Warky still glows with pride

JOHN Wark's face lights up as he recalls the moment he made every Ipswich Town fan's dream turn to reality.

Nick Garnham

JOHN Wark's face lights up as he recalls the moment he made every Ipswich Town fan's dream turn to reality.

Ipswich were leading West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in a tense semi-final at Highbury - Arsenal's former home - when Wark rose to head home a 90th minute corner.

The goal clinched a 3-1 victory and with it Ipswich's place in their first ever FA Cup final at Wembley.

Wark said: “I have scored loads of goals in my career, but that one was the most important. It gave me such a buzz because we knew we had done it - we were going to Wembley. That win really put us on the map.”

The goal was scored at the Clock End of the ground in front of the Ipswich fans whose relief and celebrations were matched by the players on the pitch.

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“I remember everyone jumping on top of me. It took me ages to get out of the pile!''

The 2-0 victory at Cardiff in the third round back in January was, in fact, Wark's first game of the season.

He had been struggling with a hamstring injury sustained in a pre-season friendly in Holland.

“The affected area was literally black and blue and it took me a long while to get fit. I tried to come back too early and was running with a bit of a limp.

“We had a lot of injuries that season and we were never able to field our best team very often.

“We struggled in the league - we finished 18th - and the week before the final we lost 6-1 at Aston Villa.

“How can you lose 6-1 in the league and then win the cup final a week later?”

The answer lay in the fact that the players were unhappy that Roger Osborne was left out of the side in favour of Colin Viljoen.

Wark admitted: “Certain players did not pull their weight in that game because Roger had been dropped. I wasn't one of them because I wasn't guaranteed a place in the team for the final. Our best player was our 17-year-old goalkeeper Paul Overton, who was making his debut!”

That was quickly forgotten as everyone started to focus on the final against Arsenal which Wark was confident Ipswich would win.

“We knew in the first 15 minutes that we had a great chance. We knew if we got a goal we would win as we could not see them scoring. I was more confident about that game than the semi-final against West Brom.”

However, for all of Ipswich's dominance they could not break the deadlock, with Paul Mariner striking the bar in the first half and then Wark hitting the same post twice - the first from just inside the penalty area and the second from 25 yards - in the second period.

“Even to this day I thought both shots were going in when I hit them. The first one came to me quickly and I hit it as straight as a die and the rebound came back so quickly that Paul Mariner could not direct the rebound into the net.

“The second one Clive Woods laid it back to me and I hit it perfectly and it smacked against the post as Pat Jennings did not move.”

Wark and Ipswich's dismay turned to delight when Roger Osborne finally broke the deadlock in the 77th minute with what proved to be the winning goal.

“If you could pick someone to score the winning goal I think everyone would have said Roger,” said Wark of the unsung hero who together with Wark and Ipswich-born Brian Talbot covered acres of ground in the midfield.

“It was such a tiring pitch - it was very heavy,” said Wark.