Fuller Flavour: A tale of two famous cup wins on this week in Town history

Mick Mills (left) and Brian Talbot after the 1978 FA Cup semi-final victory over West Brom

Mick Mills (left) and Brian Talbot after the 1978 FA Cup semi-final victory over West Brom

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This week sees a very special anniversary in Ipswich Town history as April 8 marks the occasion of not one, but two semi-final successes in days gone by, writes Karl Fuller.

Town goalkeeper Paul Cooper in action during the FA Cup semi-final against West Brom in 1978.Town goalkeeper Paul Cooper in action during the FA Cup semi-final against West Brom in 1978.

It was on that date in 1978 that we defeated West Brom in the FA Cup semi-final at Highbury, and in 1981, we secured a first-leg lead over German outfit FC Cologne in the UEFA Cup.

One of my football regrets was not being old enough in those days to attend games and, having been aged six and then nine for these occasions, I remember very little about them.

So, I caught up with one of my best friends Don Welsh – my best-man at my wedding in 2002 – who was present at both games, as well as the subsequent finals in each competition.

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Firstly, that game against West Brom which saw us go into the match as underdogs as they were riding high, eventually finishing the season in sixth place in the old First Division, whilst we finished fifth from bottom.

Kevin Beattie competes for a header as Mick Mills watches on against West Brom in the FA Cup semi-final back in 1978.Kevin Beattie competes for a header as Mick Mills watches on against West Brom in the FA Cup semi-final back in 1978.

We had also won only one game in six leading up to the match – a 4-0 win over Norwich.

So, I asked Don how confident he felt going into the game. He told me: “Personally, I felt quite optimistic for our chances. I think being the underdogs suited us and before the game, the atmosphere was electric. We were stood in the famous Clock End and whilst West Brom fans had a roof over their heads in the North Bank to make their noise louder, our fans were in tremendous voice.

“We were there in superb numbers and for some reason, I just felt it was going to be our day. I remember in the warm-up before the game, Mick Mills jogged from our end all the way down to the West Brom end and the nearer he got to them, the louder they jeered him. Mills then just stood there with no response other than seemingly looking them all in the eye before jogging back to our end. To me, that was a massive statement from our skipper.”

Town took a 2-0 lead through Brian Talbot and Mills after 20 minutes and for the most part, looked comfortable. But then Albion started to exert the pressure and in the 76th minute, Allan Hunter inexplicably handled in the area and Tony Brown converted to make it 2-1.

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Mick Mills leads out the Ipswich Town team for the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Cologne at Portman Road in April 1981. He is followed by Ipswich players Paul Cooper, Alan Brazil, Arnold Muhren, Eric Gates, Frans Thijssen, John Wark, Steve McCall, Russell Osman and Terry Butcher. Not in picture: Paul Mariner
Photograph: EADTMick Mills leads out the Ipswich Town team for the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Cologne at Portman Road in April 1981. He is followed by Ipswich players Paul Cooper, Alan Brazil, Arnold Muhren, Eric Gates, Frans Thijssen, John Wark, Steve McCall, Russell Osman and Terry Butcher. Not in picture: Paul Mariner Photograph: EADT

It would be 13 minutes of torture before John Wark scored to seal the game and to me, it reminded me of when I was at Wembley in 2000 when we were leading Barnsley 3-1 before Craig Hignett converted a penalty to leave a similar amount of time of tension before Martijn Reuser scored to clinch victory.

Don agreed that it had similarities.

“We know that 2-0 can be a dangerous scoreline in football and when West Brom got back into the game, I remember that the famous clock behind us made a noise every minute that passed,” he told me.

“Those 13 minutes before Wark scored felt like forever. Town fans kept turning around to look at that clock. I can’t describe the feeling that went through us when Wark scored.”

The ensuing four weeks saw a scramble for tickets and Don was lucky to secure his, recalling: “They used to hand out vouchers at random games during the season and you needed three of those to get an FA Cup Final ticket. “Fortunately, I had three, so I was ok! I remember queuing for 3 to 4 hours at Portman Road to get my ticket.”

Terry Butcher is interviewed by reporter Stuart Jarrold after scoring the winning goal in the 1981 UEFA Cup semi-final win over CologneTerry Butcher is interviewed by reporter Stuart Jarrold after scoring the winning goal in the 1981 UEFA Cup semi-final win over Cologne

Fast-forward three years to the UEFA Cup semi-final first-leg victory over FC Cologne where Town won by a solitary goal scored by Wark. Don recalls that match with more anxiety.

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He said: “No disrespect to Cologne, but Saint Etienne were a bigger and better team who we beat in the previous round. I went to both legs of that game and because we won so convincingly, I was somewhat nervous for the semi-final. “We got a slender lead which we wondered if it would be enough and then in Cologne, their crowd was boosted by soldiers based at their local army camp attending in numbers. But Terry Butcher scored and that ultimately saw us into the final where again, I went to both legs.”

- What are your memories of the games? Let me know!

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