Golden age of the FA Cup

Ollie Burton never sampled the thrill of walking out of the tunnel in an FA Cup final. Frank McLintock experienced it four times, twice with Leicester City and twice with Arsenal.

Throw in a couple of trips to Wembley in the League Cup final with the Gunners – though both ended in defeat – and the Scotland international knew all about the game’s showpiece occasions.

Burton’s big Wembley moment came when he played for Wales against England in 1969, the same year he helped Newcastle triumph in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

But the two men still had their finest moments ahead of them when they were on opposite sides on a bleak March afternoon nearly half a century ago at Carrow Road.

Norwich City and Leicester were paired in the quarter-finals of the 1963 FA Cup, an eagerly-awaited tie for both clubs. After a severe winter, player-manager Ron Ashman’s Canaries had stormed through three rounds in the space of 13 days and were eager to make up for the disappointment of their semi-final exit at the hands of Luton four years earlier, while Matt Gillies’ team were hoping to go one better than 1961, when they had been beaten in the final by Double winners Tottenham.

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In the end, the match was an anti-climax with first division Leicester winning 2-0, though a record gate of 43,984 and receipts of �8,183 provided some consolation for the hosts.

Half-back Burton recalled: “Our FA Cup games were all crammed into less than a month. We had beaten Newcastle 5-0 in the fourth round, which was the game where I was spotted and led to my move.

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“The crowds were fantastic at Carrow Road and there was a great atmosphere, with most people standing and I remember how packed that River End terrace used to be.

“We had great expectations and we thought we could beat Leicester at home but we lost 2-0 and Terry Allcock missed a penalty. It was a day when nothing seemed to go right. We had gone through the rounds very quickly but it all came to a very abrupt end.”

Burton missed only one game all season for City, and still looks back with regret about their quarter-final exit as goals from Mike Stringfellow and Dave Gibson put Leicester through.

“Ron Ashman was playing centre-half at the time and wanted to play there, but I remember saying that I wanted to play there because I just felt I was a little bit taller than Ron,” he recalled.

“Ron was a great servant but I had the legs and had youth on my side, and I think I might have been better able to deal with Stringfellow.”

The match was decided in the second half. First a certain Gordon Banks, in goal for Leicester, denied Tommy Bryceland when he turned his shot on to the post. Soon after, Stringfellow headed the first goal from Howard Riley’s cross, Gibson adding the second before the Canaries spurned a lifeline 12 minutes from time. John Sjoberg handled Bryceland’s header on the line, but Allcock fired the penalty harmlessly high.

The Evening News report of the day singled out Burton’s opposite No 4, McLintock, “whose second-half mastery had much to do with Leicester eventually deserving victory”.

The man himself can remember little of the detail of the match, admitting: “When you play about 730 games in your career, quite a few get lost in the memory.

“But Stringfellow and Gibson were a brilliant pair. I remember after we beat Norwich, Stringfellow scored in the semi-final with a header from 18 yards and after that Liverpool battered us, but Banks kept them out. I remember one save from Ian St John that was better than the one from Pele.

“He was one of the greatest goalkeepers ever and I was very fortunate to have Gordon behind me at Leicester, then Bob Wilson at Arsenal and then, when I went to Queens Park Rangers, Phil Parkes for four years.”

But McLintock and Leicester suffered their second Wembley defeat in three seasons when Manchester United won 3-1.

“We felt for our fans. We felt we had let everyone down,” he said. “We reached two FA Cup finals in three years and for a club like Leicester that was fantastic. We had a fantastic team and we were going for the double that season while United were down near the bottom and struggling. But we never competed that day, we were a disgrace.”

McLintock finally ended his Wembley hoodoo and lifted the FA Cup as captain of Arsenal’s Double-winning team of 1971, but he regrets the way the competition has been undermined.

He said: “Playing in a Cup final was on a par with the Championship. It’s lost a lot. When you see big clubs putting out half a team in the early rounds, because they are desperate to stay in the top four, it’s damaged it badly.”

McLintock, now 72, is an admirer of fellow Scot Paul Lambert.

“I’m a Celtic fan so I know about Paul Lambert and I’ve watched Norwich this season. He’s done a fantastic job – nothing complicated but just getting the players together and the position they’re in is unbelievable,” he said.

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