Next up, on Sunday, it’s a footballing giant with six top-flight titles and a couple of FA Cups in the bag. So famous they even had their own Netflix documentary.
Yes, a club we have a deep-rooted and unusual friendship with – Sunderland AFC.
There’s only one place to start when talking Norwich and Sunderland. The 24th March 1985 – arguably the greatest day in Norwich’s history.
As an excited 10-year-old holidaying in Hemsby, I watched City play live on TV for the first time, play on a Sunday for the first time, and, crucially, City lift a major domestic trophy at Wembley for the first time.
There was joy and emotion from John Deehan picking the defender’s pocket to set up Asa Hartford’s (Gordon Chisholm’s?) deflected winner through to Dennis van Wijk’s blatant handball (no need for VAR on that one) and Sunderland’s penalty miss – another first for a major final.
Both sides achieved another first that season – this time unwanted – as both would end the season relegated from the top flight, with our 3-1 home defeat to the Black Cats just a week before Wembley proving critical in sealing our fate.
That Wembley final became known as the ‘friendly’ final, notable nationally for the friendship shown between both sets of fans. It was a beacon of light in the dark days of hooliganism and that day still lives on in the ‘Friendly Cup’ – a trophy awarded to the winners of each game since 1985.
If 1985 represented a historic high for our club, then another cup clash against Sunderland, in 1992 was definitely a club low. This time it was the FA Cup and a semi at Hillsborough that City were clear favourites to win, with lowly second-division Sunderland standing in the way of their first FA Cup final.
But Robert Fleck was unfit and City were in poor form. Whatever the reasons, it never happened that day. John Byrne’s winner decided the tie and it was a massive opportunity lost.
Eighty-two years earlier the tables were turned as non-league Norwich beat the mighty Sunderland 3-1 in the 1910 FA Cup. It was a huge shock against one of the game’s giants who would become champions of England two seasons later.
But back to the present, a recent meeting, in Daniel Farke’s transitional season, saw an early-season visit to Carrow Road for the Mackems and a rare win in a campaign that saw them end rock bottom. The return game, a 1-1 draw, was notable only for a late goal by the popular Ivan Pinto.
Most recently, in August of this season, Dean Smith’s City went to the Stadium of Light on matchday 6 and came away with a 1-0 win thanks to Josh Sargent’s 76th-minute strike. It was to be Alex Neil’s final day as Sunderland manager before he departed for the exotic climes of Stoke-on-Trent.
Sunday’s reverse fixture triggers memories aplenty of recent clashes at Carrow Road, most notably an Alex Tettey wondergoal in 2014 and in April 2016 when Big Sam did a painful tactical job on us in a relegation six-pointer.
There was also a title won on Wearside – the Championship of course – but it was a strange one as Nigel Worthington’s troops celebrated despite a 1-0 defeat as results elsewhere went in City’s favour.
Sunderland, of course, have finally emerged from darker days, Only last year there were two divisions separating us but now the ‘friends’ are reunited.
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