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Tony’s Tales! Blackpool lights! Snow fun at Carlisle, but Carrow Road was often fun

EADT chief sports reporter Tony Garnett in the Press Box at Derby County on the last day of the 2002/03 season - his final match covering Ipswich Town after more than 40 years

Photograph: WARREN PAGE

EADT chief sports reporter Tony Garnett in the Press Box at Derby County on the last day of the 2002/03 season - his final match covering Ipswich Town after more than 40 years Photograph: WARREN PAGE

TONY GARNETT is the doyen of Ipswich Town coverage, having reported on the Blues from the 1960s. Here he takes readers down memory lane with a few more of his tales.


Ipswich’s Roy ‘Rocky’ Stephenson challenges for the ball at Portman Road in September 1962 during a match with Wolverhampton. The other Town players featured are Doug Moran and Ray Crawford (left background). Ipswich lost 2-3 in front of a crowd of 25,468. Crawford and Moran scored the town’s goals.
Ipswich’s Roy ‘Rocky’ Stephenson challenges for the ball at Portman Road in September 1962 during a match with Wolverhampton. The other Town players featured are Doug Moran and Ray Crawford (left background). Ipswich lost 2-3 in front of a crowd of 25,468. Crawford and Moran scored the town’s goals.

Rivalry between Ipswich Town and Norwich City has always been intense, but I always enjoyed my trips to Carrow Road.

My first was to cover the FA Cup sixth round replay between the Canaries and Sheffield United.

I was deputising for George Lockett, second in command at the East Anglian Daily Times, who covered the draw at Bramall Lane when goalkeeper Ken Nethercott dislocated his shoulder.

I drove up the A140 on my Vespa motor scooter. The press box was crammed.

My allocated seat was next to Sam Leitch of the Daily Herald. He later became head of football at the BBC. He was a big fellow who occupied half my seat as well as his own. With my arms almost pinned to my side and only a few inches of desk to write on it was a testing baptism to covering professional football for a morning paper.

I had been promised the use of a phone at the end. There were more reporters than available phones so I had to fight my corner with the boys from Fleet Street. It was fortunate that EADT deadlines were late in those days.

Carrow Road ground, dated 1970's. Tony enjoyed many happy games at Norwich. Photo: Archant LibraryCarrow Road ground, dated 1970's. Tony enjoyed many happy games at Norwich. Photo: Archant Library

Although attributed to David Coleman, it was Leitch who, when the Scottish football team Raith Rovers won a match by a large margin, made the legendary comment “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight”.

This was considered ignorant since Raith Rovers play in the town of Kirkcaldy. There is however a Raith district of Kirkcaldy. Leitch died suddenly from a heart attack in 1980 at the age of 53.

It was a heady time for the Canaries who won 3-2 and went on to meet Luton Town in the semi-final.

After drawing 1-1 at White Hart Lane, they lost 1-0 at St Andrews.

It was during that Cup run that a victory over Manchester United in the third round led to the inspired Pink’Un heading “Bly Bly Babes” after Terry Bly scored twice.

Another visit to Norwich on my Vespa ended with a flat tyre at Tasburgh on my way home. I left my scooter in a driveway and hitched a lift back to Ipswich.

Alf Ramsey occupies the managerial chair at Ispwich Town, where he has changed the fortunes of the East Anglian club by taking them from the Third Division to the First.Alf Ramsey occupies the managerial chair at Ispwich Town, where he has changed the fortunes of the East Anglian club by taking them from the Third Division to the First.

The only time I watched a Scotland international was at Wembley in 1961.

England won 9-3. Scottish goalkeeper Frank Haffey was making his second and final international appearance. There was no need for crowd segregation. My seat was among Scottish fans who behaved impeccably.

They kept offering me a swig from their whisky flasks throughout the match. It would have been rude not to accept!

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The Blackpool Illuminations 2003 with the Blackpool tower in the backgroundThe Blackpool Illuminations 2003 with the Blackpool tower in the background

ONE of my first away trips to cover Ipswich Town was to Lincoln.

It followed a Friday shooting party at Kelsale Hall. By the time I set off on my BSA 250cc motor bike I had emptied my hip flask of sloe gin more than once.

I can recall speeding through Thetford Forest and then RAF Cranwell. I missed a sharp bend on a remote Lincolnshire road. My bike and myself were submerged in cold water. For a while the bike refused to restart. Eventually it dried out. I was wet, cold and bedraggled by the time I arrived at the hotel where the Ipswich party were staying.

Some of the Ipswich lads fitted me out with dry clothes and hoisted my motor-bike into the team coach via the emergency exit.

Alf Ramsey must have been aware of all that was going on, he didn’t miss much. He never said a word. I stayed with the official party for the rest of the trip.

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ANY trip to Blackpool, especially when the lights were on, was popular.

The Ipswich party used to stay at the Norbreck Hydro Hotel. It was on a nearby green that I played my one and only game of Crown Bowls with elderly Ipswich Town director Chris Robinson.

Blackpool was where John Cobbold bought a performing monkey on the sea front. He introduced it as a new Ipswich Town director in the Bloomfield Road Board Room. I was never introduced to the monkey.

In Ramsey’s early days when former manager Scott Duncan was still keeping an eye on the finances, Ipswich booked in at the most economic hotels.

At Liverpool the red neon lights and a dingy reception area were all too much for John Cobbold. He moved to the far smarter Adelphi.

As Ipswich’s rose up the League ladder so did the quality of the hotels booked for away matches.

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IN my first season the phone I had hired at the Goldstone Ground in Brighton went dead early in the second-half.

I was grateful to national newspaper man, John Lloyd of the Daily Express, who dictated my handwritten copy from his phone at the other end of the Press Box. He did well to decipher my hand-written notes.

I took Ipswich full-back Len Garrett, who had been signed from Arsenal, for his debut at Brighton. It was his only first team appearance although he played a good level of club cricket and appeared as a wicket-keeper for Suffolk.

I was sunbathing on Brighton beach one Saturday morning. I always believed in getting to a venue early. I bought the Argus to be shocked to read of the death of Birmingham City full-back Jeff Hall from polio.

I could hardly believe that this could happen to a fit footballer. Extra supplies of vaccine had to be imported from United States.

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SHORTLY before the closing of the Goldstone Ground, when Barry Lloyd was Brighton manager, some of the Press corps were drinking in the Board room and finishing off the sandwiches after Ron Greenwood and the other Brighton directors had gone home. The question of greyhound racing at Hove cropped up. Lloyd had connections at the Stadium.

He rang the track, suggested four winners and arranged complimentary tickets.

It was well worth staying on the South Coast for a few extra hours.

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CARLISLE United made their only appearance in the First Division in 1974-75.

They finished at the foot of the table while Ipswich Town were third. The 2-1 home victory win was a coupon buster. Had Ipswich won they would have pipped Dave Mackay’s Derby County to the title on goal average. Goal difference was introduced two years later.

In November 1965 I drove to Carlisle with Town director Ken Brightwell.

We arrived before the snow started to fall in the surrounding hills. The roads soon became impassable. The official Ipswich party had flown to Blackpool planning to complete the trip by coach. There was no way they could reach Carlisle for the Friday night kick-off although very little snow had fallen in the town and the Brunton Park pitch was playable.

Would Ipswich Town be fined for a “no show”?

They escaped punishment, the weather relented, and the match was played the following day.


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