Terry Allcock: We never felt like underdogs in Norwich City’s Wembley bid
PUBLISHED: 17:33 25 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:33 25 January 2013
Nearly 54 years have passed since Norwich City’s giant-killers fought an epic FA Cup semi-final battle with Luton Town – but Terry Allcock still recalls the near total silence in the dressing room after a replay defeat at St Andrew’s ended their hopes of becoming the first Division Three club to reach Wembley.
Archie Macaulay’s Canaries had already disposed of two world-famous first division teams – Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – plus second division Cardiff and Sheffield United before facing a third top-flight side, Luton Town, for a place in the final.
But after a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane, the Hatters won the replay 1-0 at Birmingham, still the most numbing and heartbreaking result in City’s long history.
For the 23-year-old inside-forward Allcock, in his first full season at Carrow Road, it was a bitter blow.
“I would say it was the biggest disappointment of my career,” he said.
“To play at Wembley was the ideal, the ambition of every professional footballer and I never did. I went there as a coach with Norwich and Manchester City in the League Cup, but it’s not the same as playing.
“The previous season I had played in a couple of rounds of the FA Cup for Bolton and scored in them, before I joined Norwich. Bolton went on to beat Manchester United in the final, so in a sense I missed out two years in a row.”
Tomorrow, the roles are reversed when non-League Luton, sixth in the Blue Square Premier, visit the Canaries, 13th in the Premier League, in a fourth round tie.
“We were the underdogs in 1959 and now Luton are in that situation,” said Allcock, now 77.
“Not that we had the attitude of underdogs because we had already knocked out four big clubs before the semi-final, and we felt with the team we had we could definitely go there as favourites.”
City had already played splendidly at White Hart Lane in round five, the first of two matches against Spurs, but on their return visit they were not as fluent.
“In the first game against Luton we didn’t play to our potential from the previous rounds,” said Allcock. “I think perhaps nerves and the occasion got to one or two of the players and we were grateful to our goalkeeper, Sandy Kennon, for having an outstanding game.
“Syd Owen, the Luton captain, was a bit like Ron Ashman to Norwich – the senior pro and a very experienced centre-half, and he took the sting out of Terry Bly, who had been our main goalscorer.
“The one disappointment from a personal point of view was that during the second half, when we were losing 1-0, I jumped with the goalkeeper (Ron Baynham) for a cross and he dropped the ball, and Errol Crossan knocked it into the net. But the referee disallowed the goal for a foul on the goalkeeper.
“Legally, you could challenge the goalkeeper in those days and I didn’t foul him. I just jumped to head the ball and we collided.
“Bobby Brennan equalised on his birthday to get us a replay but it could have changed the result.”
City did not dwell on the injustice because, Allcock recalled: “There were only four days before the replay and we were still confident we could finish the job.
“In the second match at St Andrew’s we were so dominant and in the first half Jimmy Hill and Errol Crossan went so close. We had good opportunities but didn’t capitalise on them. Then Luton scored a bit of a scruffy goal. There was a backheel and it was Billy Bingham whose shot went in.”
That 56th-minute goal ended the dream for Allcock, City and thousands of fans enraptured by their FA Cup run.
“The worst time was the first 15 minutes in the dressing room after the game. There is nothing much to say, you want your own space,” he said. “But we were very proud of what we had achieved and the train journey home and the scenes at the station when we returned to Norwich were amazing.”
After the replay City had a fixture backlog that meant playing 16 league matches, five in March and 11 more in April, winning nine and drawing five to finish fourth in Division Three.
“There was just so much confidence in the side. We hadn’t been in contention for promotion that season but we did it the following year,” said Allcock, who does not expect tomorrow’s underdogs to get as close as City did to an upset.
“The only way there could be an upset is if the Norwich players get complacent because it’s easy to slip into that attitude but I am sure the manager will not let that happen.”