You have to go back 32 years for the last time we appeared in an FA Cup quarter-final. Southampton came out on top that day but just three years prior to that, we entertained Norwich City on our way to the final.
The battle against relegation was temporarily forgotten, as nearly 29,000 crammed into The Goldstone. The game wasn’t all-ticket and the gates were closed just before kick-off, with a 7,000-strong contingent from East Anglia taking up the North-East corner and, controversially, half the North Stand.
After the sacking of Mike Bailey earlier in the season, Jimmy Melia and George Aitken were in joint charge of first-team affairs. It was Melia who took all the plaudits, introducing a much more attacking style to our play, but the game against the Canaries was a cagey affair. Both teams went all-out for a result, but defences dominated.
After a goalless first half, Albion took the lead in contentious circumstances. Jimmy Case had already been booked and after further offences, was possible lucky to still be on the field. In the 66th minute, he ran on to Andy Ritchie’s through-ball with the linesman flagging furiously in the background. The Norwich players appealed as Case hammered the ball into the net, in front of a delirious North Stand. The protests fell on deaf years, with referee Alan Robinson waving away the protests, saying he was playing advantage after a foul ON Case.
The usual tense end to the game was brought to an end by the referee’s whistle, and Albion were through to their first (and, so far, the only) FA Cup semi-final. Such was the impact of this result, Melia was given the manager’s job full time less than 48 hours after the game.
The press focused on the ‘bruising’ nature of the game, with John Vinicombe in The Argus saying “the bloody cup-tie was a throwback to the old Third Division rivalry between the teams”.
Mike Langley in The Sunday People went further, comparing the match to a bout in the boxing ring. He commented, “there were a couple of caveman tackles by Ramsey, who was eventually invited to fisticuffs on the touchline by sorely provoked Bennett”.
A similar theme was followed in other newspapers, but it was that man Case who was lauded as the real hero. His heroics with Liverpool didn’t include an FA Cup winners medal but his goal that day in 1983, took us to within one game of Wembley.
We face a similar scenario on Saturday but this time, the Wembley carrot is dangled one game earlier.