My Favourite Game: Horse-whipped but happy as Canaries win at Anfield

Liverpool v Norwich 1988, Saturday December 17

Liverpool v Norwich, Saturday December 17, 1988. Jubilant Canaries salute the fans after a 1-0 win at Anfield. - Credit: Liverpool Post/Wire

Before Sky Sports invented football in 1992, behind the evolutionary curve there existed a version of the sport.

And for a time, Norwich City were among the leading exponents.

Try telling anyone under 30 that the Canaries finished fifth, fourth and third in the top flight in seven seasons. To them, it's like being taught about the invention of the seed drill or the sinking of the Mary Rose.

But their indifference contrasts with the all-pervading elation I felt during the 1988-89 season - hitting a peak at one particular game: my favourite game.

Liverpool away, December 17 1988. When Liverpool were LIVERPOOL, the serial trophy winners sprinkled with stars.

Ian Butterworth

The build-up ... and a concern for Norwich ahead of the trip to Anfield - Credit: Archant


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Norwich were top of the league and I was about to turn 15. It was my first trip to Anfield, and I fully expected us to be despatched imperiously, like impertinent pretenders to the throne.

A Sanders coach from Cromer was our chariot of choice, and we rode the back seat for the six-hour trip: a four-strong team of me, my brother Graham (City), his mate Simon Gotts (Liverpool) and their friend Joan Grout (not sure).

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The journey was tremendously tedious, broken only by a stop at a greasy spoon and the underlying frisson of the butterflies in our stomachs.

Liverpool looked a pretty depressing place: post-industrial, end-times Thatcher, slap-bang in the time of Derek Hatton, Liverpool's deputy mayor and a member of the Trotskyite Militant party.

Even more depressing was how the Merseyside police officers shoved the City fans around as if we were Leeds or Chelsea.

I got too close to the back end of a vast black horse, which swished its tail across my face, leaving me with a few fine cuts as souvenirs.

One they'd had their fun, the officers let us into Anfield. Walking up the steps and into the ground at the away end was an unforgettable moment. For facing us was The Kop: that rolling, pulsating terrace of human energy that could (in the minds of over-excited commentators) suck the ball into the net for the home team.

Seeing the line-ups, I didn't think the Kopites would need to suck too hard.

Liverpool, managed by Kenny Dalglish, included Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush and John Barnes.

Dave Stringer

Caution from the boss... - Credit: Archant

Norwich, managed by Dave Stringer, boasted legends including Bryan Gunn, Andy Townsend, Ian Crook, Dale Gordon, Robert Fleck and my all-time favourite City centre-back, Andy Linighan.

But surely that would be enough against the Reds' heavy guns?

I'll skip too much detail from the match, as it was pretty tedious for the neutral.

In short, it was 0-0 at half-time, thanks to a bad miss by Rush, a decent save by Gunn and an airshot by Flecky.

The second half, with City attacking the away end, was similar - until the 60th minute.

A bit of pinball on the edge of the box saw the ball run through to Townsend, clear on goal with Mike Hooper to beat.

I swear time stood still for us behind the goal. Our favourite Irish Cockney attacking midfielder against someone who wasn't Bruce Grobbelaar.

One touch to control, a second to let rip. And the ball hit the net, via a slight deflection from some outlying area of Not-Grobbelaar.

Liverpool v Norwich

The headline says it all - victo9ry at Anfield for Norwich City - Credit: Archant

I/we went wilder than Kim Wilde singing Wild Boys while riding a wild horse.

I earnt a phlegmy ticking off from a steward with a Carragher voice, for standing on my seat. Teen high spirits, sorry.

Then, on to the longest half-hour of my life. Liverpool attacked and attacked, City were resolute.

Norwich City goalkeeper Bryan Gunn

Bryan Gunn, who would not be passed when Norwich won 1-0 at Anfield in December 1988 - Credit: Bryan Gunn/Family Collects

Gunn dived at the feet of Rush, then Rush was played in on the left. The goal machine hadn't been oiled, and the shot skewed into the Kop.

The game was won, and we danced ourselves doolally - at ground level, of course.

And so, this became my favourite game. Not for goals galore, promotion clinched or last-minute drama, but for sheer "am I dreaming?" amazement.

We had beaten the unbeatable on their turf, to go clear at the top of the First Division at Christmas.

Never has a six-hour coach trip home seemed such a non-issue. 


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