In 1959 Norwich City of the Third Division enjoyed an FA Cup campaign that swept them past Manchester United and Spurs on their way to a narrow replay defeat by Luton Town in the semi-finals. Without it the East Anglian club might have folded. Terry Allcock, recently signed from Bolotn Wanderers, was a key member of that side

Terry Allcock did not realise when he signed for Norwich City in March 1958 that a year earlier a public appeal had helped to save the club, which was virtually bankrupt. ‘I’m told the local press contributed too by paying the wages on a couple of occasions but it was the Cup run that re-established the club financially.

‘All our home games were a complete sell-out with the capacity limited to 38,000 by the police.’

Norwich started their run in November 1958 by beating the non-League club Ilford 3-1, having been behind at halftime; in the second round they defeated Swindon, also of the Third Division, 1-0 in a replay having drawn 1-1 at Swindon. So far, pretty ordinary.

‘Then all hell broke loose,’ Allcock says, ‘because we drew Manchester United in the third round.’

Allcock adds the aside that he never lost a match against United, although at this point it was only as a Bolton player that he had played against them. Nearly a decade later, in 1966-7, he would maintain this unbeaten record when he led Norwich to a 2-1 win in an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Old Trafford.

But this was 1959 and United’s visit to Carrow Road was possibly the most exciting thing that happened to Norwich since the railway arrived there in the middle of the previous century. Tickets were at a premium, Allcock says, and there was quite a bit of black-market activity.

The match took place in January on a snow-covered pitch. ‘They’d swept the lines clear and put a blue dye down,’ Allcock says. ‘We managed to hold our footings a lot better than they did, probably because, unknown to anyone other than ourselves, we removed the top-two tiers of leather from our studs and left the nails protruding so that we got a grip.’

Allcock gives credit to Archie Macaulay, one of seven managers he played under at Norwich, for other decisive contributions: ‘He was a great confidence booster. He never talked about the opposition he always told you how good you were.

‘And another thing he did for the Man U game was change the system making us almost certainly one of the first teams in the country to play four-four-two, which England used to win the World Cup in 1966.’

Norwich tried it the week before the Cup tie, Allcock says, when they beat Southend 4-0. This convinced them that it was a good idea. It turned into a brilliant one as they used it to beat United 3-0 and progress deeper and deeper into the competition.

They had a close win over Cardiff in the fourth round before putting out Tottenham in a replay that Norwich nicked 1-0 at home.

In the quarter-final at Sheffield United, Norwich trailed 1-0 when their goalkeeper, Ken Nethercott, dislocated his shoulder. The obvious solution, the one clubs traditionally resorted to before substitutes were allowed, would have been to stick Nethercott on the wing to make a nuisance of himself.

‘But Ken insisted he stayed in goal and played with one hand for most of the second half,’ Allcock say, ‘and we forced a one-one draw.’

Allcock describes the replay as probably the most emotional night of all. ‘The crowd had really got behind us by then and they were singing the national anthem before we started. It made your hair stand on end really. It was a lovely atmosphere.’ Norwich won 3-2 after going two up in the first half.

Drawn against Luton in the semi-final at White Hart Lane, Allcock recalls feeling disappointed even though the match ended 1-1: ‘We drew but we didn’t think we performed as well as we could have done. Maybe it was nerves, I don’t know. The second game in Birmingham we were well on top but unfortunately we did everything bar score and we finished up losing 1-0.’

The atmosphere of Norwich’s Cup run is beautifully conveyed by the Pathe newsreels that so captured the essence of Britain in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

The brutally edited black-and-white action sequences and the cutaway shots of the packed terraces emphasise an audience that would have wrestled with the concept of a pawn sandwich, let alone have eaten one. The disconnect between the commentators’ posh, mannered accents and the grittiness of the images merely accentuates this, the toff separated from reality by being stuck in the commentary box.

On this occasion the commentator signs off with clipped insincerity: ‘So Luton go into the final. What a pity it’s at the expense of gallant Norwich City.’


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback