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Ipswich Town 1978 FA Cup win celebrated 40 years on

By Jon Welch
BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIpswich Town, managed by Bobby Robson (far left), were surprise winners of the 1978 FA Cup, beating Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley

Although it's a phrase still trotted out every year, it often feels that the "magic of the Cup" has waned, if not disappeared completely. Forty years ago though, when underdogs Ipswich Town beat Arsenal at Wembley, things were very different.

"Geddis... taking on the defender and winning.... Osborne... one-nil!"

For Ipswich Town fans, hearing David Coleman's commentary again is sure to send them into a reverie. Not only did local lad Roger Osborne's goal win them the FA Cup in 1978, it ushered in a period where the small-town Suffolk team could rival some of the best in Europe, culminating in their 1981 Uefa Cup win.

For Osborne himself, now 68, the events of 6 May 1978 remain a very happy memory. "You're on Cloud Nine," he says.

"You can't wish for anything like that, but it's actually happening. It must be a terrible thing to lose at Wembley, but to win? It takes some beating, really."

image captionGoalscorer Roger Osborne was one of only two Suffolk-born players in Ipswich's starting line-up

After scoring his 78th-minute goal, Osborne was mobbed by his team-mates and, feeling faint, was replaced by substitute Mick Lambert.

"It's all a bit embarrassing now to think of it. I've always said, if we hadn't have had a sub, given a few minutes, I would have carried on. But Mick Lambert was a very good sub, and it wasn't a big deal for me to come off," he says.

Heroes don't come much more local than Osborne. The son of a cowman, and one of 12 children, he was one of only two Suffolk-born players in Ipswich's starting line-up that day. And while he enjoys being recognised and talking to fans, he says: "It hasn't changed my life a great deal.

media captionPlayers, fans and a journalist remember Ipswich Town's 1978 cup victory

"I've always been pretty down-to-earth anyway, and after the cup final I didn't play for the first team much, and then I played for Colchester for five years. So I never even moved house for the whole of my football career, really. I've always been pretty grounded."

After retiring from the game, he drove a lorry for 15 years, and now manages a sports centre, where he has worked for the past 20 years.

"There wasn't the money in football when I played, so it was back to a full-time job," he says.

"Everybody I meet now regarding football says 'Haven't you retired yet?', which I probably should have done, but I enjoy the work I do."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionRoger Osborne (right) and Mick Mills pose with the FA Cup
image copyrightJulian Germain / PhotoEast
image captionOsborne returned home to find his house draped in ribbons and celebratory banners

The FA Cup itself - in terms of what it means to fans - has changed "a thousand-fold", he says.

"The world nearly stopped for the FA Cup - from early in the morning until teatime.

"If I hadn't scored the goal, you wouldn't be interviewing me now, and if you'd asked people 40 years on to name the cup final team, if I hadn't scored perhaps they wouldn't have named me, because we had seven, eight, nine internationals in the team."

One team-mate that day was John Wark. Although he would go on to win the Uefa Cup with Ipswich in 1981, play in the World Cup Finals for Scotland and win the league twice with Liverpool, that day in 1978 remains a career highlight.

image captionJohn Wark says he still remembers every minute of the FA Cup final

"I've won a lot of things, but I always say that was the best because it was the first," says Wark, now 60.

"Everybody in the world watched that final - not like now - and I was just part of a team that beat Arsenal, who were big favourites. It's 40 years now and it's incredible that I remember every minute of it.

"The FA Cup in these days was the biggest cup competition in the world - it was televised all over the world and there were cameras at the hotel in the morning, and on the bus with us going to the ground.

"We were just ready for it and it was a fantastic occasion, and we took it. We started well and it was one of those games... it was 1-0, but for me it could have been three or four.

"I hit the post twice, Paul Mariner hits the crossbar and Roger scores the winning goal. It was a great occasion - 100,000 people there. It was a real hot day and I'll never forget it."

image copyrightJulian Germain / PhotoEast
image captionPat Godbold's blue suit, bought for the FA Cup final, remains one of her most treasured possessions

Also in Ipswich colours that day - albeit a smart blue suit - was Pat Godbold, secretary to manager Bobby Robson - "'Mr R', I called him" - and eight other Town bosses over the years.

"I can remember very clearly I had a fantastic day. I didn't think I'd ever live to see that," says Miss Godbold, who is now 82 and still works for the club as an archivist.

"The players were all fitted for their clothes to wear on the day. Mr R - he was just one of those fantastic people - said 'Well, we've all got clothes, so Pat, we'll pay for the suit you've bought', and he said 'Go and buy yourself a nice blouse or jumper or something to go with it'."

She continued to wear the suit to home games, and it is still among her most treasured possessions.

"It's had pride of place in my wardrobe for many years. And I'll tell you where it's going to finish up - I'll be cremated wearing it. And my family know - 'Oh, don't tell me that, Auntie Pat!'"

Miss Godbold and her suit are among the subjects featured by artist, photographer and lifelong Ipswich Town fan Julian Germain in his project ITFC: The People's History.

He asked fans to bring along artefacts and souvenirs, including pictures, scrapbooks and banners from 1978 to be photographed for his exhibition.

image copyrightPat Edwards / PhotoEast
image captionPat Edwards' photo of the Ipswich players showing off the FA Cup at Portman Road is among those collected by Julian Germain for his exhibition The People's History

The FA Cup final was one of the few live televised matches in the 1970s, screened on two of the three channels of the day.

Germain, 55, hopes to rekindle some of the competition's magic through his work. "For me, it's partly about recognising this is an important historical and cultural moment for Ipswich - and for me, I must say - but it's also about the passage of time," he says.

"This is people's family history, and part of my job is to salvage this stuff before it's lost.

"A lot of people I have spoken to are in their 60s, and it's a long time ago. Football's all about tradition and history. Hopefully it will give young people some pleasure if they can see Ipswich winning for a change."

image captionHairdresser Bob Southgate's staff were responsible for the "horrendous" perms of Les Tibbott, Kevin Beattie and Trevor Whymark

Bob Southgate, now 66, still has a 1978 signed photograph of Town players Trevor Whymark, Kevin Beattie and Les Tibbott - all with immaculately permed hair, the work of staff at Nutters, the Ipswich salon that he ran.

Studying the photo, he winces slightly. "It looks quite horrendous now," he says.

The salon specialised in styling long hair and counted many Ipswich players as customers, including Paul Mariner.

"One day Mariner walked into the ground and Robson said 'Mariner, get your hair cut!' and he said 'But I've just had it cut, Boss!'

"I don't think Bobby could ever understand the long-haired look, and I'm sure a lot of the managers don't understand the shaven, bleached-hair look of the players nowadays."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIpswich striker Paul Mariner hit the crossbar during the match

Mr Southgate remembers mounting excitement as Town progressed towards Wembley.

"Ipswich was a smaller place in those days, and everybody knew who the footballers were, even if they weren't football fans, so the build-up to the cup final was dramatic. It gradually got better and better as the days went on," he says.

"I was at the cup final and I saw Roger's leg go out but I never saw the ball go in the net, I just saw everybody jump for joy. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy than him."

image copyrightJulian Germain / PhotoEast
image captionAndrew Kerrison still has the banner, drawn in felt-tip on a bed sheet, that he waved at Wembley

Footage of FA Cup finals from the era shows dozens of home-made banners waved by the crowd, often bearing pun-laden jibes at the opposition's expense. "Mariner sinks Nelson" and "Woods fries Rice" were among the Ipswich efforts that day.

Andrew Kerrison, now 61, took his own banner to the the match: a bed sheet featuring the club crest, drawn and coloured in with blue felt-tip pen.

He has kept it "lovingly" ever since. The banner got an outing in 2001 when a resurgent Ipswich qualified for the Uefa Cup once more. But with the Blues marooned in the Championship since 2002, it hasn't been waved for a while. "There's nothing that deserves it to come out quite yet," he says.

image copyrightEast Anglian Daily Times
image captionThousands of people gathered in Ipswich town centre to greet the cup winners
image copyrightJulian Germain / PhotoEast
image captionPam Ireland and children took their banner featuring captain Mick Mills into Ipswich to welcome the players home

Pam Ireland, now 80, was among the tens of thousands who greeted the victorious Town team as they toured Ipswich on an open-top bus.

She recalls her son, then 10, and daughter, eight, being very excited, so she painted a picture of Ipswich captain Mick Mills on piece of cardboard for them to hold up as they bus passed by.

"We got a good wave from the crowd, and I think that Mick Mills blew a kiss to my daughter.

"The whole town was so excited. I think it just boosted everyone's spirits."

And thanks to Wark, whose then-girlfriend lived nearby, she got the picture signed by Robson and his players.

image captionFans' memories have inspired a play, Our Blue Heaven, at the New Wolsey Theatre starring Peter Peverley as Bobby Robson

Reflecting again on the cup win, Wark says: "It's changed my life because I'm good with people, and the Ipswich Town people regard me as one of their favourites, and I think that was the start.

"I've played for Ipswich and then I went to another big football club called Liverpool, but I'll always say Ipswich is my team.

"Not giving it the big one but everywhere you go, all over the world, people always talk about Ipswich, and they do mention me, and mention other players who played a part in that team, and I think that's a nice thing."

Julian Germain's ITFC: The People's History will run from 24 May to 24 June at Quay Place (St Mary at the Quay) in Key Street, Ipswich, as part of the PhotoEast Festival, and on 27 May he will be presenting a show at DanceEast, Jerwood DanceHouse in the town. A BBC Radio Suffolk Special: Bobby Robson's Blue and White Army can be heard on the BBC iPlayer.

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