What might have been

I have written before about the highs and lows of being a Norwich City fan, but there was a season just before the Premier League which for me highlights the joy and the pain of following the boys in yellow and green.

It was season 1991/92, I had been a season ticket holder in the 70’s and 80’s, had a few years playing the game, but it was the Southampton FA Cup replay in March 1992 which really got me back on side. Norwich were in the old Division One and sitting pretty, in mid- table in the middle of March. Dave Stringer was a very competent manager and all was running smoothly. Then we played Southampton in the 6th Round of the FA Cup, we had drawn with them away and the replay was on the 18th March.

I worked at South Norfolk Council in those days, and a group of work mates and I had a couple of beers in the County Hall social club before walking down to the game, I took my place in the River End, the crowd was over 21,000 a lot higher than the average crowd of that season of around 13,000. We looked forward to a good game, Southampton were a mid-table side like us but we thought it was a good chance to get through to the semi- final and even a trip to Wembley.

For some reason that night I was really up for it, the crowd were buzzing, I had had a couple of beers and I was with quite a few of my workmates. I really got into the game, we were playing well, we had Robert Fleck, Ruel Fox, Chris Sutton, Jerry Goss, Ian Culverhouse and Mark Bowen, they had Matt Le Tissier, Ian Dowie, Tim Flowers, Neil Ruddock and Alan Shearer. We were not the biggest side and it was clear that Southampton had come to really bully us, tackles flew in from the first whistle and the crowd were very loud, we were playing well, the referee had to call the captains together at one point to calm the players down. There were chances at both ends, then just before half time Neil Ruddock heads in from a corner, the injustice, we didn’t deserve it. In the second half we hit the bar, a couple of chances cleared off the line, then Le Tissier kicked out at Chris Sutton and rightly received a red card, I think the referee was tiring of Southampton’s tactics. Shortly afterwards Rob Newman hit the equaliser from a Sutton knock down and the crowd went wild, it was the least Norwich deserved.

No more goals and into extra time we went, then Roger Horne stamped on a Norwich player and he also received his marching orders, surely Norwich would win now, Crook came on for Woodthorpe and chance after chance came and went, even Shearer cleared the ball off the line. Finally Goss miss hit a shot which fell to Sutton who delicately headed over Flowers for the winning goal with just a few minutes to go, What a game what a night.

Also on the City of Yellows Blog:

Then my dentist friend from Cromer rang me to say he had a spare ticket for the semi-final at Hillsborough, we had done the hard work, and we were against Sunderland, from a division lower than us, this was our chance to get to Wembley, it couldn’t go wrong but we were anxious, the Norwich City team were anxious and we lost 1-0. How did we lose to a struggling side like Sunderland, that Jonny Byrne goal still hurts.

After that we completely lost our way, losing seven out of our last eight league games, but we held on to stay in the top league and moved on, Dave Stringer resigned and we moved into the Premier League era with Mike Walker.

Lots of games have been lost in the memory, but I shall never forget that Southampton replay.

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