The last time Norwich City led English football's top flight – 25 years ago today – thanks to a special goal
He fired Norwich City to the top of the English football pyramid 25 years ago today and soon John Polston will be back at Carrow Road, as he told DAVID FREEZER.
Exactly 25 years ago today Norwich City were sitting top of the tree, leading the pack, in the Premiership title race driving seat – thanks to a memorable goal from defender John Polston.
“Mike Walker’s title outsiders have cleared another big fence and they’ve nosed ahead of Villa in the big race – and John Polston, what a day for him!” said BBC commentator Clive Tyldsley as the Carrow Road faithful celebrated a vital 1-0 win over Aston Villa.
“A father for the first time just last night and an 82nd-minute goal-scoring hero for Norwich here tonight. Villa’s first defeat for six weeks, the end of a run, not the end of the world for them, but Norwich City have completed another successful sortie in their mission impossible – and the message from East Anglia tonight is, bring on Manchester United.”
It was, of course, the 1992-93 season and Mike Walker’s team had continued to confound expectations all the way through to mid-March as they reclaimed top spot once again.
However, 25 years later it is a lofty height that the Canaries have not experienced again.
“The day before the game Jordan was born in the early hours of the morning, around one o’clock,” recalls Polston, whose daughter, Jamie, was born a couple of years later. “So I stayed for a little while before I went home and got some kip and then I think we trained that morning, because we would train on the morning of games sometimes.
“I can’t remember if I did much, I may have just turned up to prepare for the game, so it was a hectic time but really the excitement of your first born arriving and the emotion of a massive game got me through.”
Ron Atkinson’s top-of-the-table Villa team were thwarted in the first half, with Bryan Gunn saving a Dwight Yorke header with his legs from point-blank range and Gary Parker rounding Gunn, only to hit the post with captain Polston desperately blocking his view and Chris Sutton on the line.
Mark Bosnich had bravely denied Gary Megson before the break as well and the no-nonsense midfielder played a key part in the winning goal for City, heading low from Ian Crook’s corner from the right, which Bosnich saved but couldn’t hold to allow Polston to gleefully stab high into the roof of the net at the River End and send Norwich top of the table.
“I was up for a corner, the ball broke and I managed to score,” Polston continued. “It was such a big game and we won it late on, it was just an amazing 24 hours.
“People remember that one still and the one against Vitesse Arnhem in the European campaign, so those two were probably my most memorable. Whenever I go back to Norwich people always say they remember those goals.”
United had been held to a 0-0 draw at home by Arsenal that Wednesday night but reclaimed the lead 10 days later with a 3-1 win at Carrow Road which eventually consigned City to third and saw Alex Ferguson’s team claim the crown.
Polston, now aged 49 and living in Berkshire, scored 12 goals during his 263 appearances between 1990 and 1998, but enjoyed reliving that goal as his son celebrates his 25th birthday.
“It certainly did feel like a fairytale,” the former Canaries defender said. “We got on an amazing roll of winning games, scoring lots of goals and just rode the crest of a wave the whole season to finish third and qualify for Europe.
“Once we were top we were obviously there to be shot at and United caught us, we couldn’t quite hold on, but in terms of Norwich it was the stuff that dreams are made of really. You look back on it all and it certainly doesn’t feel like 25 years ago!”
Polston was back on the Carrow Road turf ahead of the 1-1 draw with Ipswich last month, being unveiled as an addition to the NCFC Legends team which will face Inter Forever on Sunday, May 20 (2pm) to raise funds for the Build The Nest campaign for the Community Sports Foundation.
“I run a boot camp business but I don’t take part too much, I instruct, but I keep fit myself, I run triathlons, do a bit of football coaching as well, although not too much now,” Polston added.
“So it’ll be nice to see the guys, Rob Newman, Gunny, Mark Bowen, we were up a few weeks ago and out on the pitch and that would have been about 15 years since I last saw them. It’ll be great seeing everyone again.”
• Watch highlights of that win over Villa above
• Tickets are £9.93 for adults and £1.93 for U18s, from tickets.canaries.co.uk, by phone on 0844 826 1902 or from ticket offices at Carrow Road, Castle Mall or Chapelfield.
• Find out more about The Nest at thenest.org.uk