The Tottenham Hotspur supersub who ended Norwich City’s League Cup dream

Duncan Forbes went close to equalising with this late header.

Duncan Forbes went close to equalising with this late header. - Credit: Archant

It is 40 years ago this weekend that Norwich City took on Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final – and substitute Ralph Coates broke the Canaries' hearts with the winning goal for Spurs

City leave the tunnel at Wembley, led out by manager Ron Saunders and captain Duncan Forbes.

City leave the tunnel at Wembley, led out by manager Ron Saunders and captain Duncan Forbes. - Credit: Archant

It is sometimes said that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive – and there was much more glory on the road to Wembley for Norwich City than in their first appearance at the famous old stadium.

City fans had the tunnel end at Wembley.

City fans had the tunnel end at Wembley. - Credit: Archant

Ron Saunders' newly-promoted Canaries had disposed of Arsenal and Chelsea to reach the 1973 League Cup final and were bidding for a hat-trick of scalps from the capital when they met Tottenham in the final on Saturday, March 3.

City fans had the tunnel end at Wembley.

City fans had the tunnel end at Wembley. - Credit: Archant

But a disappointing game was settled after 73 minutes by an unlikely matchwinner, Spurs substitute Ralph Coates.

League Cup final programme 1973.

League Cup final programme 1973. - Credit: Archant

A long throw from Martin Chivers was helped on by Martin Peters but cleared to the edge of the penalty area, where Coates – a first-half replacement for the injured John Pratt – thumped home a low shot.


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For City defender Dave Stringer, it was the first of two Wembley defeats.

'It was not a classic as is very often the case,' he said. 'We lost 1-0 but we would have wanted the game to be a little more spectacular.

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'We played very well to get there, we came through the semi-final against Chelsea after the fog came down at Carrow Road and we had to replay the second leg. But against Spurs, a bit like our second final against Villa in 1975, we didn't get going.

'Nobody wants to know the losers . . . I remember at the end that the band played Cliff Richard's song, 'Congratulations'. Every time I hear it, it reminds me and I think 'Oh, switch that off!''

City were in a relegation battle – they eventually survived – and had lost five Division One games in a row when they faced Spurs.

'There were two months between the semi-final and the final and our league form had gone downhill in that time. Perhaps the final had become a distraction but I suppose we saw it as a relief from our league programme,' said Stringer.

'Going to Wembley was a big occasion for us. We had never been before and it was something I always wanted to do as a player. And walking out of that tunnel in front of 100,000 people is an experience you will never forget.

'But for the Spurs players, people like Martin Peters, Martin Chivers, Alan Gilzean, Mike England and Pat Jennings, it was very familiar. Playing at Wembley was a big part of their history.'

World Cup winner Peters, who joined Norwich two years later, was Tottenham captain.

'I can remember that John Pratt got injured and Ralph Coates came off the bench and scored the winner,' he said.

'It was a long throw that was cleared to the edge of the area and Ralph hit it from about 20 yards.

'I remember him scoring a great goal in Europe for us but that was one of the highlights of his time at Spurs.

'Being captain of the side and going up to receive the trophy at Wembley is very special and it was a great day for Tottenham.

'It took us into Europe again and we got to the UEFA Cup final the following season, but lost to Feyenoord, unfortunately.'

• THE MEN WHO MADE HISTORY FOR NORWICH CITY AT WEMBLEY IN 1973

Kevin Keelan (673 apps) Broke City's appearance record in 1979-80, his final season, before emigrating to Florida.

Clive Payne (150 apps, 3 goals) Injury cut short his career at Bournemouth. He set up a windows business and starred in local cricket.

Geoff Butler (196 apps, 1 goal) Later managed Salisbury City for 18 years. Now runs a home improvement business in Wiltshire.

Dave Stringer (499 apps, 22 goals) Had four years at Cambridge Utd before becoming very successful City youth, reserve and first team boss. bos

Duncan Forbes (357 apps, 12 goals) Was captain until 1976 and later worked for City promotions department and as chief scout.

Max Briggs (170 apps, 1 goal) Moved to Oxford Utd but injury ended his career and he ran a windows business. Still lives in Norwich

Doug Livermore (139 apps, 6 goals) Later had roles as City reserve boss, coach and assistant manager before joining Base Soccer Agency.

Jim Blair (11 apps, 1 goal) The striker's short stay with the Canaries included two cup finals. He died in Belgium in 2011, aged 64.

David Cross (106 apps, 30 goals) The much-travelled striker won the FA Cup with West Ham before roles as coach and match analyst

Graham Paddon (340 apps, 37 goals) An FA Cup win with West Ham came between two Norwich spells. He died in 2007, aged 57.

Terry Anderson (279 apps, 19 goals) Played in the USA but returned to Norfolk to live before his untimely death in 1980, aged 35

Sub: Trevor Howard (156 apps, 19 goals) City's supersub played for Cambridge, lived and worked there until deciding to move to New Zealand

• WHAT THEY SAID

Dave Stringer: 'I remember at the end that the band played Cliff Richard's song, 'Congratulations'. Every time I hear it, it reminds me and I think 'Oh, switch that off!''

Doug Livermore: 'I remember that before the game our manager stood up and told us to enjoy the day because it was a fantastic occasion for our lads to get there.'

David Cross: 'I think we left it all on the training ground . . . it was a slog, a big, big slog. I thought we did well to only lose 1-0. We never threatened Tottenham.'

Ron Saunders:'We can be proud of every one of our team in this final. It was a physical game but never dirty. The goal came against the run of play when we were getting on top.'

Kevin Keelan: 'Spurs were almost playing at home, having played there so many times, and it was up to them to come out and play. They didn't. The only goal was scrappy.'

Martin Chivers: 'Late in the game I took a long throw. The ball was partially cleared to the edge of the area and Ralph belted it into the net. His hair went mad as he went on his famous run.'

Martin Peters: 'Being captain of the side and going up to receive the trophy at Wembley is very special. It was a great day for Tottenham and it took us into Europe again.'

Bruce Robinson, EDP: 'The Canaries struggled to find anything like their usual form. Perhaps it was the occasion, the 100,000 crowd, the vast, lush pitch or the quality of the opposition.'

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