Hull City’s trip to Norwich City this weekend will evoke a few memories of recent trips to the inconvenient but atmospheric Carrow Road.
Tiger Nation members will remember an injury-time equaliser in the all blue kit from one Michael Turner, at the time making a habit of scoring goals with almost the last touch of the game.
The last trip to the northerly section of East Anglia was in pea-soup conditions and ended in a 1-1 draw, with Fraizer Campbell scoring for the Tigers and Norwich boss Glenn Roeder fawning over Jay Jay Okocha for the press afterwards.
To older members of the City crowd, however, this fixture brings up just one memorable occasion. The day when Chris Chilton spilled blood for the Tigers cause.
Happily for the nostalgists, this game happened to fall 40 years ago this weekend, during a campaign that became Chilton’s last full season in black and amber before he began disagreeing with new boss Terry Neill and got his deserved – though much mourned – move to the top flight with Coventry City. The Tigers were in good, sturdy, consistent form at the start of the 1970/71 season when they made the ever awkward trip to Norwich.
One imagines that of all the awayday experiences, Norwich is the one that has changed the least since those heady days of fatter players who didn’t wear shin pads and thought cortizone was the answer to all their problems. After all, the speed limit is still 70 mph and the quality of route that gets you to Carrow Road hasn’t changed. Perhaps only aircon and iPod holders have truly enhanced the trip.
On September 26th 1970, City took to the field in an all-white away strip for the seventh game of the season. Neill’s regime had started well, with four wins and two draws from the opening seven games, and just a solitary defeat at Carlisle United. Chilton had bagged four for the season, despite missing two of the games with injury.
Norwich had in their ranks a bruising, combative defender called Duncan Forbes, as respected within the game for his fearlessness as the more showbiz hardmen like Tommy Smith and Peter Storey, though just not as well known. From the off, it appeared that his whole gameplan was to rile Chilton, hardly the shrinking violet himself, and put the iconic centre forward off his game.
For a while, the two exchanged breath-removing collisions and the usual array of elbows and late challenges that referees happily put down to competitiveness and desire, rather than any wilful attempt to cause bodily damage. Then, when both men stood still while waiting for the delivery of a free kick, Forbes put a knee right into Chilton’s back.
Chilton’s red mist finally descended. He responded by turning round and headbutting Forbes, making contact with the Norwich player’s nose. Forbes was down, decked, completely gone. An on-pitch fracas broke out as other Norwich players gathered round Chilton trying to gain retribution for his actions.
Malcolm Lord, a fine footballer but hardly the best constructed of City players when it comes to scrapping, nonetheless dipped bravely under the flailing arms to shove Chilton away from the danger while, laughably, telling the big striker to protest his innocence to the referee.
Even the thickest, most myopic and most liberal of referees would have seen through that. Chilton, with blood streaming down his face – and unaware whether the blood was his or that of the felled Forbes – was sent off. He trudged, furious, to the tunnel area. You could say the Norwich fans wanted blood but, well, Chilton had already helped them out there. His scarlet-stained white shirt made him look like an Ajax player.
In his hand was a soaking wet sponge, which the City trainer had given to him to mop up the claret. As he reached the players’ exit from the pitch, the vitriol from that section of Carrow Road raised in volume and became more personal and Chilton’s response to one heckler who got too loud, too abusive and too close, was to squirt the sponge – containing blood, sweat and probably snot and saliva too, all made in Sproatley – into his aggressor’s face.
So, to recap. Chilton, hard as nails but not usually a dirty player, floored an opponent with an ill-timed – and yet exquisitely-timed – nutting, received a red card and then was (albeit more passively) aggressive towards a supporter as he made his ignominious exit. What do you reckon he got? Three matches? Four? More than that?
Well, actually, none. So it seems.
He had to go to London to face a disciplinary panel, and was fined, but still played in City’s next seven matches and only missed three more for the rest of the season, scoring 21 goals as the Tigers finished fifth, a post-war club record that was only beaten by 2008’s team of immortals. So good were City at times in 1970/71, that they won that game at Norwich without the influence and goals of their main striker. Ken Houghton and Ken Wagstaff earned the Tigers a 2-0 win.
One suspects there will be no blood, no headbutts, no wet sponges and no knees in backs at Norwich this weekend. If we must have a repeat showing of anything from September 26th 1970, then the 2-0 win will do just fine.