As the days dawdle along towards an FA Cup quarter-final which will be like no other — one without fans — our latest extract from the Tales From The City trilogy recounts (along with many other remarkable yarns) the story of when the entire country was enthralled by City’s greatest FA Cup run of all time. The chapter by Terry Allcock (now 84) was first published in 2017 and appears here with the permission of Adam Leventhal, for the publishers, and Mick Dennis, the Tales editor.
BREAKING BONES AND RECORDS
BY TERRY ALLCOCK
When the local media and supporters talk to me, they want to hear about Norwich City’s 1959 FA Cup run — when we were in the old Third Division but got as far as a semi-final replay.
To be honest, it’s not really among my personal highlights. When you score two goals in the first 20 minutes of your debut, as a 17-year-old, for one of the country’s top teams, against one of the most famous goalkeepers ever, then you’ve done something that will stay with you all your life. So when people ask me about my career highlights, I don’t have to think much further than the very start.
But the Cup run was something special to be involved in, and I understand why it meant so much to the club, the city and the county at the time, and it is certainly something I am proud to have taken part in — particularly because of how we played, which is something people get wrong.
When people read about it or hear about that great Cup run now, they imagine that we must have been fighters, scrapping our way through games. But we didn’t kick anybody off the pitch. We played football and beat good sides with our quality.
I had joined Norwich from Bolton (for whom I’d made that debut as a teenager). I came to Norwich in March 1958, and the Cup run was the very next season, my first full campaign for the Canaries.
Our manager, Archie Macaulay, had assembled a good group: experienced players and guys from some of the biggest clubs in the country at that time. And we were probably one of the first teams to play 4-4-2. The new system came about when the manager tried it out against Southend at Carrow Road in the League at the start of January. We won 4-0. Terry Bly and Errol Crossan scored one each and I scored two and obviously the manager was satisfied and so he kept the formation.
Our Cup run had started two months before that, though, because, as a Third Division Club, we had to play in the first round. We had a home tie against Ilford, a non-League team, who we beat 3-1. That didn’t give anybody any hint at all of what was to come, and nor did the next round, when we took two games to finish off Swindon, who were in the same division as us.
But now we were into the third round, and who should come out of the hat but Manchester United.
There was an inch of snow on the Carrow Road pitch for the United game, but they just swept the lines clear and marked them blue. We played with a bright red ball. The police had put a restriction on the crowd of 38,000 but that was more than enough to create a tremendous atmosphere and we won 3-0. Terry Bly got two and Errol Crossan got the other. It was a really tremendous result against Matt Busby’s famous ‘Babes’ and the Pink Un headline was, ‘Bly, Bly Babes’.
Bly was the surprise of the whole business. The manager had got all these players in from big clubs, but Bly was a 22-year-old from a village in Norfolk who was one of our reserves. He just stepped in at the turn of the year because we were short. He was a big strong lad, a tremendous striker of a football, who had an outstanding period in the Cup. But the following season after the Cup run he left for Peterborough.
Once we’d beaten Manchester United, we became a big news story nationally. And for the draw for the next round, on the Monday lunchtime, we were invited to the Mayor’s parlour in City Hall, where we had a sherry reception and gathered around a radio to listen to the numbers being pulled out. And, for every round after that, we were invited to City Hall for the draw. It became a sort of ritual.
Unless you were around at the time, it is hard for you to understand the effect of us beating Manchester United. All the principal newspapers had people staying in Norwich to get stories. They were all at the Royal Hotel, which was at the top of Prince of Wales Road. The building is still there, across the road from Anglia TV. It’s all offices now.
The journalists followed us about, trying to sneak into training sessions and the like, but they weren’t the only people who descended upon Norwich. Some spivs came up from London and were selling black-market tickets down by the river and the story was that some locals threw them in the water.
So there was all this activity and excitement in the city as we built up to the fourth round — at home to Cardiff. They were in the division above us, and it was a tight game, on a pitch that was difficult because it was a bit frozen again, but we managed to win 3-2. So it was back to the Mayor’s parlour.
The draw for round five gave us Tottenham away and more than 20,000 City fans travelled to the capital by road and rail. The team went by rail and from time to time, when we could spot the road, we would see all the cars and coaches with Norwich flags waving out of the windows.
The attendance was close to 75,000. We had a chance more or less from the kick-off, when young Bly turned in their area, but he couldn’t quite dig the ball out from under his feet to get any power into the shot. They had a few chances but it was 0-0 at half-time, and we had a lot of pressure at the start of the second half. Then came my one FA Cup goal of the whole run. I hold all sorts of scoring records for Norwich, but only scored once in the Cup that season because I was playing more of what today would be called a holding role. My goal against Spurs came when Matt Crowe slid in a very well-weighted pass, just behind the centre-half, for me to run on to. As their goalkeeper, John Hollowbread, came rushing out towards me, I tucked the ball away quite easily with my left foot.
Of course, there was no kissing each other, or sliding along the floor, or elaborate celebrations. You just walked or jogged back to your own half and you might get a slap on the back from one or two of the team. The Norwich fans were up that end, and they were certainly excited, but I never got carried away when I scored, because it was just part of my job.
They really came at us after that, but it looked as if we would hold out, but then, in the very last minute, Cliff Jones, their Welsh international winger, popped up in our area and scored the equaliser. It was 1-1.
When our train got back to Thorpe Station there were probably 3,000 people waiting to welcome us. They were crowded onto the platform and we couldn’t get through. The railway people had to put us on the luggage trolley and wheel us through the crowd.
I think everybody thought that the replay would be the end of the road for us though — apart from the players. We were optimistic and full of confidence. The team spirit was tremendously high. Sometimes a team just comes together and it all clicks, and that was us. We all had our individual jobs to do, but as a unit we were quite solid.
Of course, there was another 38,000 in the ground for the Tottenham replay and it was a very tense sort of game. They made three changes, including bringing Danny Blanchflower back into the team. Most of the players we faced that night would be part of their League and FA Cup double-winning side two years later. But that night we were in control and got the only goal of the game in 63rd minute from young Bly, with a shot from about the penalty spot.
That was another big scalp, and the national attention we were getting, and the excitement in Norwich, all built up even more. But one of the things that helped us, I believe, was that the manager liked routine. And our trainer, Harry Toppin — who had coached in Holland — was very jovial and he could break down any tension with a joke. He was a wonderful guy. Years later, when I broke my leg the first time, he used to cycle with me and make me go up Kett’s Hill in Norwich for rehabilitation. We didn’t have all the medical equipment that footballers have now-days, but there were guys like Harry, who knew what would work.
So, during our Cup run, we had the manager and the trainer keeping things relatively normal. But the manager was also a bit superstitious, and he kept doing some little different things that had worked, to his mind, in the Cup. For instance, before the United game, in our Friday meeting after the team had been announced, he had a tray of drinks brought in. We all thought, ‘Oh! Lovely’ but the drinks were a mixture of sherry, raw eggs and cream, and tasted awful — but because we won the game, the same drinks became part of our pre-match ritual for the rest of the Cup run.
A lot of the players had superstitions, about what they wore on match-days, or the order they lined up to go out on to the pitch and things like that. Barry Butler had to be behind the captain, and another one had to be last out — that sort of thing. But I didn’t have any superstitions really. I am a bit laid-back, I suppose.
In the last eight of the Cup there were six teams from the top division, Sheffield United from the second and us from the third — and we were drawn away to Sheffield United. I had a problem as we prepared for that one. My big toe had been stamped on. It blew up to about twice its normal size and I had to go around in a plimsoll with the toe area cut out and missed training all week.
On the Friday it was still bad, and so the club took me up to the hospital and the surgeon there lanced my toe, making a hole through the nail. The blood came out like a fountain because the pressure had been unbelievable. But once it was out, the pain was gone and they strapped me up and I knew I could play.
We travelled to Sheffield later that day. That was around the time that the first motorway, the M1, was opened, but there weren’t many good roads in Norfolk and we couldn’t have a long journey on the day of a game.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 Norwich fans made the journey to Sheffield to support us. It was a very difficult game for us. They scored very early on and then we had an injury to our goalkeeper, Ken Nethercott, in the second half.
Willie Hamilton went racing through for the home team, Nethercott dived at his feet and stopped the goal — but dislocated his right collarbone. He wouldn’t come out of goal, though, because there were no substitutes then. He wasn’t going to go and play on the wing and put someone in goal who had never done it before, so he played with one hand for the last 30 minutes.
We had to try to protect him. We closed things down and played a much more restricted game than was usual for us, but of course we were losing, so we had breakaway attacks when we could.
After 75 minutes, Bobby Brennan, our left-winger, cut into the penalty area and rolled the ball past their goalkeeper and along the six-yard line. Two of their defenders had gone over towards the near post, and so when the ball went past them, there was an open goal. Crossan and me were both steaming in but he got there before me — he was quicker then me! — and he was on his own in front of an empty goal. So we drew 1-1.
That meant another replay at Carrow Road under lights on the Wednesday night. Playing under floodlights was a relatively new thing and it created the best atmosphere you could have. Under lights, on a rainy night, with a big crowd — that’s the ideal football scenario.
The crowds at Carrow Road were enormous, compared to what they get now. There were seats in the main stand but on the other three sides it was just terraces and the fans stood. When something exciting happened, there would be a surge as fans strained to see and toppled forward, pushing the spectators in front, who pushed the ones in front, and so on. Everyone ended up going down four or five steps of terracing in a mass of people. As players, we were very much aware of these big surges of people.
The connection between the fans and the players was even more special in Norwich, I believe, because it was a relatively small city and a tight community, and between games we mixed with the supporters all the time.
As a team we used to have lunch at the Royal Hotel and walk to the ground down Riverside and the fans would be walking to the ground at the same time. You just chatted to them and they chatted to us. I had a good relationship with the fans, who liked the way I played, and all of the players used to go to a lot of public events. We got so many invites, so we would go and play in darts tournaments and snooker tournaments, and judge beauty contests, and so on.
We were involved in articles in the press a lot, too. On one occasion we had a training session in Rhyl, in Wales, prior to a game somewhere in the North West. I had a reputation for buying decent, quality clothes, and when we were sitting down to dinner, Crossan, who was our comedian, stood up, called me ‘The Count’ and presented me with a cigarette holder. I didn’t even smoke! The press got hold of my new nickname, and so a few days later they did a caricature in the paper of me wearing a cape, like something the aristocracy would wear on a night out.
Anyway, there was a tremendous atmosphere for the replay against Sheffield United and we scored after 13 minutes. Brennan showed the value of being two-footed. He was on the front edge side of their area, facing across the pitch with the ball on his right foot. So the fullback must have expected him to keep going across the front of the box, but he suddenly swerved to his left, completely beating the fullback, and then he hit a rising left-footed shot into the net, in front of the Barclay stand.
Bly got the second about a quarter of an hour later. He and a defender were racing for the ball and their goalkeeper, Alan Hodgkinson, who was an England international, came out to try to get to it first. But Bly just got a touch to it to lob it over the goalkeeper.
Sandy Kennon had come into our side in goal because of the injury to Nethercott. He himself went on to be a very fine goalkeeper, but that night he sort of pushed one shot out to Derek Pace, who made it 2-1.
In the second half, Hodgkinson parried a shot to one of our players — Bly of course! So that made it 3-1 to us, and there was a little bit of a pitch invasion by some of our fans. Sheffield wouldn’t lie down and Gerry Summers headed a second goal for them, but we kept creating chances too and deserved to win, I think. When the final whistle went, and it was 3-2 to us, the fans really did spill onto the pitch from all four sides. They came straight over the top of the walls around the pitch and carried us off shoulder high.
Three of the four sixth-round games went to replays. So when the draw was made there were lots of ‘either or’ permutations. The winners of our replay were due to play the winners of a replay between Luton and Blackpool, and on the same night we beat Sheffield, Luton beat Blackpool 1-0. The other semi-final ended up being Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa at Hillsborough.
Our game with Luton was to be at White Hart Lane — where we’d already secured a draw against Tottenham in round five — and, to be honest we thought Luton would be easier opponents than some we had already had to deal with.
Luton were very physical. They made a beeline for both our wingers. They knew Crossan was very quick — if I knocked a poor ball down the line he was so quick he’d make it look a decent ball. Luton kicked lumps out of him that day.
They took the lead in the first half, with a header by Allan Brown, but we got a second-half equaliser from our other winger, Brennan. He’d come in from the left and when the ball reached him in the area he hit it first time with his right and we were level. But it was one of our poorer performances.
I think we had got to a stage when we were beginning to get a bit anxious, because we were getting so close to Wembley. I was all right, because I played in a couple of rounds for Bolton the previous season, before I joined Norwich, and they went on to win the Cup, so I had that experience behind me. But you could feel anxiety in our team, and it led to us missing one or two chances that people would normally have put away.
We had yet another replay to contend with, at Birmingham the following Wednesday. There was only one goal. The build-up was a bit messy, with a couple of deflected passes, but eventually the ball fell to Billy Bingham, near our left-hand post, and he knocked it in.
You can imagine the mood in our dressing room afterwards. With replays, that was our eleventh FA Cup match of the season. We had kept going so long, and had got so close to the Final, but we’d just not managed it.
We travelled back to Norfolk by a train that was full of our supporters. We drank the train dry by the time we got to Peterborough, and so the train was kept by the platform in Peterborough while they loaded more alcohol on.
Ron Ashman, our captain, said, ‘These supporters have been with us all the way on this Cup run, so let’s walk through the train and, instead of them singing On The Ball to us, let’s sing to them’. So we walked from front to back of the train and back, a couple of times, singing On The Ball and having a drink with supporters. Good days.
It would have been nice to have played at Wembley. It would have been interesting to see how we would have handled it. Later I went as a coach with Manchester City, but it’s not the same and it would have been special to go there as a player with Norwich, from the Third Division.
At the end of the season, because we’d missed fixtures because of the Cup run, we played 11 League games in 25 days. That included one period of four games in seven days and one of three in five. Twice we played on consecutive days. And they say that footballers these days play too many games! We finished third, and so missed out on promotion — but we got it the following year.
Three years after our famous FA Cup run, Norwich won the League Cup. It was only in its second season, and hadn’t become as big as it did once they moved the final to Wembley, but it was still something to win it — but I broke my leg at Halifax in the semi-final.
I look back now and think that the ’59 Cup run was a tremendous time, and I am grateful to have been part of it. But, as I say, I had other highlights in my career and I played with or against everyone who was anybody.
You don’t realise until you’ve finished the quality of the players you’ve come up against. In my second game I had to mark Len Shackleton , I was in matches with John Charles , Bobby Moore , Tom Finney , Stanley Matthews , Georgie Best , Denis Law and people of that calibre.
I was very, very fortunate. I was just one of those people blessed with a natural ability with a football — and not only a football: a ball of any shape and size.
I was in my school under-15 football team in Leeds when I was eight. By the time I was 12 I was captain of Leeds boys and but the time I was 13 I was captain of Yorkshire boys. I played for the North of England and I played for England boys against The Rest with Duncan Edwards and David Pegg. They went on to play for Manchester United and England but were both killed in the Munich air disaster. A lot of good judges think Duncan was the best player England ever had, although he was only 21 when he died. David was just 22. When we played for England boys together, they were my room-mates.
At the same time, I captained Leeds boys at cricket. I was opening batsman and wicket-keeper and on my first appearance I scored 87. My next game was for Yorkshire boys and I opened the batting and top-scored with 65 (against Derbyshire).
My school became a primary school so I had to be transferred to another school, which was a Rugby League school — and I ended up playing Rugby League for the county. But then, and I am sure it was through the football authorities, I was moved to the best football school in Leeds.
After I left school I earned money from both football and cricket. When I was playing football with Bolton I was still registered for Yorkshire for cricket and they wouldn’t release my contract. Well, I couldn’t travel to Yorkshire to play, so I played Lancashire League cricket. I played against all the top players in the world. I played against Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine in 1959, the year that they took 59 wickets between them for the West Indies in a Test Series in England. I made 80-odd not out against them.
At football, I was straight into Bolton reserves at 15 and made my first-team debut at 17 at Manchester City, seven miles up the road from Bolton. Bert Trautman was their goalkeeper and my direct opponent was Don Revie .
There were about 60,000 spectators and I scored two goals in the first 20 minutes. I can still remember them because your first game always stays in your memory. The first goal came when a good ball was slipped into the area for me, I took one touch and then, bang, it was in; a left-footed shot. The second was quite similar but it was with my right foot.
I was a natural scorer. The best strikers don’t stop the ball. If you stop it, to control it or get it into a better position, the defender will make up two yards or the goalkeeper will adjust his feet and be ready and you will have lost the opportunity. You have got to take the shot on your first touch. And you have got to have a policy that, if someone is shooting from the right, you follow in from the left and vice versa. You might make ten runs but it will come to you once — the goalkeeper will knock it down to you or the shot will come across to you. You’ve just got to keep making the runs.
At Bolton, I deputised for Nat Lofthouse at centre-forward sometimes, but my true position was inside-forward and it didn’t matter if it was inside-left or inside-right. Most of the pictures of me playing show me jumping for a header or firing a shot, and make me look like a big, bustling sort of player. But, as an inside forward, I had to be skilful.
I wasn’t particularly quick but I had a very good engine and didn’t really know which was my favourite foot because I was equally adequate on either side. And I could head a ball. In those days, as an inside-forward, you were expected to be defending one minute and scoring the next. If you didn’t get 15 goals a season, you thought you were a flop.
Anyway, one day in 1958, when I was 22, I went into work one Monday morning and the manager said they’d had an offer from Norwich. I said, ‘Where the hell is that?’
So why did I go to Norwich, which meant stepping down two divisions? Don’t forget the wages were capped no matter what division you were in, and the environment was certainly an improvement. I’d been brought up in Leeds, which was an urban jungle, and I’d lived in Bolton, which was the same, so before I came to Norwich I had never ever seen trees in a street.
I was married by the time I came to Norwich and our eldest son was 18 months, so to move somewhere where you didn’t have to go to a park to see a tree was a big thing. My wife was a Blackpool girl, so she liked the fact that we could get to the coast quite easily.
I signed for Norwich in March 1958, just before the transfer deadline and immediately got the offer of a job coaching cricket at Gresham’s School, in Holt, that summer. They paid me travel expenses and a good salary, on top of my football wages, so we were more than happy to be at Norwich.
I see all the great players now, because I host the match-sponsors at Carrow Road every game. But I am often bored by the way the game is played. The build-ups can be so slow and methodical. I think that is the influence of all the continental players who are over here. They have learned to play in that way because of the climate and conditions with which they grew up. When we played, we were playing in four inches of mud, covered in sand to soak it up, with a ball that was like a piece of lead. So you couldn’t stroke three or four sideways passes. Now they play four or five and it goes back to the goalkeeper!
It was a different game. In my day it was very physical. You had to kill somebody to get sent off and I broke both legs, broke my nose four times, broke my collarbone, and had five metatarsal injections. Rooney and Beckham had five months off when they broke their metatarsals. We used to go to the hospital at noon for a pain-killing injection and then just go and play in the afternoon.
When I had my second leg break in the League Cup semi-final at Halifax, the trainer came on and did what they always did in those days — rub the injury with the ‘magic’ sponge from a bucket of cold water. I played on for 75 minutes and only found out afterwards that my leg was broken.
I take satisfaction from being the second-highest all-time goal-scorer for Norwich, with 127 in 389 games, although at the end of my career, after I had broken my legs, I played more games at centre-back than anywhere else.
For five seasons I didn’t score a goal. While I was off with the second broken leg, Norwich bought Ron Davies, an excellent centre-forward, and so I played as one of two centre-backs. I was in the Bobby Moore role, tidying up alongside the other centre-back. I enjoyed it, but I never went up for corners.
If I had, I would probably have got at least the five more goals that would have made me level as all-time top Norwich scorer with Johnny Gavin. But when I was a forward I used to hate defenders coming up for corners and getting in my way. I used to leave a space to run into, but then a big defender from my own team would come and take the space I had created, so when I was a centre-back I didn’t use to do it.
But I still hold the record for 37 goals in a season. That was in the 1962-63 season, when there was a really hard winter and a long time when nobody in the country could play any games. We had 14 weeks without matches, but we hired a hangar at Norwich Airport and used to play full practice games on the concrete floor, in plimsolls. Norwich were in the second tier, didn’t have a particularly good season. They finished mid-table yet that was when I got my 37 goals.
I am the only Norwich player to have scored a hat-trick in the League, the FA Cup and League Cup in the same season. I scored five hat-tricks in total for Norwich, which is another record. I scored seven goals in one week: one against Stoke on the Saturday, four against Newcastle on the Wednesday and two against Manchester City on the Saturday.
Alongside my playing, I started coaching. In the week I scored seven goals, I took my FA coaching practical exam at Keswick College, in South Norfolk, during the morning before playing against Newcastle at Carrow Road in the afternoon. The Wolves manager, Bill McGarry, was doing the assessing at the college and then came to the game and saw me score four goals — so he probably gave me a good mark for my practical!
I got a UEFA coaching licence (as well as an MCC cricket coaching qualification) and then began running coaching courses in Norfolk. Lol Morgan, the Norwich manager, was doing courses around the county too, and he got upset that the FA rang me to do the assessing of the people he had been teaching to coach. That didn’t go down well. We had a bit of a falling out about that.
I had five managers at Norwich and Lol was the last one. It got to the Easter time and I knew I was coming to the end of my career. I played in the reserves at Swindon on the Friday. I went into the ground on the Sunday because I had blisters from playing on the hard ground and was having some treatment. The first team had only won once in seven games.
Lol saw me and said he wanted me to play the next day, Easter Monday, at home to Huddersfield — and wanted me to play at centre-forward. I scored the only goal of the game and he got the sack. I hadn’t played centre-forward for five years but I imagine there was so much pressure put on him by the board to pick me, and then, when he did, I scored. That sort of showed he’d been wrong to leave me out.
They interviewed me for the manager’s job, but I didn’t want it, so they told me they would like me to be coach and youth team manager. They gave me that job before they appointed anyone to be in charge of the first team, and then they brought in Ron Saunders to be manager. He was infamous for making the players run up the hills on Mousehold Heath. Well, I was the guy at the top of the hill sending them down again!
Ron and I got along famously. And when he was sacked, he got offered the job at Manchester City and I resigned from Norwich to go with him. That was 1973. I’d been at Norwich for 15 years.
Ron and I were at Manchester City the season we relegated Manchester United — a famous occasion when Denis Law back-heeled the winner for City but refused to celebrate because of what the goal did to his former club, United.
I bought a house in Manchester but we never moved up there. We had five children in education in Norfolk and I came back to Norwich after games every weekend. When Ron fell out with the Manchester City chairman, Peter Swales, I decided I wouldn’t go to Aston Villa with him. I didn’t want to live in the Midlands and I wasn’t really enthusiastic about coaching. It wasn’t as good as playing and I wanted to be with my family. So I moved back, although I had never really left.