Canaries' Milk Cup win remembered

Peter WalshNorwich City's historic Milk Cup win was witnessed by almost 40,000 fans who travelled to the capital to sing their hearts out for the Canary cause. Twenty five years on, Peter Walsh caught up with some of the fans who kept the green flag flying high at Wembley on that very special day.Peter Walsh

Norwich City's historic Milk Cup win was witnessed by almost 40,000 fans who travelled to the capital to sing their hearts out for the Canary cause. Twenty five years on, PETER WALSH caught up with some of the fans who kept the green flag flying high at Wembley on that very special day.

The sea of yellow and green that had snaked its way up Wembley Way expectantly before the 1985 Milk Cup final in anticipation of a memorable win joyously jigged its way back the same way just a few hours later amid wonderful scenes.

Norwich City fans truly did sign up to be part of the travelling Canary army on Sunday, March 24, 1985 when almost 40,000 foot soldiers invaded London to help provide the verbal artillery for victory.

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But while City won the battle on the pitch it was peace and not war which was the abiding memory of most people from the match which would come to be known affectionately as the friendly final.

Fans of both teams shook hands and exchanged drinks and souvenirs before the game. The extent of the friendly rivalry was perhaps best demonstrated when supporters took part in a match rehearsal - practising their own football skills between makeshift goalposts.

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Roy Blower, a city councillor and former county councillor who was Lord Mayor of Norwich between 2007 and 2008, is an avid Canaries' fan who paid �20 for a ticket for the final which he went to with his son, then eight.

Mr Blower, 66, has spent more than six decades watching the Canaries' and said that the Milk Cup win was one of his fondest memories as a fan, not just because it was Norwich's first win at Wembley in three attempts, but also because of the spirit in which the game was played.

He said: 'We had one of the few banners that were there with any words on. It said 'Deehan strikes faster than Scargill'. I thought Sunderland were so fantastic in defeat. A fan who cried when he lost gave his hat to my son. I wore that hat at the civic reception.'

Mr Blower, who will be reliving the final on a big screen in the Murderers pub tonight, said the day was made even more special by virtue of the fact his company, Morello Roofing, that season sponsored Asa Hartford who was credited with the winning goal.

He added: 'It was a special occasion for me.'

City fan David Driver is another supporter with fond memories of the day. He said: 'After watching the match on the Sunday we arrived back in Norwich on Monday just in time to attend the celebrations at City Hall with the players and other dignitaries.

'We were guests of my father, the former Lord Mayor Alan Driver. We were the first Norwich City fans to be able to handle the Milk Cup.

'In the 39 years that I have been following Norwich city football this has to be our finest moment. I will always remember the unbelievable emotion of the win and of holding the Milk Cup.

'On the night before the match we were drinking with the Sunderland fans in the west end and they were very friendly and good humoured. Twenty five years later the match is still known as the friendly final.'

Ian Mackie, cabinet member for finance and performance on Norfolk County Council, said: 'In 1985, at the age of eight, I can remember the excitement of the Milk Cup, I had the whole Poll Withey football kit, my pride and joy.

'Our primary school, Fairways, had a healthy eating campaign in conjunction with the match and I can remember the square cartons of milk which were issued to celebrate the Milk Cup.

'Some of the players used to live in Eaton so we would go and knock on their doors and ask for autographs, which they would happily give. Happy days.'

Kathy Blake, secretary of Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association, went to Wembley on the train for the day which she has described as 'the happiest' of her life.

She said: 'It was a wonderful day, everything was perfect. I can remember the Sunderland fans being great. We won and it can colour your memories, but they were great and it started quite a special relationship between the two clubs which has lasted to this day.

'I can remember we went down on the train. We were hanging round celebrating long after the final whistle and the train was due to leave but people on the train kept opening the doors to allow more people to catch the train. The guards were getting quite tetchy but it stopped people getting left behind.'

Mrs Blake said she thought the Milk Cup win would have been the first of many Wembley appearances for the Canaries, although it has not turned out that way.

She added: 'It's even more difficult to win a trophy these days with the gulf between the top clubs and us, but you never know, one day.'

Canaries fan Jamie Keelan was just 12 years old when he travelled to the game from Kidderminster with his 18-year-old brother and cousin.

He said: 'The day started off with my mother ready to pass out and die with the thought of her little boy travelling to London.

'I can remember thinking to myself that I was going to watch my team at Wembley, yes Wembley where only the big teams usually play. I'd seen my first City game at the Albion back in 1978 and, believe me when I say this, I still hadn't seen City win a game.

'On entering Wembley I can just remember thinking 'oh my God', how big, how many fans and looking back on it there must have been 45,000 City and 55,000 Sunderland fans in there that day.

'We all know the outcome, but that day will never be rivalled just for the sheer volume of noise, City lifting the cup, Dave Watson swearing in front of royalty, the friendliness between both sets of fans and finally walking back down Wembley Way singing 'e i adeyo we won the cup'.

'As a City fan I've seen my fair share of heartache and the glory days of European football, but as a young lad I don't think many things in football will get much better than that day.'

City fans were praised for their behaviour in the aftermath of the game with police, British Rail, pubs, and Wembley officials all happy to declare: 'You've got the best behaved supporters in the land.'

The police chief in charge of Wembley, Commander David Polkinghorne, said: 'This was the friendliest final for years. We were delighted with the fans' behaviour. It has restored my faith in football.'

There were just 13 arrests made throughout the day - five for pick-pocketing and the rest for minor public order offences.

A Wembley Stadium spokesman added: 'The fans of both sides were a credit to the occasion and a credit to football. We would be very happy to have Norwich and Sunderland back here again.'

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