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Wark: We Could Have Scored Six or Seven
Wednesday, 6th May 2020 06:00

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Town’s 1-0 1978 FA Cup final victory over Arsenal at Wembley and TWTD caught up with Blues legend John Wark to hear his memories of that great day.

The 1977/78 campaign hadn’t been a vintage one for Town with injuries hampering them throughout and, having become regulars in Europe over the previous few seasons under Bobby Robson, for once they found themselves at the wrong end of the table, eventually finishing 18th.

But despite their First Division failings, in the FA Cup Town's run took them into the semi-finals where they beat West Brom at Highbury, Wark sealing the Blues’ place at Wembley with a 90th minute goal to make the scoreline 3-1.

“People ask me about my best ever goal and I say that the best feeling I’ve ever had was when I scored that third goal at Highbury and what it meant, we were at Wembley,” Wark recalls.

“We weren’t doing well in the league and to get to the final at Wembley, the FA Cup in those days was the biggest cup competition, it was televised all over the world, and that was in my mind.”

With the Blues having had a disappointing season, the bookies backed Arsenal - who ended the season fifth in Division One - to win the final, but despite being the underdogs the Town squad were confident that they could bring the trophy back to Suffolk for the first time.

“When we went there we fancied our chances, even though Arsenal were big favourites at the time,” Wark said.

“It was such a hot day, a full house and I remember walking out of the tunnel and hearing the roar of the Ipswich fans behind me. Oh my God! It was really special. We’d played in front of a lot of crowds before in big stadiums but that one, we walked out and the Ipswich fans were behind us and you go ‘Wow, I think we’ve got a chance here’.

“I’ve just watched the highlights again and when you think about it we could have scored six or seven.

“David Geddis had a shot, George Burley had a header, Paul Mariner’s hit the crossbar, I’ve hit the post twice, we were all over them! I think we wanted it more.

“As I say, it was a really hot day and, people joke about it, I didn’t touch the ball for 18 minutes because I was marking Alan Hudson. Roger Osborne had Liam Brady, I had Hudson and Noddy [Brian Talbot] had David Price and we were chasing shadows.

“They weren’t causing us problems, but we were just running about and you’re thinking ‘How am I going last this game?’.

“But we dominated the game. We changed our system for the final, Bobby Robson put David Geddis and Clive Woods on the wing. We were always a 4-4-2 side most of the time and he changed his system so Geddis and Woodsy would destroy their full-backs, which is what happened.

“You would arguably say Clive Woods was the man of the match. David Geddis, who had just turned 21, had a fantastic game as well on the right. He was a striker but he played on the right wing. They had a couple of little half-chances but they weren’t near it at all.”

Former Scotland international Wark, now 62, admits with so many chances having been spurned he feared that a goal might never come.

“Yes, when Paul hit the crossbar and my two shots against the post. Even to this day, both of them, I can’t believe they didn’t go in,” he reflected.

“The first one was closest. I’ve hit it with a bend with the outside of my right foot and I’m watching it and then it came back so quickly to Paul and he’s missed what looks like a sitter but it came back so fast to him.

“The second one, I had time to look where I’m going to put it and I thought ‘This is in’. And you can see as soon as it hits the post you can see I’m going ‘Oh my God, again!’.

“And I think the TV cut to the dugout and you see the gaffer and everybody and they’re looking up to the sky saying ‘When are we going to get this goal?’. And then Roger came along.”

It was the 77th minute when local boy Roger Osborne wrote his name in FA Cup folklore, smashing a loose ball past Pat Jennings after Willie Young had diverted David Geddis’s low right-wing cross into his path.

The midfielder from Otley was an unlikely but worthy goal hero having netted on just nine previous occasions since making his debut in 1973.

“He didn’t score many goals,” Wark remembers. “It was a great, great thing and he scored and that was it, he was exhausted scoring a goal at Wembley, the winner, and we all jumped on him as well. I was one of the first on him and everybody else jumped on him. By that time he’d run so much he had no energy left.

“It was a great ending and if you had to pick somebody from the team who you wanted to score, I would say that a lot of the players would have picked Roger.”

The Blues saw out the final minutes with few concerns before referee Derek Nippard’s whistle confirmed the club’s first and still only FA Cup victory.

“I remember going up to get the trophy and you’re absolutely shattered, the game was played in 90 degrees and you’ve been running about a lot and it was a heavy pitch.

“When we got the cup and went down and got the pictures, we did a lap of honour and I got to the corner flag near where we ran out and I saw my sister and my family and I’ve jumped across the barrier to the railings. Somebody’s got a picture of me hugging my family through the railings. I wasn’t meant to cross the barrier but as I was walking round I jumped across.

“Then, after the game, I’ve come out with a medal, I’m 21 and I walk out and all my family were there. My mum and dad, sisters, brothers, they all came down in a minibus from Glasgow. There were about 20 of them.

“I’ve come down and I walk out with my medal as proud as punch and they’re all miserable. And I think ‘What’s up with youse?’. My sister said ‘We had a fiver on you at 20-1 to score the first goal, why didn’t you score?’. I said I’d given it a good go!

“They were meant to be going to go back to Glasgow but they actually came back to Ipswich and they were here for the Sunday celebration, I put them in a couple of bed and breakfast places on Norwich Road.”

The evening of the final there was an official banquet at the Royal Garden Hotel in London before the squad made their way back to Ipswich on the Sunday for the traditional open-top bus tour and parading of the trophy from the Town Hall steps.

“That FA Cup Town Hall thing was better than the UEFA Cup, it was an incredible occasion,” Wark reminisced. “I know it’s hard to compare but I always thought that was the best one because of coming back from London, going along the A12 with the bridges all packed.

“We stopped off at Chelmsford for a drink in the Army & Navy, which was the worst thing we did.

“The boss couldn’t get us out! Somebody said ‘We’ll just stop for one’ and the pub must have thought it was Christmas with the whole team going in for a drink, and all the fans got to know, it was just another part of a fantastic weekend.

“Imagine if they’d had mobile phones in those days, it would have been everywhere.”

Then on the Monday it was to Portman Road for Mick Lambert’s testimonial, the Wembley substitute benefiting from the Wembley victory as a bumper crowd turned out to pay tribute to their heroes once again.

“Lamby got a full house, didn’t he?” Wark laughed. “It was quite funny. Everyone’s going ‘Only you’d do that, you’re not daft!”

The victory was the first big trophy won by Bobby Robson as a manager, although the Blues had come close before.

“We were unlucky, we were always there or thereabouts,” Wark continued. “That was the start and you knew what it meant. The FA Cup was such a big thing. I didn’t realise it was as big until the day of the game, the cameras were in the hotel and then they were on the bus.

“I remember watching FA Cups when I was younger but I didn’t realise everything was on you and that doesn’t happen nowadays, does it? It was one of the biggest days for the fans, they made it a special day.”

It was all the sweeter for several members of the squad who felt hard done by when the Blues were controversially beaten 2-1 by West Ham in a semi-final replay at Stamford Bridge three years earlier.

“I made my debut in the 1975 quarter-final [third replay against Leeds at Filbert Street] and played in the semi-final,” Wark said.

“I was in the dressing room after we lost that replay, which we shouldn’t have because of the referee Clive Thomas and a lot of other things as well, and I remember looking at some of the older players and they were crying, Millsy, [Allan] Hunter.

“I think missing out in a semi-final, you could see what it meant, you’re so close, and those boys were thinking they were never going to get another chance. I was thinking I would get another chance because I was 17, but the older ones might not.

“You could see that getting another chance they really wanted it, the determination they showed when they were playing at Wembley. It was the right thing to happen.

“Hunter and Beattie were fantastic. They’d both been injury doubts and they weren’t playing against mugs. I think they got a couple of good tackles in on Malcolm McDonald in the first few minutes, cleaned him out. That's the way it happens.

Wark with 78 team-mates Roger Osborne, Mick Lambert, Paul Mariner, George Burley and Kevin Beattie at Portman Road on the 40th anniversary

“It was a great day. I think that’s the one that puts you up to another level in a way, when you win a cup, because everybody watches it all over the world. We just wanted more of it and luckily we got the UEFA Cup three years later, which was another fantastic day.

“But of the things I’ve won in my career, I always pick this as my best as I was 21 and it was my first. When people say which cup or league or whatever, I always say the FA Cup because it was the first one.

“I love watching it again and I think we could easily have done them by six or seven.”

Photos: Action Images/ITFC

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JCBLUE added 07:55 - May 6
Happy days, COYB!!

Dissboyitfc added 08:00 - May 6
Great Memories, i was 15 at the time! If i am being honest i did believe we were going to win although the form book suggested differently! The FA Cup quite often favoured the underdog. I had many bets at school with Arsenal fans and anybody who believed the mighty Arsenal would be too strong. I wont lie i was worried that should the unthinkable happen i was gonna struggle, but the worry was unfounded, we thumped them in all honestly. I think the fact that we were such convincing winners on the performance that everyone paid up! I do remember getting a detention on the monday morning because i wouldnt shut up about it, i cant be sure but i think the teacher was a Norwich Fan!


ArnieM added 08:03 - May 6
What a day that was too. Strangely enough it didn't FEEL like we had it in the bag . I was petrified they were going to nick a goal back . But we hit the woodwork a few times , but the journey home
( On the train ) was surreal . We did the conga up and down the train all the way home .... singing all the way . House and flats in London backing onto the railway line hung banners out the windows congratulating Town on our win ( they'd had been red & white scarves on the way in that day).

I got hope absolutely knackered , but totally euphoric !!

GeoffSentence added 08:15 - May 6
@young people.

We used to be very,very good once.


STATMAN added 08:19 - May 6
I was 16 at the time and went with my dad and a mini bus load. Great day out and the only day my dad ever used the "F" word when Warky hit the post. Great memories and lets also remember 6th May 1981 was UEFA Cup Final Ist leg night. Great times and fantastic memories and what about the following day on the Cornhill!!!!

itsonlyme added 08:46 - May 6
I was there. IT was my 29th birthday the next day. What a weekend of celebrations

MickMillsTash added 09:26 - May 6
We'll have Arsenal by the Wark and Burleys

TimmyH added 09:34 - May 6
One of the most memorable days of my childhood but so nervous on the run up to the it won't be mentioned in The Sun 'On this date' column...all they're interested in is Man Utd, Liverpool, Leeds, Forest and Arsenal from the 70's, we were one of the most consistent sides in the top league from roughly 73 through to 82.

midastouch added 09:58 - May 6
Lovely picture of some of the 78 team-mates getting together for the 40th anniversary. I hope they all enjoyed Kevin's great company that day given he sadly won't be available for any future reunions.
Whenever you go to any sort of reunion, it's always worth remembering that. Don't take the people you see there for granted, as you might not ever get the chance to speak nicely to them again.
Great posts above, some fantastic memories shared. I was born in 75 so missed the boat as I couldn't quite crawl to Wembley! But I do have some early memories of the UEFA cup. Got great memories of the 1982 World Cup, I grew up on my football fast! I remember Mariner scoring against France and thinking 'ere we go, we're going to conquer the world! That wasn't the first time I've been wrong on that one! Said the same at Italia 90. Gazza wasn't the only one crying that night!

bobble added 10:20 - May 6
clive woods..what a player...

BlueArrow added 10:46 - May 6
What a day and night to remember.i fell down the steps out of the pub at closing time. !!!

carlo88 added 11:05 - May 6
This is the day which made me an Ipswich fan! I was 14 and just getting into football. Meant to watch it but forgot all about the match and went plane spotting instead. Very miffed when I realised Ipswich had won because I had wanted to watch them win live. So watched all the BBC stuff later on and from then on I was hooked. The next season I went Ipswich mad.

OldClactonBlue added 12:26 - May 6
Quite simply a great day.
One of the best of my life.

RAW added 12:59 - May 6
I was there aged 12, what a day. And the journey home along the A12 was just as much as the occasion as the match. And didn't Mrs T infamously comment afterwards about Whymark having a great match?

Beattiesballbag added 15:17 - May 6
Blue & white eveywhere you looked for days. We were such a force for so long we even influenced film makers..... As well as Escape to Victory, in the film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Gary Oldman, they have Ipswich playing on the TV in the background. Happy days.

Bluearmy71 added 16:09 - May 6
7yrs old and crying with delight after watching it live on TV, a day I learned what it truly meant to be proud!!

86wsblue added 20:38 - May 6
Great proud day for the club and as a result I'm here today my dad informed me pissed up one day haha

ronnyd added 21:44 - May 6
Couldn't talk for three days afterwards. Voice completely gone. What a day.

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