Colin Appleton

Former Player Remembers: Davie Gibson, Richie Norman & Howard Riley

Davie Gibson, Richie Norman and Howard Riley all played for Leicester City against Manchester United in the 1963 FA Cup Final at Wembley. Last month, in conversation with Club Historian John Hutchinson, they recalled that occasion as well as another famous victory against the Red Devils.

On Sunday, the Foxes will try to reach another final when they face Southampton in the last-four at Wembley Stadium (6:30pm BST kick-off).

“Will I ever forget May 25th 1963?” Davie began. “Can it really be 58 years since we played in that FA Cup Final against Manchester United?

“I always felt that our team that season was the best in my career and possibly, one of the best teams in Leicester's history, although other teams do spring to mind like [Jimmy] Bloomfield’s in the 1970s, [Martin] O’Neill’s in the 1990s and of course the team which won the Premier League in 2016.

“Alan Hoby of the Sunday Express called us: 'The Magicians of the Midlands' and Sam Leitch of the Daily Express wrote about us: 'It was a privilege to have watched such technical mastery and disciplined teamwork. Thank you gentlemen'.

“I can still remember the names of that super team in 1963. The manager was Matt Gillies and the coach was Bert Johnson. We played a completely different game to the modern version. In those days, supporters knew everyone's name by the number they wore on their shirts. There were no squad numbers. Number one was the goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Two and three were the full-backs, John Sjoberg and Richie Norman. Four, five and six were the half-backs, Frank McLintock, Ian King and Colin Appleton. Seven and 11 were the right and left wingers and we had two very good wingers in Howard Riley and Mike Stringfellow. Eight and 10 were inside-forwards, who were Graham Cross and myself. Finally, there was number nine, Ken Keyworth, who scored a wonderful diving header in that cup final against Manchester United at Wembley.

“To get to that Wembley Final against Matt Busby’s Manchester United, we beat Grimsby Town (when Davie scored twice), Ipswich Town, Leyton Orient, Norwich City (when Davie also scored), and then Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in the semi-final.

“Little did we know that the semi-final was the last game we would win that season. We were in with a chance of the league and cup double but we lost our last four league games which were all away because of postponements due to the bad winter that year. Then we lost the cup final to Manchester United. We’d had a wonderful season but it fell apart at the very end. 

“On the other hand, Manchester United had had an awful season that year, but they came alive at the end to win the FA Cup. They had some star players like Paddy Crerand, Maurice Setters, Johnny Giles, Albert Quixall, David Herd the centre-forward who scored two goals that day, Denis Law who scored one, and the unbelievable Bobby Charlton.”

On Easter Monday, five weeks before the final, we’d drawn 2-2 at Old Trafford and the next day we’d beaten them at Filbert Street 4-3. I’d scored in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford at the Stretford End.

Richie Norman

Richie Norman also has clear memories of playing Manchester United that season.

Thinking back, he remembered: “We went into that Cup Final against Manchester United thinking it was a great opportunity to make up for losing the FA Cup Final against Spurs two years earlier. Manchester United weren’t doing as well as they normally did in the league and we fancied our chances.

“On Easter Monday, five weeks before the final, we’d drawn 2-2 at Old Trafford and the next day we’d beaten them at Filbert Street 4-3. I’d scored in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford at the Stretford End. When it was 1-1 Bobby Charlton got clean through. He looked like scoring so I tackled him quite boisterously just outside the box and gave away a free-kick. Bobby then scored from the free-kick making it 2-1. I thought that I’d have to make up for that! Colin [Appleton] took a throw in on the left, I took the ball forward 10 or 15 yards, beat a player and then, from 20 to 25 yards out, hit the ball and it zoomed into the top left-hand corner. I can still see Harry Gregg diving to his left now! After that game we went to the top of the league.

“The build up to the final, though, wasn’t ideal. We had injuries. Four or five players including Gordon Banks, Frank McLintock, Colin Appleton, Ken Keyworth, Davie Gibson and Mike Stringfellow all missed some of the last four or five important league games and this disrupted us. We lost our last four matches. It cost us winning the League. They didn’t have substitutes then. 

“Everybody was fully fit for the Final though. As far as I can remember, we didn’t have a game plan for the Final, but Bert Johnson was a brilliant coach. We all knew all about them and they knew all about us.

“In the final, their star players like Denis law, Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerand were outstanding. Harry Gregg had been a brilliant goalkeeper for them for years but for some reason David Gaskell was in goal. Perhaps Harry remembered my recent goal against him!

It took us a long while to get over it, although we did win the League Cup the following year. It still niggles with the players today that we didn’t win the cup that day.

Richie Norman

“To this day I don’t think any of our players know why we didn’t come up to scratch in that final. Perhaps we were overconfident because they hadn’t beaten us that season and it was our second cup final. I was sure we’d beat them, but everybody was below par that day. The feeling after the game was very different from losing the final against Spurs two years earlier when we’d been more or less heroes playing with 10 men.

“We were very down after the game Frank McLintock was sort of crying. It was terrible. The post-match dinner at the Dorchester Hotel was really low key. It took us a long while to get over it, although we did win the League Cup the following year. It still niggles with the players today that we didn’t win the cup that day.” 

Outside-right Howard Riley can also recall playing Manchester United in that famous season of 1962/63 when Leicester City were chasing the double.

“In the 1961 Cup Final against Spurs, I was quite pleased with how we played,” he began. “Because we played with only 10 men for over an hour. I thought we did really well. However, the 1963 Manchester United final was the most disappointing match of my whole career. We were odds-on favourites to win as they were struggling down the league. Losing that final was definitely the lowest time I’ve known.

“The cup final then was the biggest game of your career, but I can’t recall any real difference in our preparations than we’d have had for a normal game. There was no extra training, extra meetings or extra talking about the game or about who their danger players were. For me, Bobby Charlton was the real danger with his shooting and his speed. The only thing that I can remember as being different is that I think we might have trained on the University’s Welford Road playing field because the turf was similar to Wembley’s.

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1963 FA Cup Final

The Foxes contest the 1963 FA Cup Final against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

“We had injuries in the games leading up to the final, but we didn’t really have the back up. It was more or less the same players every game. There were occasional changes but not many, so when we did have these injuries, the players coming in hadn’t had much game time.

“As for the final itself, I don’t remember being in the game much. I hardly got any service. I was quite confident but you’ve got to have the service. Noel Cantwell (Manchester United’s full-back and captain) wasn’t very quick but I didn’t get enough of the ball

“We went 2-0 down to goals from Denis Law and David Herd before Ken Keyworth made it 2-1, but then Gordon [Banks] dropped a simple cross and a tap in from David Herd made it 3-1 and that was it.”

If the game at Wembley was a disappointment, Howard then spoke about that other game against Manchester United five weeks earlier, which was a highlight. This was the 4-3 home victory mentioned by Davie and Richie.

“It was on Easter Tuesday at Filbert Street,” Howard recalled. “It was our third game in four days. We’d drawn 2-2 at Old Trafford the previous day and we won 4-3 which took us to the top of the League, but this achievement was not really mentioned much at all. Ken Keyworth scored a six minute hat-trick, all from my crosses. I’m not sure if that is a record? Denis Law scored a hat-trick for United in the same game.

“I’ve still got newspaper reports, photos and memorabilia from that time. I also have a letter which came from a fan who lived on Hinckley Road called Chris Seal which referred to this game. He wrote: ‘I’m sending good wishes in memory of your service to the Club between 1955 and 1965. Most of all (I remember) a fabulous supreme six minutes. We went mad behind the Filbert Street goal at Easter in 1963 when you hammered over three scorching crosses like missiles for Ken Keyworth’s hat-trick. Number one was knocked in from a cross to the far post, number two was hammered in with his head just inside the near post and for number three: you floated this over and he headed it in again'.

I wish I hadn’t [left]. I wish I’d stayed. I might have had another five, six or seven years left in me. I was only two years off my testimonial too.

Howard Riley

“Many years later," Howard continued, “when I was working at the Leicester City Academy with the Education Officer, one of the Academy lads told me that he’d just been listening to Bobby Charlton on the radio talking about his career. When he got to the 1963 FA Cup Final, he said that the player that Manchester United had to watch out for was Howard Riley, the no.7. He’d obviously remembered those three crosses in six minutes on that Easter Tuesday!"

Not long before the cup final, Howard, even though he was only 24 years-old and on the top of his game, decided to become a part-time footballer the following season so he could train to be a teacher.

Howard now says: “I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d stayed. I might have had another five, six or seven years left in me. I was only two years off my testimonial too. I’d been a pupil at Kibworth Grammar School which was academic. Professional sport wasn’t really encouraged there and I’d always had teaching at the back of my mind. I remember [manager] Matt Gillies saying to me: ‘All the best. We respect your decision'. That was good of him. I’ll never forget that, but I should have had a few more years before I finished my football career. As a part-timer, I played most of the time the following season and scored in the winning goal in the League Cup Final when we beat Stoke City. I did well to keep my place that season to be honest because being at College, without training every day, you lose your speed.”

Davie, Richie and Howard all expressed great disappointment about losing to Manchester United in the 1963 Cup Final and they would dearly love to see their successors in the present day team win the FA Cup.

This hope was perhaps best summed up by Davie, who said at the conclusion of his interview, in a message to the present-day team: "Enjoy the moment and enjoy the journey. Who knows, you Leicester City stars of today, it may be your time to win this elusive FA Cup this year. Good luck to all of you.”

Leicester City Crest