Sight of Town fans gave us such a lift

Winning the 1978 FA Cup was the realisation of a schoolboy dream for Ipswich Town centre forward Paul Mariner as he tells NICK GARNHAM in the eighth of our series 30 Years of Honour.

Nick Garnham

Winning the 1978 FA Cup was the realisation of a schoolboy dream for Ipswich Town centre forward Paul Mariner as he tells NICK GARNHAM in the eighth of our series 30 Years of Honour.

EVEN now the memory of walking out at Wembley for the 1978 FA Cup final causes Paul Mariner to come out in goose pimples.

Mariner, who now lives in America, can vividly recall his

feelings as the two teams took to the pitch just before Ipswich beat Arsenal 1-0 under the twin towers.

“As we came out of the tunnel I remember looking round and seeing all our supporters behind us. I am getting goose pimples just thinking about it now.

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“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I saw all our fans in blue and white behind us with their scarves and banners, and it gave us such a lift. It was incredible.”

Although he had missed the 6-1 drubbing at Aston Villa a week earler, Mariner said he was never a doubt for the final itself.

“My Achilles tendon flared up, and there was no point risking it with the cup final the following week. I remember watching the Villa game from the stand. It was a weird game. From the outside looking in people must have wondered what was going on.

“I was never a doubt for the final, but Allan Hunter and Kevin Beattie were. Being the tough guy he was, we knew Kevin would play. It would be interesting to know how fit he really was for the final. “He was one of the greatest players I have ever played with.

“The Wembley pitch was very heavy. It had rained incessantly during the week. The sun came out on the day of the final and the humidity was high. For those lads to finish the game was quite remarkable.”

Mariner had the first real chance of the final in the 11th minute, when Roger Osborne could only divert his shot from a Clive Woods cross into the path of Mariner's, but his effort smacked against the crossbar.

“In hindsight maybe I should have done better, but it came so quickly to me - the Wembley pitch was like greased lightning at the best of times. I was a split second slow in reacting and was off balance and it hit the bar. I would have loved to have scored.

“Johnny (Wark) then hit the post twice and George (Burley) had a great header saved by Pat Jennings. Going into the final they had all the superstars and we were the yokels coming up from the country for a day out, but all in all we killed them.

“I can imagine both on the bench and in the stands everyone was thinking they could break away and nick it, but we always felt we were going to win. The longer it went on you wondered where a goal was coming from until Roger (Osborne) finally scored.

“It could not have happened to a nicer bloke. We were all thrilled for him.”

For Mariner, who had been playing non-league football for Chorley just five years earlier and joined Ipswich from Plymouth Argyle for £220,000 in October 1976, winning the FA Cup was the realisation of a schoolboy dream.

“I don't really remember what happened at the final whistle. You don't rehearse that moment. I am guessing that I was looking for my mates to give them a hug. We were a close-knit group of players.

“I arrived in 1976 and roomed with Warky for eight years and with Millsy (Mick Mills) for six years with the national team.

“We were blood brothers so to speak.

“Hunter and Beattie would have wanted to get back to the dressing room for a cigarette and the rest of us could not wait for a beer!

“I was in bed by 8 o'clock that night,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek. “I remember getting up the next morning not feeling too sharp to go back to Ipswich, which was an incredible homecoming.

“The whole experience was absolutely amazing. It was the first major trophy I had won in English football.

“Everyone who plays football as a kid wants to win the FA Cup, and to do it with that bunch of lads was extremely special in my life and in my football career.

“It's right up there with playing for my country at Wembley and winning the UEFA Cup with a very special team.”