A Manchester City Fan On His Love For The Norwich Team That Beat Bayern Munich
All friendships develop a series of unique in-jokes along the way that would be hard to explain to strangers. One that has sustained from almost the get-go with myself and my best buddy is a shared sincere love for the early nineties Norwich City side, and particularly the epic 2-1 UEFA Cup triumph against Bayern Munich in Munich. Why? Well, it’s hard to say. The Canaries from that era contained only one player – Spencer Prior – who has any association with either of our supported clubs (Manchester City for me, Liverpool for him) and though I once spent a happy childhood holiday in nearby Great Yarmouth there is certainly no geographical connection.
It most definitely wasn’t the kit either – a possible reason given that we both appreciate a well-designed bit of footy fabric. The Norwich City top around that time was one of the most ghastly aberrations ever manufactured and, appropriately in a way, looked as if each one had been laid at the bottom of a bird cage for a month apiece and splattered in canary droppings.
Yet although there is no discernable explanation – perhaps because there was no discernable explanation - our affinity towards them was, and remains, heartfelt and true. Sure there’s undeniably an element of ironic wryness in the mix, in the same way that students often adopt a devotion towards a Rolf Harris or Jim Bowen, but woe betide anyone who badmouths Ian Culverhouse or Ruel Fox in our company. Not that they would. Nobody else gives a damn about this intrepid bunch of carrot munchers who went all agricultural on Europe’s ars* against all expectation. They have normal heroes like England legends or Georgie Best.
Even today, nearly twenty years after a relatively unknown midfielder in a shirt splattered in canary sh** silenced the whole of Bavaria with an outrageous piece of tekkers, we sign Christmas and birthday cards with a variation of ‘Have a Goss volley of a day’ and I still recall the heady phone conversation when we discovered that Bryan Gunn had been made Sheriff of Norwich.
Occasionally, when drunk, we resolve for the hundredth time to make our BAFTA-winning documentary where we track down each player from that magical night in Munich and reunite them at an emotional shindig in a Carrow Road corporate suite. Jeremy Goss could perhaps re-enact his sublime finish over the closing credits.
It was soon apparent that the pre-match predictions of a blitzkrieg were way off the mark.
The night in question was October 20th 1993. Norwich had comfortably negotiated their first round tie against the Dutch team Vitesse Arnhem 3-0 on aggregate and now faced a dream clash with the German giants.
In the preceding league campaign the snowy-haired Mike Walker had led his unfancied side to a superb third-place finish in what was the inaugural season of the Premier League. Back then third got you into the UEFA Cup; now it would propel the Norfolk club into the big money, big signings and thin-aired stratosphere amongst the super-powers.
Eight years previous, following their Milk Cup success over Sunderland the Canaries were deprived of European flight due to all British clubs being banned from such competitions. So this represented their first – and only – foray across foreign fields.
It showed, but in a good way. Their naivety and inexperience meant that they tackled Bayern, as they did Inter in the following round, with the same care-free attacking élan that had secured them their qualification.
From the opening whistle the Germans were taken completely by surprise at the nerve of these upstarts in their hideous luminous jerseys and it was soon apparent that the pre-match predictions of a blitzkrieg – that font of football knowledge Alan McInally had forecast a ten-nil drubbing - were way off the mark. The underdogs more than held their own in the opening stages, the jitters were swiftly settled, and then in the twelfth minute came that moment. A hopeful dink into the Bayern box was only half-cleared and, before anyone else even moved, Jeremy Goss smashed home an unforgettable volley. It was a Roy of the Rovers strike suitably executed in a Roy Race fashion – even Goss’ trailing leg curled up beneath him like the launching of Roy’s rocket that exploded into a thousand comic nets.
John Motson’s commentary, as you would hope for such a special occasion, is succinct and momentous. ‘When he scores they are either spectacular or important. That one’s both’. Goss, with admirable immodesty, later described the hit ‘as sweet as anything’ whilst a tabloid typically went for an evocation of the war with a ‘Jerry sinks the Gerrys’ headline.
Earlier that season Goss had unleashed another, almost identical, barnstorming volley at Leeds that had the Elland Road faithful on their feet and clapping in admiration. It was getting to be a habit.
‘It’s almost fantasy football’, Motson cried. The Olympic Stadium fell silent.
On the half-hour mark incredibly Norwich extended their lead. Mark Bowen, nominally a left-back for the evening but pushing up and finding space at every opportunity drifted past his marker at the far post and, after another exploratory set-piece caused uncharacteristic chaos in the German penalty area, promptly nodded home.
‘It’s almost fantasy football’, Motson cried. The Olympic Stadium fell silent.
Hope was restored for the home side just before the break when Nerlinger reduced the arrears but Norwich stoutly defended their lead throughout the entire second period.
These were the days when sweepers were in vogue and it fully illustrates the gulf in class between the two sides when each libero is named. For City there was Ian Culverhouse who had moved to Norfolk after failing the make the grade at Spurs. For Bayern there was Luthar Matthäus who was the present World Cup winning captain. Rather fantastically Mike Walker had singled out Matthäus as the weak link in Bayern’s armoury. That’s the former Ballon D’Or recipient and European Footballer of the Year who, at 32 and fit as a butcher’s dog, was still at the very peak of his formidable powers. It shows the bravado and mentality of this motley crew that they didn’t try to starve him of possession, they actively targeted him. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Culverhouse meanwhile had an absolute stormer.
Goss scored again in the return leg, with Norwich grinding out a hard fought 1-1 draw and progressing through to face Inter in the next round. There they put up the bravest of fights, spurned several chances, before finally succumbing to inevitability.
What made their amazing Munich triumph all the more satisfying was when a snippet of the German’s arrogance was released to the press shortly after the first leg. A Bayern official was overheard before the match wondering who they would be drawn against in the following round. ‘I hope its Tenerife or somewhere hot’ he announced.
Aside from Chris Sutton’s continued rise to prominence this fantastic group of players didn’t ever amount to much individually, but together they shook a continent, pricked the pomposity of a German nation, and did so playing open, adventurous football. It’s still a shame about that kit though.
Has anyone got a spare camcorder I might borrow? Me and my mate have a documentary to film.
So as Manchester City prepare to take on the mighty Bavarians tonight I don’t fear them as perhaps I should. I’ve seen them humbled before and as much as I cherished the scampering Ruel Fox he was no David Silva, and as much as I value Ian Butterworth he’s not a patch on our Vinnie. It’s also doubtful that Mancini is currently instructing his team to allow Robben plenty of time on the ball and describing him as their ‘weak link’. Then again, maybe he should. It's such madness that can make dreams come true.
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