06:00 September 23, 2022
07:04 September 23, 2022
The untold story of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s affection for Norwich City can now be revealed by a former Canary Islands business chief.
The longest-reigning monarch was laid to rest in a private ceremony in Windsor on Monday evening after 10 days of national mourning, following a state funeral in London and a military procession through Windsor Castle.
Ray Cossey ran Norwich City’s business operations between 1986 and 1995 during a period that saw them finish third in the Premier League and become the first English club to beat Bayern Munich in Germany.
The 83-year-old, who has kept his royal secret for nearly three decades, recalls a special phone call following that Jerry Goss-inspired 2-1 away win in the UEFA Cup in October 1993 .
“A few days before the second leg, my secretary said to me: ‘I have a call for you from Buckingham Palace,'” he said. “I answered the phone to a gentleman I had known for years and who asked me if I could help him buy some tickets for the match?
“He wasn’t trying to scrounge and was ready to send me an open check to pay for the tickets and I filled in the amount of the ticket prices.
“Now he was a very senior official in royal employment and after we started talking he explained to me how he was to meet Her Majesty every Tuesday morning to discuss royal business, and the conversation always started. by a 10-15 minute chat about Norwich City, what they were doing, how well they had managed to finish third in the Premier League, and it was pretty obvious she had a stealth love for the Canaries.
“Of course, she could never have made this public, and I could not have mentioned it until she was alive. In all walks of life, she was not allowed to show prejudice, but she was certainly very enthusiastic and a huge fan of Norwich City.
Mr Cossey, who lives in Little Plumstead with his wife Theresa, traced the former head of state’s weak spot for the Canaries to his father, George VI, who was born and died in Sandringham, and in 1938 is became the first reigning monarch to attend a football league game while visiting Norwich.
The King and Queen Elizabeth were received by Lord Mayor Charles Watling, father of longtime club chairman Geoffrey, before the King later visited Carrow Road.
He met Norwich City and Millwall players and officials before the match break, when he left early in the first half of a game City lost 2-0.
“I believe Her Majesty The Queen went to visit a local hospital (Colman Memorial) and the King attended the first 15 minutes, and the historic thing is that he became the first reigning monarch to watch a match of football league,” said Cossey. “The fact that he was born and died in Norfolk underlines how strong the connection was to that part of the world.
“It was perhaps the embryonic stages of any support or interest in Norwich City.
“The other link to that visit, of course, was the then Lord Mayor Charles Watling, was the father of the much revered Geoffrey Watling, who was such an important figure in the history of the club.
“I remember when the City Stand fire happened, and it was reopened by the Duchess of Kent (February 1987) and we put on an exhibition for her visit. Geoffrey Watling had a fantastic collection of silverware.
“He had a replica of the newly rebuilt River End, the First Division trophy and a replica of Duncan Forbes’ boot from Wembley’s first League Cup final, all in silver.
“There was even a replica of a life-size soccer ball, where the top opened on a hinge and a canary appeared singing ‘On the Ball, City’.
“So just as her father had received Their Majesties in 1938, I was actually in the room when he showed the Duchess this silver display.”
Mr Cossey and his wife were embroiled in their own royal history in 2020, when a photo of them isolating themselves from their great-grandchildren during the pandemic went viral, after the Duchess of Cambridge of the era used her as inspiration to set up a project that captured the spirit of the nation.
“It went around the world,” said Mr Cossey, who now follows the Canaries from afar. “The family even got a call from an American artist who wanted to make an oil painting of it. We never heard from her again. But that’s what inspired the current Princess of Wales to have his exhibition at the time.
“Since I retired I haven’t been back to Carrow Road more than five or six times. I’m still a Norwich fan, but when you get older you don’t want to go through all the hustle and bustle.
“I missed the last two appearances at Wembley. If I went back now I probably wouldn’t recognize it. It’s such a professionally run business.”