The story so far. Sixty years ago, in mid-November, the Canaries beat Ilford 3-1 in the first round of the FA Cup. At the time, it seemed unimportant and an away tie at Swindon in the second round suggested a pre-Christmas exit from the competition. A 1-1 draw forced a reply but. before this took place, the draw for the third round was made on Monday lunchtime: Swindon Town or Norwich City... will play... Manchester United.
...three days to wait.
"Matt Busby sees City take the lead" made the back page of the Evening News but it was the Late News column that carried the final score: Norwich City 1 – Swindon Town 0. Only 12,235 could claim ”I was there” but, ten months after the Munich air disaster and seven months after Busby’s release from hospital, the ‘Babes’ who had survived – supplemented by some astute signings – were to be at Carrow Road on the second Saturday in January.
It was exactly a fortnight to Christmas: ‘more turkey will be eaten this year’ it was confidently claimed by Robert Harvey, the Norwich butcher. As the days ticked by, the signs of both change and continuity became apparent, the fair on the former cattle market setting up on its traditional site for the last time before being moved further away from the Agricultural Hall so that, in the future, it wouldn’t disturb broadcasting from Anglia TV, which was due to start in under a year.
A ‘Christmas boom in the city shops’ was reported with ‘takings up on last year’... ‘recipes, decorations’... ’cards by the million flow through Norwich sorting office.’ For others, it was ‘all the fun of the fair’ as toffee apples and candy floss vied with the recent transatlantic vulgarity – the ‘hot dog’ – to be enjoyed on the galloping horses and the dodgems. Indeed, everyone seemed to be entering into the spirit of Christmas except Mr Frederick Horth of Astell Road who was sent for trial by the city magistrates for the theft of three turkeys.
For Norwich City’s followers, alongside the preparations for the festive season, the running story was ‘the match’ – Manchester United on 10th January: ‘no increase in admission charges’ for an ‘all ticket match’... ’cup tie limit, 38,000’. On the Saturday before Christmas, instead of watching the Canaries at Newport, ‘Macauley goes to see United’. The manager and supporters’ two days of festivities were completed by a 1-0 win at home to Reading on Boxing Day.
But after a 3-1 defeat in the return fixture at Elm Park on the final day of the year, the Canaries were still only three points clear of the relegation zone and, as the city’s pubs gradually cleared at 12.30 am after the Old Year’s Night extension, not even the most ludicrously optimistic - full of Bullard’s Mild or Steward and Patteson’s bitter, topped off with a couple of whisky chasers – could possibly have begun to imagine what was to happen during the first three months of the New Year.