TITLE-CHASING Liverpool, led by Bob Paisley, lined up at Carrow Road 37 years ago today with David Fairclough in the side, making only his fifth start of the season. The record books show the Scouser plundered a hat-trick against Norwich – yet the game is bettered remembered for a belter from the late Justin Fashanu and two quick-fire Liverpool goals in the final minutes from Kenny Dalglish and Jimmy Case. Fairclough himself even forgot to claim the match ball.
And what was the reward for Fairclough for his well-taken treble? A place back on the bench for the next game, such was the plight of a player trying to force his way ahead of the talent that brought home a 12th league title for the Reds at the end of that season.
Here, in an extract from Supersub: The Story Of Football’s Most Famous Number 12, published by deCoubertin Books, David Fairclough tells of the build up to that game versus The Canaries, and how he felt before, during and after the match.
“CERTAIN things continued to rile me. Like the manager’s attitude in not giving me at least 10 minutes off the bench when the lads were coasting to victory against Grimsby in the FA Cup. It was like the Leeds game all over again. Serious self-doubts over my Anfield future began to resurface and I was starting to question whether the boss really did rate me.
“My mind was slightly put at ease on that matter after I went in to see him over these concerns. He explained that he’d been offered the chance to re-sign Kevin Keegan from Hamburg at the end of the season but had turned it down because he felt more than happy with the striking options already at his disposal. To have brought KK back to play up front alongside Kenny would have been a massive coup for the club so I felt reassured that Paisley did still have some faith in me.
“With that in mind I was hopeful that another opening would soon come my way, so in readiness I started to stay behind at Melwood to do some extra training. We didn’t get too much shooting practice during the normal sessions as they were based mainly on passing. As I’d been spending most of my time with the reserves, a few of us, including goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, went back to the training ground one Wednesday afternoon to do some finishing work on our own.
“The practice went well until we were packing things up and moving the portable goal. I collided with the frame and in doing so cut my head. I had to go to hospital to have it looked at and the next day the incident was reported to the training staff. Ronnie Moran went berserk and gave us a right bollocking. ‘We’ll “tell you when you need shooting practice,’ he roared, while telling the groundsman never to allow any more DIY after-hours training sessions.
“At that point I thought any hopes of a recall for the time being would be gone but in early February, totally out of the blue, an injury to David Johnson saw me handed a surprise start, my first in four months. It was against Norwich at Carrow Road and it was one of those games that only seem to come around once in a while. It was also an afternoon when my extra shooting practice would prove vital. We fell behind to a Martin Peters goal in the first minute but I drew us level almost straight away. Following a one-two with Sammy Lee I cut in from the right to drill a shot past the Norwich goalkeeper Kevin Keelan.”
“Before the game Bob Paisley had sidled over to me and said, ‘We were watching their keeper on Wednesday and noticed that when he dives to his right he’s got short arms!’ In truth I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant, but it proved to be a valuable piece of information. I took on board what he said and kept trying to place my shots to that side. It worked for the equaliser and I did it again for the goal that put us 2-1 ahead: a first-time strike from the right edge of the area following a great run by Alan Hansen.
“After Kevin Reeves made it 2-2, I restored our advantage in the 75th minute with a simple tap-in at the far post. It didn’t immediately dawn on me that I’d just completed my first senior hat-trick. My only concern at the time was that we now held on to our lead and saw the game out to clinch maximum points. At 3-2 though, and with me having scored all our goals, I was on course to be the hero. What better way to announce my return to the first team, I was thinking.
“Unfortunately, although we did go on to win the game, Justin Fashanu stole my thunder somewhat with his famous ‘goal of the season’, a spectacular dipping volley from the edge of the box that had Clem well beaten. Many years later I watched a re-run of the game and, although I enjoyed watching the three goals, I didn’t sleep that night thinking of the chance I’d missed that could have made it 4-3.
“Thankfully, two late goals from Jimmy Case and Kenny Dalglish completed a memorable 5-3 victory. All the talk afterwards was of Fashanu’s goal and at the final whistle it didn’t even cross my mind to grab the match ball, like you see players do nowadays. It was only after I’d showered and changed that someone came into the dressing room and handed over what they claimed to be the ball we’d just been playing with.
“It was an old tatty thing, with the leather peeling off it. All the lads signed it so it would have been a nice souvenir to keep but it was in danger of falling to pieces even then. Although I’ve kept many mementoes from my career that one didn’t last too long and a few years later it ended up on the tip.”
“Normally I’d have had good reason to celebrate and, although the manager had said nothing of note to me on the long journey home, I was confident that my performance at Carrow Road would be more than enough to keep me in the team. Arriving back in Liverpool, a few of us did go to Sammy Lee’s 21st birthday party but were very aware we were in a busy period fixture-wise. It was one that would see us play seven times in just under three weeks, so the focus quickly switched to the next task in hand as we prepared to resume hostilities with Nottingham Forest in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final three nights later.
“It was a big game, the type I thrived on and was eager to play in. We’d lost the first leg 1-0 so there was everything still to play for. Wembley was in our sights once again and a capacity crowd packed into Anfield to witness the latest chapter in this now well-established rivalry. To my amazement I was a spectator for much of it myself; back on the bench despite my hat-trick heroics at the weekend. I could not believe it.
“If scoring three goals couldn’t guarantee me a place in the starting 11 I didn’t know what could. In one way, it didn’t surprise me because I was getting used to being treated like this and it only reinforced my feelings of frustration. It was clearly evident that I was now fighting a losing battle.”
“From the dugout I watched our aspirations of reaching the final all but disappear halfway through the first half when John Robertson scored from the penalty spot, just as he had done in the first leg at the City Ground. I was summoned to enter the fray shortly before the hour mark and had a goal disallowed for offside before I finally managed to draw us level on the night in the 89th minute. It was too little too late, and for the second time in three seasons Forest had thwarted our hopes of winning the League Cup for a first time.
“Although it was no consolation at the time, my goal had helped preserve our proud unbeaten home record that stretched back to February 1978 and would continue for almost another year. But again, it was not enough to earn me a starting place for the next match. Third Division Bury were the visitors to Anfield for a fifth-round FA Cup tie and for the opening hour a major shock looked very much on the cards. I came on in place of David Johnson at half-time and before the full-time whistle sounded I’d scored twice to spare our blushes.
“I knew straight away what the headlines would be in the following day’s papers. Supersub was back. It had been a decent week and despite starting just one of three games my six-goal haul was enough to earn me The Observer newspaper’s ‘Sportsman of the Week’ award.
“It was the prelude to a spell of three successive starts, during which I netted the opening goal in another important match, my seventh in five games. It was at home to fellow title-challengers Ipswich, a game best remembered for the controversial incident in which Frans Thijssen threw mud at the ball as Terry McDermott ran up to take a penalty kick. It happened four minutes from the end and Terry’s subsequent effort was saved, thus denying us maximum points.”