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Lifelong Norwich City fan makes Carrow Road debut to celebrate 80th birthday

PUBLISHED: 16:11 19 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:24 19 May 2019

John Gilbert, right, with his grandson, Macaulay Robinson, left, before the 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

John Gilbert, right, with his grandson, Macaulay Robinson, left, before the 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

He is a life-long Norwich City fan who has always dreamed of playing on the hallowed turf at Carrow Road.

John Gilbert in a guard of honour before his 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodJohn Gilbert in a guard of honour before his 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

And on Sunday, John Gilbert's wish finally came true after his grandson organised a match to celebrate his 80th birthday.

The great grandfather, from Oulton Broad, was joined by family and friends for a 90-minute game of yellows vs blues.

Mr Gilbert, who has been a Norwich City fan since he was eight, said: "It has always been a dream of mine to play here and it was great fun.

"While my mind was active, my legs and feet weren't. The younger players were able to get way from me.

The teams before kick off at John Gilbert�s 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodThe teams before kick off at John Gilbert�s 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

"But when Norwich return in August I'll be able to say 'yes, I've played on that pitch'."

The match finished 5-2 to Mr Gilbert's team, who were playing in a Norwich City kit.

Mr Gilbert, who scored a penalty, was presented with a trophy and a signed shirt at the end of the game.

The entire event was arranged by Mr Gilbert's grandson Macaulay Robinson.

Action from John Gilbert�s 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodAction from John Gilbert�s 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

The 23-year-old, from Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, spent two years organising the game and paid for it with his own money.

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Mr Robinson said: "This is all for my grandad's sake. He has always dreamed of this.

"I just thought life is too short and you have to live a bit."

John Gilbert before his 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodJohn Gilbert before his 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Among those playing were Mr Gilbert's great grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

Meanwhile, dozens of his friends and family cheered on from the stands.

His daughter, Miranda Robinson, said: "It was an absolutely brilliant day. In the last five minutes every player ran onto the pitch to make it 18-a-side."

While it was Mr Gilbert's first time playing at Carrow Road, it was not the first time he had stepped out onto the pitch.

Friends and family watching the game from the stand, Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodFriends and family watching the game from the stand, Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

In 2015, when Norwich secured promotion to the Premier League, he said he hopped over the fence and ran on to celebrate.

"I even pulled up a bit of grass and put in my pocket for the memory," he said.

Mr Gilbert played football for Reydon and Southwold in his younger years.

He also managed a football team at the Duke's Head in Somerleyton for 21 years.

John Gilbert in a guard of honour before his 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodJohn Gilbert in a guard of honour before his 80th birthday celebration game at Carrow Road, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

"I just can't get enough of football," Mr Gilbert said. "I reckon in my coffin I will still be kicking a ball."

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