Monday, December 10, 2012
Sports editor Chris Lakey looks back on the club’s history of success in league cup competition.
Norwich City have had more than a passing interest in the League Cup over the years – a tradition they will be hoping to maintain this week.
Success in knockout competitions has sadly becoming something of a rarity in recent years, but the League Cup was in only its second season when City made it their own.
Ironically, the first winners were Aston Villa, in 1961.
City’s mark was left on the trophy 12 months later, when they beat Rochdale 4-0 on aggregate – two goals by Derek Lythgoe and one from Bill Punton earned City a 3-0 away win, with Jimmy Hill scoring the only goal of the game in the second leg, at Carrow Road.
Their grip was loosened in the following year’s quarter-finals – against Villa, who beat the Canaries 4-1 in the Midlands. Another quarter-final appearance the following year ended in defeat to Leicester, at the second attempt, and it wasn’t until the early 70s that City really made an impression on the competition.
In 1971-72 they lost to Chelsea in the quarter-finals, but the following season they were back in the final, beating Leicester, Hull and Stockport on the way before facing a trio of big London clubs.
Arsenal were seen off 3-0 at Highbury in the quarters, and Chelsea went by the same scoreline, albeit over two legs, in the semis, before City headed for Wembley to face Tottenham. But there was to be no fairytale ending, as they went down 1-0 in front of a 100,000 full house, Ralph Coates scoring for Spurs.
Yet another semi-final appearance followed in 1973-74, with City losing out to Wolves 2-1 on aggregate. Twelve months later, Bolton, West Brom and, most satisfyingly, Ipswich Town were all beaten – amazingly, all matches which went to replays – before Tommy Docherty’s Manchester United were disposed of in the semi-finals, 3-2 on aggregate.
But once again Wembley wasn’t a happy hunting ground, with Villa’s Ray Graydon ending the City dream with the only goal of the game. It was the third successive League Cup final for Villa boss Ron Saunders, who had been Norwich boss in 1973 and a year later took Manchester City to the final, where they lost to Wolves.
There followed some barren years, until the glory of March 24,1985. Ipswich were beaten in the semi-finals, 2-1 on aggregate, earning City a Wembley trip to face Sunderland. The final was decided by an own goal by Gordon Chisholm, who deflected Asa Hartford’s shot past his own keeper. Sunderland had a chance to level, but Clive Walker missed a penalty after Dennis van Wijk had handled.
The closest City have come since has been the quarter-finals, the last appearance back in 1996 when City were beaten 2-1 at Birmingham, having drawn the first match 1-1.