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Your Milk Cup memories

PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 13:37 17 June 2011

Dave Watson with the Milk Cup, 1985.

Dave Watson with the Milk Cup, 1985.

Peter Walsh

Twenty five years ago more than 40,000 Norwich City fans travelled to English football's spiritual home to witness their beloved club win the Milk Cup for the first time.

Twenty five years ago more than 40,000 Norwich City fans travelled to English football's spiritual home to witness their beloved club win the Milk Cup for the first time. A quarter of a century has now passed since that historic win but the memories from that day are as vivid as ever as PETER WALSH discovered when he talked to some of those lucky enough to be there.

For most Norwich fans it was an unforgettable day, but for one Norwich fan in particular Sunday, March 24 1985 is a day that will live long in the memory.

It was the day that City fan Stuart Betts celebrated his 11th birthday with a trip to Wembley stadium along with 40,000 other Canaries' supporters in what was one of the biggest celebrations this football club has ever had.

And while most fans who marched to the capital that day as part of City's travelling army will have something they hold dear - be it a ticket stub, a photo, a newspaper cutting, a personal anecdote - Mr Betts has more than just memories, but a piece of history itself.

Asa Hartford might have been City's Wembley hero after his deflected goal proved the decisive strike in the final, but less than a month before it was defender Steve Bruce who was talk of the city.

Bruce's thumping 87th minute header against arch East Anglian rivals Ipswich in the semi-final second leg at Carrow Road shot City to Wembley amid scenes of unbridled joy.

Mr Betts was just 10 at the time, but won the ball used on the night - and signed by players from both teams - through a competition run by the Evening News.

The young Mr Betts was presented with it by City legend Duncan Forbes on the pitch at Carrow Road before going to the final itself on his birthday.

The prize has been rediscovered by Mr Betts, who celebrated his 36th birthday yesterdayas part of preparations to move from his house in Horsford.

He said: “It's been sitting in my loft in a box in a dark corner. I pulled it out the other day and realised it was coming up to my birthday and so must be 25 years.

“It was an Evening News competition to collect tokens. Each night with my grand dad we rang all our friends and neighbours - and ended up with about 400 tokens and won the ball.”

Mr Betts, a buyer for QD Stores, said he was not at the semi-final second leg as it was a night game during the week and he had school the next day so had to listen to it on the radio.

But Mr Betts was allowed to go to the next game - the final at Wembley - in what he described as probably his best birthday ever.

He said: “I think it's pretty close - as a Norwich fan at that age and to have had the ball, to get there by beating Ipswich, it was all pretty sweet and it was my birthday on the final so everything fell into place.”

Although he was just 11 at the time, Mr Betts said he remembers it as “the friendly final”. He said: “We got there early and were behind one of the goals - the one that Norwich scored their goal. We rushed home and watched it on TV as we had recorded it.”

The final might not have been a goal-filled classic, but it will always be remembered by Norwich fans and Sunderland fans alike as the game, which came to be dubbed the friendly final, spawned an enduring friendship between the two clubs.

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.

Mel Lacey, 61, a freelance media solutions consultant and Norwich City season ticket-holder, was at the game 25 years ago and has fond memories of the game and the rapport between the two teams.

Mr Lacey, who relived the experience at the Murderers pub yesterdaywhere the final was being shown on a big screen as part of the anniversary celebrations, said: “My overriding memory is the friendliness. In those days 25 years ago it wasn't uncommon for fans to clash, but it was just such a friendly day. I just really remember the friendliness of the day and the good nature.”

Chris Higgins, 55, landlord of The Trafford pub in Grove Road, Norwich, is a Norwich City season ticket-holder with similar memories of the day.

Mr Higgins, who at the time ran the Horse and Dray pub on Ber Street and organised two coaches from the city, taking more than 100 people to the game, said: “It was a wonderful experience going down there. I was stood behind the goal that Asa Hartford's deflected goal went into. It went in right in front of us - we had a bird's eye view of that. It was tear-jerking. It was only bettered in my view by the night in Munich where we beat Bayern.”

Winning the match was reason enough to celebrate, but Mr Higgins said the occasion too was something to savour - for both sets of fans.

He said: “It was a really warm and memorable day - the atmosphere was electric. It was known as the friendly final.

“Afterwards coming out the warmth and camaraderie between Norwich and Sunderland fans . . . the police might as well have had the afternoon off. It was a really great advert for what football was all about.

“It was a wonderful atmosphere, particularly after the game when we were coming out. One of the comments I remember coming out is Sunderland fans asking why we weren't going berserk - we were far more mooted in their opinion than we should've been but we were just beaming and smiling rather than going berserk.”

Roy Blower, city councillor, former county councillor and Lord Mayor of Norwich between 2007 and 2008, has watched the Canaries' for more than 60 years and was at the final with his son, then eight.

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 they (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 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.”

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 those people to catch the train. The guards were getting quite tetchy but it stopped people getting left behind.”

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: “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.”

Tomorrow - we take a look at where the players that featured in the final are now.

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