Sunday, May 4, 2014
Twenty years on from that momentous ocassion, midfielder Paul Gibbs, from Yarmouth, looks back on the team who made dreams come true.
1 Robert Woodcock: Former Norfolk youth goalkeeper who joined the Tangerines from Mulbarton.
Paul Gibbs: “For a goalkeeper Woody wasn’t the tallest and I must admit I had a few concerns when I first joined the club. But I needn’t have worried. He was an extremely brave keeper, an excellent shot stopper – and didn’t make many mistakes. I’m still in touch and he now works for Longwater Construction Supplies in Norwich.”
Sometimes you just get lucky.
By that I don’t mean Diss Town were lucky to win the FA Vase final - or the players and fans were lucky to have such a memorable day at Wembley Stadium. Just that I was lucky to be there to witness it.
At the age of 14 and still too young to get away with buying a drink at the pub - but old enough to want to escape from the parents - Brewers Green Lane became the hang out of choice.
For our first season a crowd of between six and eight of us would spend Tuesday and Saturday nights watching the Tangerines pit their wits against clubs like Gorleston, Dereham, Fakenham et al in what was then the Jewson League.
Then in our second season something magical happened - the side started to progress in the FA Vase.
For the first few rounds just the hardy souls would travel, mainly for the thrill of leaving the county, not knowing or dreaming of what was yet to unfold. But once the quarter-finals were reached, the sense of belief grew - and the crowds began to soar. I’ll never forget the thrill of travelling to the north-west for the semi-final tie against Atherton Laburnum Rovers. In my memory the journey and every minute of the match was punctuated by constant chants of ‘we’re on the way we’re Punton’s Army, we’re all going to Wemberleee’ - time does romanticise occasions such as these.
For the replay - played in Rugby at a neutral ground - we had to stop on the way because the orange scarf I’d dangled out of the window became caught up in the radio aerial. Such football traditions were still new to me.
Possibly an even greater moment than the victory itself was the final whistle in the semi-final. Wembley secured, hundreds of us rushed on to the pitch to embrace the players.
Somehow I found myself next to manager Bill Punton and gave him a massive hug. What I hadn’t realised was he was in the middle of an interview with Look East. The moment appeared on the television the next night.
Once the big day came along the sea of orange at the famous stadium seemed to go on forever. It was a great day and I’m sure the enjoyment of the run made me determined to sign up for a Norwich City season ticket a year later. Players like Paul Gibbs, Paul Warne, Kelly Barth et al became my heroes. Twenty years on those names live on - as do the fantastic memories.
2 Jason Carter: The former King’s Lynn player was in his fourth season with the Tangerines when they played at Wembley. A key member of the side, as emphasised by his selection as players’ player of the season the previous year.
Paul Gibbs: “It always surprised me that Jason never made a career out of the game – he was that good. He had a few trials I think but no-one took him on. He was a left sided central defender who had plenty of pace and was also an excellent reader of the game. I always felt confident when I had Jason playing to the right of me.”
3 Martin Woolsey: Utility player who featured in a number of different positions.
Paul Gibbs: “I played with Martin at Gorleston and he was a man I had a lot of respect for. There was a magnificent team spirit at Diss at the time and he was one of the main reasons for it. An experienced player, he was a real hard man, who would run through brick walls for the team. He’s now working offshore.”
4 Tom Casey: Joined Diss after failing to earn a professonal contract as a youth team player at Carrow Road. Inspirational defender who scored in the semi-final win over Atherton. Broke his nose in the same match – but was still ready for the final.
Paul Gibbs: “Tom was so committed in everything he did that he occasionally rubbed people up the wrong way but I always got on well with him.
“You could see why he caught Norwich’s eye. He was an excellent centre-half, good in the air and on the deck, and was another key member of the team. We’ve kept in touch and still play golf together occasionally. He works in insurance sales.”
5 Paul Hartle: Much travelled local footballer, who played for Norwich United, Lowestoft Town and Great Yarmouth Town before signing for Diss, where he was a key figure in midfield.
Paul Gibbs: “He must be 106 now, musn’t he? Seriously though Paul was one of the veterans in the side and what a job he did in the middle of the park.
“He just loved playing for Diss Town and never gave anything less than 100pc when he was out there on the pitch. A real grafter.”
6 Garry Smith: Popular captain, who joined the club from Sudbury Town and was the supporters’ player of the year the season before the Vase triumph. Another important component of the Diss midfield.
Paul Gibbs: “Another extremely committed player in the middle and a natural choice as captain. The cliche about players covering every blade of grass on the pitch during the course of a game certainly applied to him. The sort of player every team needs.”
7 Kelly Barth: A distinctive figure with his shoulder length locks, the talented wide man had trials with Norwich City and West Ham before drifting into a lower level of football. Had an eye for a goal and also banged them in for Gorleston, Yarmouth and Norwich United.
Paul Gibbs: “What can I say about Kelly? Well I am not exaggerating when I say he could have made it to the very top with the ability he had. What a player, one of the best I have ever seen and that includes my time as a professional.
“When his mind was right he could do anything with a football - he really was our answer to George Best. Kelly had an attitude - but he had the ability to change the course of a game by himself. Now living and working in Bournemouth.
8 Peter Mendham: A man who will require no introduction for Norwich City supporters. Gave superb service to the Canaries in midfield before a pelvic injury cruelly cut short his professional career. Went on to play for Wroxham as well as Diss and helped the Tangerines to glory at Wembley nine years after being part of the City side that beat Sunderland 1-0 in the Milk Cup Final. After finally hanging up his boots he worked as a fund-raiser for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Now rebuilding his life after a spell in prison.
Paul Gibbs: ”A few eyebrows were raised in the squad when the gaffer brought Mendy in during the Vase run because obviously someone would lose their place in the team and we thought a big time Charlie might be coming in. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Mendy was as good as gold and fitted in really well. He was still an excellent player who read the game so well and was a big influence.”
9 Stephen Miles: Was in his second spell with the club when he played at Wembley. A local lad who was a goal threat for the Tangerines whenever he took to the field.
Paul Gibbs: “A local lad from a farming background, Steve was a big target man, 6ft 2 or 6ft 3, who was great in the air and held the ball up well. He won the late penalty that I managed to stick away so I will always be grateful to him for that!”
10 Paul Warne: The talented front man made his name at Diss after starting out at Great Yarmouth. Went on to join Wroxham before climbing his way all the way up to the second tier of English football, where he came up against Norwich City on more than one occasion. His first professional club was Wigan but he spent most of his career at Rotherham United, making over 300 appeareances for the Millers and being awarded a testimonial in 2012. Also played for Yeovil and Oldham.
Paul Gibbs: “Warney was a young player like me when we got to Wembley and was a key man in the side.
“We were certainly a lesser team if he wasn’t playing. He was often the man who made us tick. He had great ability on the ball, could make things happen and also scored goals. It was no surprise when he went on to have a long career in the professional game. Now on the staff at Rotherham I believe.”
11 Paul Gibbs: A former Scunthorpe United apprentice, Gibbs joined Diss from Gorleston and scored a crucial goal against Norfolk rivals King’s Lynn in the fifth round of the Vase. The talented left sided player went on to have a solid career as a professional after leaving Diss, with a spell in Norway leading to a contract with Colchester United in 1995. Also represented Torquay, Plymouth, Brentford and Barnsley before finally hanging up his boots in 2005.
Paul Gibbs: “I have got so much to thank Bill Punton for. As well as being a lovely man he was also a top manager, a real legend, who knew the game inside out and could always get the best out of his players.
“I had been released by Scunthorpe but he helped improve me as a player at Diss and it was my spell there that got me back into the professional game. It was an exciting time that I will always remember with a great deal of fondness.”
Robert Musgrave (for Woolsey 39 minutes): Utility player who represented England at youth level. Previous clubs included Watton, Wisbech and Norwich United.
Paul Gibbs: “Was unlucky not to get in the starting XI but he got a decent run-out at Wembley, which was nice. Muzzy was a very strong, committed centre-half who could always be relied on to do a solid job for the team. A great lad too.”
Phil Bugg (for Casey 73 minutes),
Paul Gibbs: “Buggy was a good midfielder, a key member of the squad. Had plenty of skill and a good touch and is fondly remembered for his step-overs. Now working as a PE teacher.”