funny money. Roman is also in short pants and, no doubt, about to annex his schools toy cupboard whilst John bloody Terry’s parents haven’t even met yet. Any volunteers willing to make sure they never do whilst they’re back there, Back To The Future style?
Anyway, Chelsea, December 1972. What are people going to say? I’ll tell you. Blue Is The Colour. Peter Osgood. The Kings Road. Peter Osgood. Peter Osgood. And Peter Osgood. They were the showbiz club. Music, fashion, places, people. Chelsea. They were quite good at football then as well. FA Cup winners in 1970, European Cup Winners Cup winners in 1971. They beat Real Madrid in the final of that one – and after a replay. Guess who scored in both games? Yep, Peter bloody Osgood.
It was also the time they played Norwich bloody City four times in just over three weeks. Boy, they must have been sick of us at the end of it.
The first time was a league meeting at Stamford Bridge on December 9. Quite a historic meeting as well really; our first against them in the top flight and the first clash between the two sides of any kind since we’d beaten them at Carrow Road to the tune of a rather satisfying four goals to one in a Second Division game on April 6 1963 – the Norwich scorers on that day being Jimmy Hill (2), Terry Allcock and Alistair Miller.
They still went up that season mind, finishing in second place, a point behind Stoke City. That 1962/63 season was a bit of an erratic one for us, even by our spectacular standards – for one thing, we scored goals for fun. Yes, really. Eighty goals from 42 league appearances that campaign, not bad by any standards. That included Carrow Road wins over Sunderland (4-2); Swansea Town (5-0); Stoke City (6-0; Jim Oliver hat-trick, Terry Allcock, Gerry Mannion and Jim Conway) and Portsmouth (5-3). That Stoke game obviously stands out in particular as it meant we’d turned over both the eventual Champions and runners up by an aggregate score of 10-1. So we must have had a useful team then-why on earth wasn’t it us that was promoted?
You don’t need to look too hard at that seasons league table to work out why. Yes, we banged in 80 league goals, 26 of them coming from the boot or head of Terry Allcock – but we conceded 79, a figure that only four clubs managed to ‘beat’; three out of that four ending in the bottom three. So yes, we had something of a generous defence, best illustrated in the hidings that we got on our travels at Charlton (4-1); Luton (4-2); Middlesbrough (6-2) and, horror of horrors, Sunderland (7-1).
So ups and downs, a typical Norwich supporters season. We’ve all been there and met with those twin imposters of triumph and disaster – except, contrary to what Kipling thinks, it’s very hard to treat them both the same, if you don’t mind. Anyway, I digress. As I do. Back to Chelsea.
That league meeting on December 9 saw us travel down to London in a respectable enough 11th place in Division One. We’d lost our previous home fixture to Manchester United a week earlier; nearly 36,000 fans had been shoehorned into Carrow Road to see the likes of Best, Charlton and Law, but made do with just Charlton of the famous three plus the slightly dimmer delights of Dunne, Sadler and Young. They also had this stocky bloke in the number eight shirt who did bugger all throughout the game apart from stand there with his hands on his hips and didn’t the Barclay give him some grief, the big, fat, lazy so and so. That is until he scored their second goal in the last minute, the bastard. His name? Ted MacDougall.
We were pretty much Chelsea’s equal in the first half. For the silky skills of their pre-Raphaelite Alan Hudson, all poise and languid limbs, we had Paddon, crafted flair with added hair. They had Garner, big and mean, we had Jimmy Bone – just mean. And they had, of course, Peter bloody Osgood. But we didn’t care because we had David Cross.
Alas, it wasn’t enough. Like the thoroughbred 1972 footballing version of the Ford Capri they were, Chelsea put on their driving gloves in the second half, upped the ante and scored three quick goals, two from Ian Hutchinson plus one from the beefy Garner. We were more Morris Marina at the time – not much to look at on first appearances but, given a second glance we had a little more than you might have expected. Sadly it was not enough on that day. The flashy fancy dans won the day and we headed home, hopeful that we’d get there in time to get a pint of Watneys Red Barrel and some fish and chips from the chippie on the corner of Kerrison Road before watching Kojak on the telly…
Bloody Chelsea. Because just four days later, off everyone went to Stamford Bridge again. This was for the first leg of the League Cup semi final, a competition we did have some history in, having won it in 1962 – but hadn’t really troubled it since. However, the proximity of Wembley for the first time in the club’s history was an intoxicating one and more supporters from both clubs duly turned out at Stamford Bridge to see who’d get the initial upper hand.
Surprisingly perhaps to everyone apart from Canaries manager Ron Saunders, it was Norwich. He stuck to the same starting XI who had lost four games earlier; the most notable absentee being injured Captain Duncan Forbes, replaced by Steve Govier. And that City defence held firm, absorbing all that Chelsea could throw at them even after Norwich had gone 2-0 up in the first twelve minutes, Cross setting up the rapacious Bone after eleven minutes, Bone returning the favour a minute later. Cue delight from all concerned – but a cautionary reminder that there was still work to be done by the poker faced Saunders who, post-match, said: “Tonight they went out there and played. Next Wednesday brings another game. When we win that, I’ll be delighted.” Typical Saunders – low on soundbites. But probably very good at Haiku.
That second leg at Carrow Road, which was played on December 21, turned out to be one of the most remarkable games ever played there – even if it now doesn’t officially exist in any record books!
A crowd of 32,000 had turned out for the kill on the night, clad in warm scarves and gloves, wooden rattles cracking the air with machine gun rapidity. An air of expectancy hung over the stadium, a City waited to celebrate. Christmas could wait. Norwich, however, could not. Just six minutes had gone when Terry Anderson put Norwich 1-0 up. Pandemonium ensued. We’re going to Wembley. His strike did, after all, make it 3-0 on aggregate, surely City were home and dry?
Apparently not. Hudson, a wraith-like figure in the Chelsea midfield, cuffs over hands and shirt flapping amidst him like a Clippers mainsail scores at the second attempt after an initial miskick – no doubt that, had Clive Tyldesley been there, he would have said “he is mortal then”. Thankfully he wasn’t so he didn’t. It’s 1-1. Time to have a Bovril and take stock of things.
But no, just as the prospect of a warming pie was beginning to dominate the minds of the chilly hoards, its 2-1 Norwich, Cross capitalising on a weak back header from Ron “Chopper” Harris to slot the ball past John Phillips, deputising for Bonetti. Chopper Harris is now Flapper Harris. It’s a good job he doesn’t wear a yellow shirt, else Duncan Forbes would have hung him from one of the Carrow Road floodlights for such defensive daftness.
Half time. Norwich lead 2-1 and 4-1 on aggregate. Jones and Edelston, doyens of Sport on Two on Radio Two reflect. Norwich have got this wrapped up haven’t they?
Maybe, maybe not. Because Hudson hasn’t finished yet. Osgood passes to Garland who skips over the ball, allowing it to fall into Hudson’s path. 2-2. Blue shirts emerge from the fog that had flirted with proceedings earlier in the evening and is now beginning to settle on and around the ground again. They congratulate the scorer. He pouts, ignores them, struts back to the centre circle. Hudson still thinks Chelsea can win.
But it’s too little too late and Norwich go ahead for a third time. The scorer is Bristol born Paul Cheesley, he’s barely nineteen and only in the team because Bone is injured. But he has impressed on this major stage and makes it 3-2 in the 80th minute with a finish that Bone would have been proud of. Norwich are now 5-2 up on aggregate and dreaming of Wembley in the springtime.
Yet, with barely five minutes to go, the Norwich players can barely see one another, let alone the beckoning Twin Towers. The fog has become much worse and now blankets the ground and immediate surrounds with the sort of damp, heavy menace normally reserved for Hammer Horror films. It lies there, redolent and thickly grey, damp, cloying and very permanent. For Norwich, of course, it isn’t a problem and they play on regardless, trying to locate each other in the stygian gloom as best they can. The Chelsea players, meanwhile, huff, puff and throw their arms into the air in protest, their hopes and pleas to the referee eventually gaining his agreement as Mr G.W.Hill (Leicester) calls the game off and, despite a brief restart shortly before 10pm, all is lost and the game is abandoned.
Carrow Road duly went into mourning. So near and yet so far. It was an unbelievably cruel way to end a night that should have been a celebration yet ended more like a wake. Norwich players later admitted that the tears came easily as they trooped back to the changing rooms, the post-match words of Chairman Geoffrey Watling talking for all of them:
“I feel so upset for the players, the manager and the supporters. It’s a tragic disappointment.
“What we have done once, we can do again. We have to fight on with that belief at the fore”.
Move over Churchill.
Defiant words from an inspiring man. There was no doubt, no doubt at all in even the most fervent Norwich supporter’s minds that the game had to be called off, no suspicion of foul play or big club favouritism. The fog had been so thick that Chelsea’s Dave Webb had needed to negotiate his way towards the River End to advise Kevin Keelan that the match had been abandoned – Keelan hadn’t even realised!
There was even signs of emotion from Saunders at the end. His pithy quote of, “Don’t it make you bloomin’ sick!” Typically short and blunt, yet failing to hide even his hurt. This should have been the culmination of his reign as manager. He had, after all, taken over when the club was at a low ebb, defining mediocrity for season after season in Division Two yet with a board and chairman that wanted more, so much more than that. He was the sixth manager during Watling’s time at the club-and the one who had delivered. A Second Division Championship, top flight football at Carrow Road for the first time in the club’s history, thrilling victories over Arsenal, Tottenham and Derby County – then reigning League Champions.
Wembley was to be the cherry on the icing on the yellow and green cake. But it had been taken away. Could Norwich overcome the disappointment, hold their nerve; prevail in the rearranged match that would surely see Chelsea come with their aristocratic tails up, eager to make the most of their second chance?
As things turned out, it was tight, Norwich winning an exciting game 1-0. Chelsea had their moments – Keelan pulling off two typically masterful saves from Tommy Baldwin whilst the same player missed an easy chance early on. Worryingly, Chelsea’s best chance seemed to come from the unexpected return of the fog, right on cue around ten minutes from time again. The Chelsea support shouted, pleaded, demanded it repeat its performance from a fortnight earlier – but it was a mere curtain call and dissipated again as quickly as it had arrived.
Norwich’s goal came from another youngster, for Cheesley in the abandoned game, read Steve Govier in this one. His soaring header from a Paddon corner was met, with Steve Bruce like force, giving Bonetti no chance and a 3-0 aggregate lead to Norwich that neither Chelsea nor the elements would trouble. For Govier it was the highpoint of a Norwich career that saw him make only a handful of further appearances for the club before he joined Brighton; the onerous task of even threatening to displace either Stringer or Forbes at the heart of the Norwich defence a task most footballers would have found difficult, let alone a raw 20 year old from Watford. But his place in Norwich history is secure.
As was that of Saunders and his Canaries side who earnt their Wembley place by virtue of that victory and a place in the League Cup Final where they played Tottenham. Another box ticked for Saunders who would add to his growing reputation and CV at the end of that season by keeping Norwich in Division One, an authoritative slap in the face to the myriad of distracters and self-appointed experts who had predicted a season of misery and ultimate relegation almost from the moment Norwich had been promoted.
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Norwich and Chelsea met for the fifth and final time that season in the return league game at Carrow Road on April 14. Only this time the stakes were a lot higher than they had been before. The Canaries had gone 19 league games without a win and were bottom of the league. Any result other than a win would almost certainly condemn them to the relegation that had been so casually predicted. But, again, the yellow and green prevailed, David Cross scoring in the 38th minute, his thunderous shot bringing hope and heart to a side that then won their next game, a tricky away trip to West Brom. Same result, same scorer and hope springs eternal, safety ensured with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Carrow Road three days later, one of four games Norwich had to play in eight days.
Despite the near despair but ultimate joy that came from our first season in Division One, it is still the memories of those League Cup games against Chelsea that resonate the most in the memories of Norwich fans when they recall that season. They had everything – drama, comedy, farce and an encore, one which neither Steve Govier nor Canary fan John Cocks will likely ever forget.
Were you there when the fog came down at Carrow Road that night?
If you have a specific City player, manager, game, goal incident etc that you feels deserves the ‘Ed treatment’ please let us know and the maestro will do his best to research and feature it in a future column.