|Wing Wonders (Part Two)|
Written by ElephantintheRoom on Saturday, 4th Jan 2020 09:00
As the sixties morphed into the seventies, wing wonders at Portman Road were a bit like London buses. Four had come along at once, though in truth one or two (like those same London buses) were also easy to miss.
Jimmy Robertson came and weaved his magic for two unforgettable years, then exited stage left. But astonishingly there were three would-be legends already in residence. Mick Lambert, Johnny Miller – and Clive Woods. With a certain geographic neatness they all came from neighbouring counties. Miller was an Ipswich boy, Lambert a Cambridgeshire lad, and Woods? Well, he came from Norwich.
OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little here, especially with Miller – but all three made a notable impact at Portman Road. Miller, alas, made his big impact for Norwich City but both Lambert and Woods played for over a decade and shared in Town’s European success and trousered Texaco Cup and FA Cup medals to boot.
In the beginning neither were true wingers. Lambert was more of a right-sided midfielder. Woods though far more tricky was often an unorthodox and ineffectual striker of sorts in the early days.
Curiously, Woods was three years older than both Lambert and Miller – but took far longer to establish himself in the side. Probably being part of the youth production line gave them a head start. Also I have a sneaking suspicion that Robson had a fondness for trusted, workmanlike players.
Woods was surely kept out of the team far too long, as in later years was Eric Gates. Both Woods and Lambert hung around to be part of the furniture for an entire decade and would both surely have played far more, but for each other.
You may recall he sadly passed away recently, something of a shock as he was only 65. He’d made his debut way back in 1968/69 – but it was to be season 1971/72 that provided something of a breakthrough with 31 appearances and his first goal.
Sadly the next three years yielded only eight more starts and three goals. So his Town career fizzled out with just 43 starts and four goals. Somewhat unusually, it was Norwich who offered him a new home to display his talents – for the not inconsiderable sum at the time of £47,500
His impact in 1971/72 had hinted at a greater ability than he had been able to display for one reason or another – and so it proved in his now infamous return for Norwich in a fifth round League Cup replay at Portman Road. Miller scored twice to knock Town out. He had never managed to score a brace throughout his entire stop-start Town career.
Robson muttered darkly that Norwich hadn’t even paid the fee. And when Miller returned home (still in those corn fields I believe) he found his car had been vandalised. He was probably glad to make a fresh start.
Supporters tend to talk of two great Robson sides. The great man himself – and indeed me, tended to think in threes. 1975, 1978, 1981. Mick Lambert was right at the heart of that 1974/75 team that promised so much, yet left us with just wondrous memories, thanks largely (in no particular order) to Clive Thomas, Kevin Beattie’s injuries, and maybe Laurie Sivell’s lack of inches. And a small squad, and Robson’s intransigence.
I still revere that first great side. I grew up with it. Those early forays into Europe and that 1975 cup run stand out in my (perhaps addled mind) as the most exciting times at Portman Road, ever.
In the beginning there were I think two problems that Lambert (and Town supporters) had to come to terms with. He wasn’t Frank Brogan. And Town weren’t very good. With goals in short supply (and at times seemingly close to extinction) the young ‘un on the wing (or wide midfield) was not shall we say a cult hero. But he was relatively effective and a very good team player.
Town’s breakthrough season coincided with Mick Lambert’s best time in a Town shirt. And for that we have go back deep into the mists of time, season 1972/73. Town astonishingly came fourth that season and qualified for the UEFA Cup. It seemed unbelievably exciting at the time – a team of infinite promise. And to kickstart our hope and dreams there was the Texaco Cup.
It seems difficult to explain now – but back then, when pitches were awful and tackles were hard, teams actually tried to win in the FA Cup and League Cup. Heck, winning one of those competitions was a dream every supporter clung to – but few teams could aspire to.
Cup runs defined each season’s highlights. And back then it wasn’t enough to have a serious tilt at the League Cup and the FA Cup – there were other, newly-minted competitions to aspire to as well – and actually try to win.
For newly-emerging Town, the trophy of opportunity was to be the Texaco Cup. A competition that had started life with a plan. If you didn’t quite qualify for Europe and you played in the English, Scottish, Northern Irish and Irish leagues, then the Texaco Cup was your ticket to cup glory. And so it was to prove for Town.
No matter that the small matter of a thinly disguised civil war in Northern Ireland had put the kybosh on the competition’s raison d’etre. OK, so the Irish couldn’t play – simply fill the vacancies with English and Scottish clubs. Eventually it was reborn as the Anglo-Scottish Cup when Texaco lost interest.
And so it came to pass that Town kicked off their Texaco Cup campaign with a match against somewhat unknown, but gloriously different Scottish opposition - St Johnstone.
I vaguely recall a night game which Town dominated and won easily – but leaked unexpected goals. There was a yawning chasm between the teams which was more reflected in the second leg where a comfortable 2-0 win confirmed Town’s place in a now largely English hat.
As luck would have it, the two remaining Scottish teams drew each other, diluting the somewhat spurious competition still further. Ipswich beat Wolves home and away. Take that Bill McGarry – who’s got more potential now?
Somewhat in tune with Lambert’s running style, the Texaco Cup was a competition played out in slow motion. It kicked off in September. Wolves were dismissed in October and November. And Newcastle in the semi-final? Well, in March and April of course!
And when the dust finally settled there was a two-legged final of incomparable excitement to anticipate for another month. Against Norwich in early May. The crowds for both matches were vast. Curiously the Texaco Cup final not only involved both Lambert and Woods - it was won almost exclusively by Norfolk-born players.
The home match was memorable for a rare Diesel double – and a less than comfortable 2-1 lead to take to the Carrow Road powder keg all of three days for the second leg.
It might have been a long time coming – but the two-leg final was done and dusted within three days. Town fans were jubilant – but being a bit of a statto at the time, I’d spotted Norwich hadn’t won an away leg in the entire competition, in fact they had lost all of them. So success wasn’t completely guaranteed just yet.
The crowd at Carrot Road seemed huge. As we did back then our little group of Ipswich and Norwich supporting chums and dads had been in a pub until shortly before kick-off then pushed our way into the South Stand which was heaving with thousands of Town fans.
The crowd that night was allegedly 35,978. This remember was people who turned up on the night – and if memory serves it had been quite a long and challenging journey because of torrential rain. And how many Ipswich supporters were in Carrow Road that night? Perhaps a good third – maybe even more?
It’s a pity perhaps that those days have gone forever when supporters of both clubs could mingle and watch together. It made for a very different, and to my mind far more exciting atmosphere. I don’t recall too much ill feeling that night, nor the other derbies I watched over the years come to that, even with so much seemingly at stake. Which makes the contrived ‘scum’ culture of today all the more baffling.
Back then we used to go to a lot of away grounds and we always went in with the home supporters. It was always enjoyable to hear the moans from an opposing point of view. And the trick was to not overdo it when Town scored. This we managed to do most of the time. In several decades of mixing in with the opposing fans I only got walloped three times.
Anyway, back to Carrow Road. Colin Viljoen was missing. As was Jonty. But Micky Lambert was there. And so, up front in David Johnson’s place was Clive Woods.
Norfolk-born Trevor Whymark lashed one in to dispel early doubts and then Clive Woods rifled one into the top of the net for his, most iconic goal in Town colours to date.
I don’t suppose many people cared too much about the Texaco Cup but the good folk of Ipswich did as the pitch became a sea of blue and white at the end of the game. I remember being amazed at the size of the trophy Mills hoisted aloft and thinking this was the first of many trophies to come. I’m sure Lambert and Woods and that happy band of travelling Town fans thought the same. How wrong we all were.
No matter. The Texaco Cup, as well as providing a gratifyingly and spuriously large trophy was to provide valuable lessons in winning two-legged ties. Because the following year Ipswich embarked on a European adventure of truly epic nature that echoed across Europe – and ultimately provided the first of many heartaches.
I wonder if Lambert dreamt of taking on Real Madrid when he started his long Ipswich career in Town’s Youth team in the Mercia League? Maybe he did. If so that dream came true in spades.
Real Madrid were the ultimate European aristocrats. Global giants, en-route to winning their league yet again. And here they were at Ipswich. In today’s era of football saturation it’s difficult to convey just how extraordinary this match was to us at the time. Maybe utterly unbelievable would just about describe the aura of wonder we were experiencing.
The much-anticipated first leg at Portman Road turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, tense and exciting (and rather gratifying to see the swaggering Gunther Netzer outplayed by Viljoen, Collard and Hamilton). It seemed over in the twinkling of an eye. But an own goal from a deflected Mick Mills shot seemed a poor return – and surely not enough.
Lambert was up front with Whymark and Johnson. I seem to remember he was replaced by Miller towards the end. In a game of few chances Whymark had fluffed one and Hamilton nearly pulled off an acrobatic header.
Much more must have happened – but I seem to have forgotten it all. The most anticipated match of my life had been won. Just. Strangely the crowd was just over 25,000. You’d think a few more might have turned up for a once in a lifetime experience.
I’ve no idea what happened at the Bernebeu as I wasn’t there – I was back in Bristol with my ear glued to the radio. But Robson evidently pulled off a tactical masterstroke by unleashing his multi-talented (and completely unknown) attack away from home. Conventional wisdom back then was that you’d never have got on the plane, let alone the bus, if offered a 0-0 draw away from home in European competition. Not for Bobby Robson who believed attack was the best form of defence.
Ironically, despite dominating their illustrious opponents in their own backyard, Town drew 0-0. And that was that. Remarkably little Ipswich Town had dumped Real Madrid, the champions-to-be of Spain, out of the cup - and had done so without letting in a goal, home or away.
I put it to you that the defence for those unforgettable nights might just about have been the best we’ve ever had. In goal the incomparable David Best. Full-backs Mick Mills and Colin Harper, Central defenders a young, fully fit Kevin Beattie (he was this good for only two years remember) with the unflappable, staggeringly reassuring presence of Big Allan Hunter alongside. Town titans all.
It was the collective performance of a lifetime. A midfield of Collard, Viljoen and Hamilton was pretty impressive too – and there have been few better Town forward combinations than Johnson, Whymark – and Lambert. Astonishingly – the best in this European odyssey was still to come.
The next round gave Town even more imposing opposition. Lazio of Rome. They too were en-route to winning their much stronger league and possessed a fearsomely effective defence, one of whom was Guiseppe Wilson from Swansea. More of him later. They also had a buccaneering centre forward called Giorgio Chinaglia, soon to be named Lazio’s player of the century. Remarkably he too was brought up in Swansea. But I digress.
Once more I made the long journey back from Bristol. Once more Robson picked his Madrid-conquering heroes. And the somewhat arrogant Italians clearly hadn’t been reading the script – for they were expecting 0-0 and let Town have the ball in their own half – inexplicably allowing them to start wave after wave of attacks with utter impunity. Stranger still, they clearly didn’t know about overlapping full-backs working in tandem with slightly ungainly wingers. This was surely Lambert’s greatest game for Ipswich.
And Trevor Whymark’s. The slight figure of Whymark was something of an artist with his head. Not a prolific scorer – but in tandem with the fleet-footed David Johnson a very effective one. Every time Harper and Lambert combined down the wing a goal seemed likely – and two came in the first half alone. Then in the second half came another. All to Whymark – but largely thanks to Harper and Lambert.
Whymark completed his remarkable four-goal haul against the wreckage of Europe’s most formidable defence with a handball and deft finish from a Viljoen through ball. But the worst was yet to come.
I was with my dad on the West Stand terracing near the halfway line and had a pretty good view of David Johnson racing through, with Guiseppe Wilson in his wake. What happened next is open to some doubt as Johnson went to ground completely poleaxed. As he was carted off on a stretcher, a rather worrying and inexplicable pool of blood could clearly be seen on Johnson’s shorts. It sort of made you pause for thought.
Rumour had it that Johnson lost a testicle that night. I think not – but the injury was clearly extremely serious and surely well above ankle height.
John Cobbold was rather fond of telling an amusing story of how a board meeting was interrupted by the sight of the wounded Jonty hobbling by the boardroom door. A cheery enquiry as to his welfare brought the chirpy scouser into the room and he promptly showed his much-stitched, bruised and battered appendage to the somewhat startled worthies gathered around the boardroom table. That of course may not be true either – but I like to think it is. Astonishingly he was fit enough to play a telling part in the second leg.
That night remains one of the great nights of European football let alone in the history of Ipswich Town. An unheralded club from Ipswich had knocked out the champions to be of Spain and surely now the champions to be of Italy within two months. A jaw-dropping achievement masterminded by an effusive young manager who was barely out of his thirties. People were beginning to sit up and take note.
The return leg in Rome is the stuff of legend. Lambert took a back seat in this one as Viljoen’s calm presence – and Johnson coming off the bench and responding to cruel taunts about his jock strap area netted goals that saw Town squeak through on a night of hysteria, questionable refereeing decisions (again – funny how they don’t matter much when they go in your favour), violence and mayhem.
It’s safe to say that everyone grew up a bit that night – and no mere football match would ever be so daunting again. Town’s walking and prostrate wounded included goalkeeper Best and Hamilton, both victims of vicious assaults by Lazio players – and Harper, whose career was effectively ended by a serious knee injury.
Breathtaking, unforgettable stuff. Where next on Town’s startling European odyssey? A look at the list of contenders back then reads like a veritable who’s who of European aristocracy from an era where the iron curtain provided a daunting extra dimension to your travel plans.
Ruch Chorzow? Some sort of sausage surely. Honved? One of those dodgy East European cars perhaps. Dynamo Kiev. Lokomotiv Leipzig – names to conjour with, all. And all possible opponents too – though I and no doubt Cobbold also was secretly hoping for Nice.
Town in fact drew possibly the lowest profile team in the competition. And probably one of the best. The previous season they had got to the semi-finals. The next season they were to get to the final itself. Twente Enschede – best described as the Ipswich Town of Holland.
No matter, their silky deft passing skills were no match for Town’s more direct approach as the Blues won narrowly home and away. Whymark scored yet again at Portman Road with Diesel and Hamilton netting away.
After the venom of the Lazio games this was something of a treat – a football match between two clubs who built a strong bond, helped no doubt by Twente dumping Town out of the competition the following year.
Rather importantly Harper was now missing, which meant Geoff Hammond. Lambert’s buccaneering ally down the flanks was no more. Just as serious, David Best was replaced by the diminutive Sivell. And Lambert himself was replaced by Woods.
Town were in the quarter-finals. Having knocked out arguably the three best teams in the competition, they were surely destined for great things? Alas no – Lokomotiv Leipzig lay in wait – and Town’s unforgettable campaign promptly derailed. But the circumstances of Town’s implosion were to live in collective memories for ever.
I’ve gone completely off-piste I guess because Lambert had by now given way to Woods in this particular campaign. Even a cherubic Gates got in on the act in this one, as indeed he had against Twente.
Town huffed and puffed at home against a workmanlike Leipzig side – and all they had to show for it was a trademark Beattie freekick. I and everybody else left thinking one goal had been enough to see of Twente and Real Madrid, so few alarm bells were ringing as Town headed off behind the unforgiving Iron Curtain to play a pretty average-looking Leipzig side.
Alas Mills saw red in the first half. Hunter and Beattie were immense in front of the diminutive and inexperienced Sivell in a defence where their only ally was now a teenage George Burley.
Another familiar name, Roger Osborne, came on for a tiring Clive Woods in extra time. But despite Town’s defensive heroics right through the second half and extra-time in somewhat bracing conditions, a first disastrous penalty shoot-out lay in wait. Another golden opportunity slipped through Town’s fingertips.
The reason then (other than Mills’s stupidity and collective exhaustion) – and destined to be repeated year on year like a painfully stuck record, was injuries. Town simply didn’t have enough players to cope when it mattered most.
These were golden years for Lambert. He played 52 times in 1972/73 when Town first emerged as a very good side indeed. Thirty-five times the following season, then 40, then 34 – and there were plenty of goals too. seven, nine, seven, 10 were more than useful contributions in a side where goals tended to come from all over the pitch.
Injuries and Woods’s excellence restricted him to just 12 appearances in his last three seasons. BUT he did make the bench for that cup final (unlike Viljoen and Whymark). So Lambert had a more than impressive back catalogue of memories to show for a long and let’s face it somewhat underrated Ipswich Town career.
Town’s run to the cup final in 1978 was distinctly underwhelming. But at least they had to play a top division side in the semi-final at Highbury. And one they were expected to lose. West Brom had recently appointed their own bright-eyed young manager, Ron Atkinson. They had some formidable players, but crucially, two were not playing. The electric Laurie Cunningham was mysteriously on the bench and young midfield dynamo Bryan Robson was nowhere to be seen.
Brian Talbot headed Town in front early on – and by thumping his head into John Wile’s, whilst so doing, probably changed the game in more ways than one. Talbot couldn’t continue – but a blood soaked Wile heroically did, though he must surely have been severely concussed.
Lambert’s telling contribution after coming on was to put in the corner that Mills scored from. The heartbreak of 1975 was finally laid to rest after a cushy cup run, in what proved to be by far Robson’s least successful year, due to a positive tsunami of injuries.
Lambert’s contribution in the cup final was somewhat underwhelming – coming on for an over-excited and hyperventilating Osborne who had just written his name large in Town history. Still, players like Whymark and Viljoen who gave so much for the cause would no doubt have gladly swapped places with him
Lambert was also of course a gifted cricketer. Because he was on the groundstaff at Lords (and presumably in the right place at the right time, as he often was on the football pitch) Mick was somehow named twelfth man in a Test match against the West Indies.
I had it fixed in my mind he made a catch – but can find no evidence and one source says he never got on the pitch. No matter, few players can say they won the FA Cup and were in a Test team at Lords.
He’s been quietly living locally since retirement from the game and surprised more than a few Town supporters over the years by driving them in a courtesy bus for a local garage. He also made the news once or twice for unfortunate reasons. Thankfully his FA Cup medal was mysteriously found under the bed after being feared lost in a devastating burglary. Heroes deserve better than to suffer such indignity I think.
A product of Town’s youth team who performed with distinction for many years. And I seem to remember he was never booked. Quite something when you remember the frequent cloggings he endured. There’s an iconic photo of Lambert, howling in pain and exasperation after some particularly savage treatment in the Texaco Cup final. It symbolises the man I think, who went through so much for the club. Mick Lambert I salute you as a fine player in a great era to be a Town fan.
Alas I’ve gone on far too long and not left enough room for Clive Woods. But then I guess the man from Norwich Gothic deserves a piece all to himself. And probably, if truth be told, so does THAT goal at Filbert Street. To be continued…
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