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An early-season game away at Arsenal can only bring back memories of one very special game, as Terri Westgate muses
Story of the match
Let me take you back to the summer of 1992. It was before Britannia got cool, in the gap after the moral panic of Acid House and the ecstasy-fuelled rave scene but before anyone had heard of Blur or Oasis.
Norwich City Football Club had just managed to avoid relegation the previous season, therefore ensuring their place in the all new and all shiny Premier League – alongside such notable sides as Oldham Athletic and some team called …Ipswich??
The previous season had finished with a disappointing fifth from bottom league position, and the resignation of city legend Dave Stringer from his position as manager. Those of us with season tickets in the Barclay had to watch the final home games from the River End, as the terrace began to be demolished ahead of building the new stand and converting Carrow Road to an all seater. It was a time of change.
So the new season of a new league with a new manager – promoted reserve team coach Mike Walker – kicked off at Highbury, itself undergoing renovations resulting in the infamous Clock End mural. No one really knew what to expect.
The Canaries had had a mixed record against the Gunners in the recent past, including a 5-0 drubbing in 89 that featured in the book and film versions of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. With a relative unknown managing the team no one was predicting an upset for the home side. And in fact the first half finished with a fairly average 2-0 lead to Arsenal. I’ve heard stories of Norwich fans who left the game at the midway point that day, which seems hard to believe. Being two goals down wasn’t so unusual that you’d give up interest in a game and decide to enjoy the sights of North London instead.
Those of us who chose to stick around witnessed not just an amazing comeback, but the start of something special – that ended at the San Siro in Milan. With the help of new signing Mark Robins coming off the bench, Norwich produced a free flowing display of attacking football that resulted in four goals and the Arsenal defence looking confused and bedraggled. Although the player most associated with the game is the former Man Utd youth player and current Coventry City manager, the rest of the team had been regulars the previous year rather than new recruits.
This transformation may be why so much credit was given to our new manager, though it mustn’t be forgotten that Stringer had built that squad, and had finished in our second best position of fourth in the top flight just a few seasons previous.
Long term significance
The swing in fortunes on that sunny day in August 1992 began a relentless momentum that at one point took us to eight points clear at the top of the table. We of course faded towards the end and had to settle for third place, and nervously watched the FA Cup final. The only chance for the Canaries to get into Europe, would be if the UEFA cup place given to the League Cup winners was suddenly available because the same team won the FA Cup. And they did. And that team was Arsenal. It truly was a magical time!
You might have forgotten that…
Norwich had sold star striker Robert Fleck to Chelsea in the summer, and as a result were expected to struggle even further than the 18th place they had reached the previous season. When the half-time score reverberated around the country from Highbury on that August day, all of the pundits must have started to feel very smug. Within 45 minutes, they were not.
What happened in the rest of that season?
Are you even a Norwich fan if you do not know where Norwich finished that season? The ifs? The maybes? The oh-so-nearlys? We finished 3rd and, yes, nearly won the league. We also were given a go in the UEFA Cup for the following season. Not much came of it…
Arsenal finished a disappointing 10th in the league, but won both the FA Cup (after a replay) and League Cup thus ensuring Norwich qualified for Europe. Both finals were curiously against the same opposition, Sheffield Wednesday. They then won the European Cup Winners Cup the following season.
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