Skipper relives 1978 cup run glory

IF YOU believe in superstitions then a change of room mates was one of those quirks of fate that contributed to Ipswich winning the FA Cup in 1978.Skipper Mick Mills and Allan Hunter roomed together before the third round tie at Cardiff that year, and after the 2-0 victory teamed up on away trips for the rest of the competition all the way to Wembley.

Nick Garnham

IF YOU believe in superstitions then a change of room mates was one of those quirks of fate that contributed to Ipswich winning the FA Cup in 1978.

Skipper Mick Mills and Allan Hunter roomed together before the third round tie at Cardiff that year, and after the 2-0 victory teamed up on away trips for the rest of the competition all the way to Wembley.

Mills recalled: "Allan Hunter was Kevin Beattie's big mate and they always shared a room, but Kevin was not playing and so Allan and I roomed together at Cardiff.

"We said as we had never been thrown together before this might be a superstitious thing that we have got to keep going, and so we did. We didn't have many away ties, but when we did we roomed together right up to the final."

Mills gives his round-by-round memories of the famous FA Cup run 30 years ago.

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Third Round

Cardiff City 0 Ipswich 2

Two second-half Paul Mariner goals gave Ipswich victory in a potentially tricky tie away to their Second Division opponents.

"In any cup competition you don't want to go away from home. It is never an easy game and your professionalism has to come into it. You never get an easy ride down there, but if the application is correct there is every chance you can win it and that's how it worked out.

“We sailed through the round, although a lot of clubs can go to Cardiff and lose and we could have been one of them. I am sure the pundits on television, if they had to picked out one tie, might have selected us to be the number one banana skin because our league form had not been good."

Fourth Round

Ipswich 4 Hartlepool 1

Ipswich coasted home against their Fourth Division visitors with two goals from Colin Viljoen - one a penalty - Mariner and Brian Talbot.

"I always felt that out of all the rounds the most unattractive round is the fourth round - there is no question about it. The third round has its own attractions - it is the first one where the big boys join the competition and there is massive interest in it when it comes round during the first week in January.

“In the fourth round the competition is under way, but there is a long way to go and you can't visualise who will be the winners - you can't even think about Wembley.

“I think it is the hardest round of the lot. A home draw against a lower division team was perfect. If you were to have any assistance with a home draw the fourth round would be the one. There is not really much else to motivate you in the fourth round in comparison to the other rounds."

Fifth Round

Bristol Rovers 2 Ipswich 2; Ipswich 3 Bristol Rovers 0

Two goals by Robin Turner, the second four minutes from time, earned Ipswich a replay at Second Division Rovers on a snow-covered pitch. Ipswich made no mistake in the replay, winning comfortably courtesy of goals from Mills, Mariner and Clive Woods.

"By the fifth round you see the caption on the television and they can devote a bit of time to each tie because there are only eight. All of a sudden you are not lost among the pack. You get this feeling that you are close - the media are telling you that you are close.

“Bristol wanted the game on and the referee, for some stupid reason, wanted to play it, but the pitch was not playable. No question about it - that game should not have been played.

“We very nearly went out. I think justice was done in as much that we got the late equaliser and the fairness was that we were able to replay the game. We didn't deserve to go out because we should not have played.

“The replay was pretty straight forward as you would expect with any team coming to Portman Road in those days."

Sixth Round

Millwall 1 Ipswich 6

Ipswich cruised through against their Second Division hosts thanks to a Mariner hat-trick and one apiece from George Burley, John Wark and Talbot despite crowd disturbances that caused the game to be held up for 18 minutes.

"When you get to the sixth round you really feel you have got a good chance to get to the final. The thing I remember is that Paul Mariner and I were in a hotel at Heathrow with the England squad before flying out to Munich to play West Germany. We had trained and we were back in our room listening to the radio when the draw was made. When Millwall away came out we were racing up and down the corridor jumping up and down punching the air. We were delighted with the draw as it was in London - we all loved going down to London to play. It is amazing that the most northerly point we went in the cup that year was Ipswich!

Apart from the trouble at the game we sailed through and there was a glimpse that day of what that team had been capable of before and after that. We hit a bit of form and won 6-1 - not many teams do that away from home in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.

“We almost pulled off a win in West Germany as well - we were one-nil up with 12 minutes to go and lost 2-1 - it was the usual story against the Germans."

Semi-final

Ipswich 3 West Brom 1

Underdogs Ipswich led 2-0 after 20 minutes through Talbot and Mills. West Brom pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Allan Hunter needlessly handled the ball in the second half before Wark's last-minute header sealed Ipswich's first-ever FA Cup final appearance.

"Losing the semi-final in 1975 definitely helped us when we reached the semi-final. There was an air of confidence about the team that you don't always experience. We should have been so worried about our inconsistent league form that we shouldn't have been thinking that we were going to win the cup or even get to Wembley.

“Before the semi-final Ron Atkinson, the West Brom manager, agreed to go on a tour of Wembley for the TV cameras. How much of the guided tour he actually did I don't know, but they focussed on Big Ron going up the steps and being pictured with the cup in front of the Royal Box. We saw in on TV one Saturday lunchtime. It didn't upset us but it angered us a little bit and would have made Bobby Robson's job come semi-final day 10 per cent easier than under normal circumstances because he could refer to that and say that West Brom thought they were there and they could roll us over.

“We wanted to stamp our authority on the game immediately and were very positive which helped us to go 2-0 up with just 20 minutes played.

“Brian Talbot scored the first although that cost us because he had to go off injured, but fortunately Clive Woods was a good utility player and he dropped back into the midfield. Then I scored the second goal. I was not a prolific goalscorer - I don't know if prolific goalscorers do their homework before they go out on the pitch, but I wheeled away and ran towards the wrong stand where the West Brom fans were. That was a big mistake.

“They came back into it but we held out until Big Al gave away the penalty. As captain I gave him a volley, but I think his head was dead - he was looking at me but he probably didn't hear it. He was affectionately known as Big Al to the supporters, but the Strange Man to the dressing room. Nobody truly understood him - he was capable of strange things.

“The goal gave them a lifeline and they had some momentum until they had Mick Martin sent off which helped us a bit. Then Warky scored and it was the most fantastic feeling you could ever imagine. I think it was better than when Roger scored at Wembley. When Roger scored we started worrying more than we had in the 70-odd minutes beforehand because we were then in the lead, but when Warky scored the third goal at Highbury we just knew we were going to Wembley.

“There was no coming back for West Brom then.”

Final

Ipswich 1 Arsenal 0

Ipswich dominated the final and did everything but score until Roger Osborne struck the 77th-minute Wembley winner.

Once we reached the final one of the most important issues was who was going to run the players' pool. It was a big-spinner then for anyone who got to Wembley.

“The players had to choose a promotions' person to run the players' pool - it was like the board choosing a new manager - and the players' pool manager took all the organisation away from us when it came to booking players, who were duty-bound to take part, to attend interviews and do things.

“Leading up to the final the weather was horrible all week. We travelled up to Wembley to train on the pitch but it was a joke - the pitch was under water. We did get on it, but it was only really a worthwhile venture for some of the boys to see the inside of the stadium and get a feel for it, but in terms of actually getting used to the playing surface it was a waste of time.

“Even on the Friday at the hotel where we stayed the training ground area we had put aside for us was a joke. Before we arrived the grass was probably six or nine inches long and they had just cut it - it was a waste of time you could not do any real work on it.

The preparations leading up to the final had not been the best, but as soon as the day came everything seemed to fall into place. Allan Hunter passed his fitness test which was good for him and good for the team.

“We did a 'who's who' for the BBC at 11 o'clock that morning and John Motson (the BBC commentator) always said when he saw the shots from the two teams' hotels he felt he knew who was going to win. He thought there was a calmness and a spirit about us and a nervousness about the Arsenal camp.

“As for the match itself there was nobody in our team that had a disappointing game. That was one of the nice things about it because not one of the 12 can say it was a great day but I didn't enjoy it because I didn't do myself justice. But if you interviewed a lot of the Arsenal players, particularly their big-name players, they will say they just froze on the day.

“They had some really good players - Liam Brady was an outstanding player at the time, as were Alan Hudson, Malcolm Macdonald and Frank Stapleton, and they had good, established players around them and, of course, Pat Jennings in goal.

“We dominated the match and it was only when we got our noses in front that I felt we were not so confident as we should been for the first time in the whole competition.

“I remember we had a corner against us with a minute to go and I was on the line trying to organise the defence and it flashed through my mind that I just wanted Coop (goalkeeper Paul Cooper) to take the ball out of the air and kill it. The corner came over and he took it perfectly and you knew then that it would be at least 30 to 45 seconds before they would even get possession of the ball again and it was all over. I still remember that as much as anything else."