March 24, 1985: The day Norwich City turned Wembley yellow and green

PUBLISHED: 17:53 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:54 23 March 2020

Dave Watson holds the Milk Cup aloft at Wembley Picturre: Archant

Dave Watson holds the Milk Cup aloft at Wembley Picturre: Archant

Archant

Let’s take a trip down memory Lane - Chris Lakey look at the day, 35 years ago, when Norwich City graced the old twin towers...

Toast of the city - Asa Hartford Picture: ArchantToast of the city - Asa Hartford Picture: Archant

It was, without a shadow of doubt, one of the greatest days in the history of Norwich City Football Club.

The yellow and green army made their way south to the home of English football, Wembley Stadium. The place was a sea of yellow and green and red and white as 100,000 people – the Norfolk hordes and the Mackems of Sunderland, sang their hearts out.

But at 5pm on Sunday, March 24, 1985, it was Canaries fans who were the only ones still singing.

One goal settled it, scored by Asa Hartford – the first man to play a League Cup final for three different teams... with a little help.

Norwich City celebrate after winning the Milk Cup, from left, Chris Woods, Dave Watson, Paul Haylock and Steve Bruce Picture: ArchantNorwich City celebrate after winning the Milk Cup, from left, Chris Woods, Dave Watson, Paul Haylock and Steve Bruce Picture: Archant

City were winners – in more ways than one.

Everyone wanted it to be a friendly final – this was an era when football was tainted by the scourge of football hooliganism.

Before the game, in the shadows of the famous old towers, fans from opposing sides met face to face in the Wembley car park – for a game of football. Inside, the atmosphere was warm and friendly and even now, 35 years on, whenever the clubs meet they contest the Friendly Cup.

Back on the pitch up for grabs was the Milk Cup – in those days the League Cup’s sponsors were the Milk Marketing Board.

Proud Norwich City manager Ken Brown with the spoils of victory Picture: ArchantProud Norwich City manager Ken Brown with the spoils of victory Picture: Archant

City had won it once before – beating Rochdale in 1962 – but had lost it twice, to Spurs in 1973 and Aston Villa two years later.

Their victory 35 years ago owed a little to fortune: a minute into the second half Sunderland defender David Corner tried to usher the ball out of play for a goal-kick, but City kept the ball in play, it reached Asa Hartford whose shot was deflected off the chest of opposition defender Gordon Chisholm, wrong-footed goalkeeper Chris Turner and crept inside the near post.

“I should have kicked the ball out,” said Corner, who said he didn’t “think there’s a day goes by where that game isn’t mentioned”.

Later, City had a second stroke of fortune, when defender Dennis van Wijk handled in the area. Penalty to Sunderland. Up stepped Clive Walker – who smashed his shot against a post.

But City deserved their win.

Malcolm Robertson, reporting on the game for the EDP, wrote: “They rode their luck when Walker became the first player to miss a penalty in a Wembley final, yet always looked the better balanced and better organised side.

“Indeed, after two depressing Wembley performances from the Canaries, it was nice to see them bring a touch of style and panache to the old stadium.

“The match was played in the finest possible spirit, with both sets of supporters conscious of their responsibility to restore an image which had been sadly tarnished in recent events.”

Hartford, Mick Channon and John Deehan – bags of experience in wise heads – dictated play, Peter Mendham was “determined, aggressive and always thrusting” while Steve Bruce was man of the match and “as inspired as we’ve come to expect”.

Manager Ken Brown was the popular architect.

“We played the quality football, and I was pleased because we’ve let our supporters down on a few occasions in the cup in the past. This time we certainly didn’t. Sunderland probably missed one or two players and, apart from short periods, we were in complete control.”

Hartford added: “I don’t know if I can claim the goal because I don’t think it was going in when I first hit it.

“If it hadn’t hit the defender I think the keeper would have had it ... but then again I might as well claim it because it’s as sure as hell the other fellow won’t want it.”

Bruce went on to manage Sunderland 25 years later – not a great move considering his strong Newcastle connections.

“Sunderland’s heads began to drop as soon as they missed that penalty and after that I always felt that we were going to do it,” he said at the time.

“I’m going to give my medal to my six-month-old son Alex.

“I thought the fans were tremendous – the atmosphere out there was unbelievable.”

Victory was celebrated with a banquet, alongside wives and girlfriends, at a hotel in the Buckinghamshire town of Beaconsfield, with a civic reception the following day and an open-top bus parade.

But some things do change - the players shared out a bonus of £100,000 for winning the cup.

Teams

Norwich City: Chris Woods, Paul Haylock, Dennis van Wijk, Steve Bruce, Peter Mendham, Dave Watson, Mark Barham, Mick Channon, John Deehan, Asa Hartford, Louie Donowa. Sub: John Devine.

Sunderland: Chris Turner, Barry Venison, Nick Pickering, Gary Bennett, Gordon Chisholm, David Corner (Howard Gayle), Peter Daniel, Ian Wallace, David Hodgson, Steve Berry, Clive Walker.

Ref: Neil Midgley (Manchester)

Att: 100,000.

Don’t miss our Pink Un Classics which goes live at the 2.30pm, the original Cup final kick-off time. And @pinkun on Twitter we will have blow-by-blow updates during the afternoon to coincide with what happened exactly 35 years ago.

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