Soapbox: Monday night fever

What is the secret of our 1973 FA Cup triumph? What would Bob Stokoe give the Lads just before they ran out for games? Why doesn’t Paul Bracewell get the beer in? Pete Sixsmith has answers to two of those questions

Monday nights in the Sixsmith household are usually fairly routine and predictable.

Return from work, feed the cat, warm up a Ready Meal, do the ironing and then contemplate the delights of having to face a group of 16-year-old reluctant learners the next day. Occasionally, Setanta come up trumps with a game from the Premier League or the Conference but usually Monday is mundane-day.

Not this Monday. Along with and 300 other special guests (some of whom I knew – so not that special, eh), I spent a great evening in the company of Micky Horswill, Paul Bracewell, Kevin Ball, Craig Gordon and Roger Tames at a Century Radio Fans’ Night in the Stadium of Light Sports Bar.

What an entertaining evening. All four players had a fund of good stories to tell and Tames handled it superbly. Someone made the inevitable crack about Nookie Bear (for the uninitiated, Tames is a dead ringer for Roger de Courcey, aka the world’s worst ventriloquist), but he clearly knew and understood the psyche of the players and the audience.

Bally was the star of the show with a fund of stories about life at Roker Park and the SoL. He clearly liked Dennis Smith, Bobby Saxton, Reidy and Niall Quinn while there was little respect and fondness for Terry Butcher. He did rein in his criticism a little when he realised that Butcher was now part of the Scotland set-up and that his views and revelations might embarrass Craig Gordon.

His highlight was a cracking story about the Gullit/Shearer game at Sid James, complete with actions and impersonation of Tommy Sorensen’s singsong Danish accent. A great performance from a man who will continue to be held in awe and affection by SAFC fans all over the world.

Micky Horswill (or Horsey Mickwill, as one Clock Stand Paddock regular always referred to him) had an equally good fund of stories, mostly about 1973.

It was Watson and Pitt who decided to banjo Allan Clarke at the first available opportunity. Pitt got him with a tackle that would have caused Arsene Wenger’s silly French head to explode if it happened now – unless it was from one of his own players, in which case he would have been looking elsewhere.

He told us that Bob Stokoe was not well liked by the Sunderland lads in the team because he was proud to be a Mag and that he gave them a nip of Scotch before they went out. All except for Billy Hughes who hid behind the door and finished the bottle ( a joke – I think).

Someone asked him who was the hardest player he had ever come up against and he said it was Billy Whitehurst when they were both at Hull. He was mates with Billy but they clashed in a training session and it ended up with Mickey taking a lump out of Whitehurst’s leg and then hitting him three times as he advanced on a rather worried 1973 FA Cup winner. Billy did not go down and told Mickey that it would not be a good idea to do that again.

He also related a story which illustrates why the advent of agents is not all a bad thing. He and Dennis Tueart were driven down to Wetherby by Stokoe and Keith Collings and were told that they had 12 hours to decide whether to go to Manchester City or not.

The clubs had agreed fees and as far as Sunderland were concerned it was goodbye. Now I know there were issues in 1973/74 and that what happend contributed to the team breaking up so quickly, but there is still a whiff of the old soccer slavery about this transfer.

Paul Bracewell and Craig Gordon were somewhat overshadowed by these two, although I was disappointed that Le Brace did not buy me a pint as payback for the one I bought him in The Park at Birkdale in 1996. How could he have forgotte?

Gordon admitted that he had found the Premier League difficult after his years in Scotland but he came across well and as a person who wanted to improve his skills and become a better keeper. I am sure he will be fine and as long as we stay up he will be a real asset to the club.

So, Century Sport Talk In proved to be infinitely better than a night in with the ironing. All we want now is three points at Derby to plunge Paul Jewell into depths of despair that even Keegan hasn’t reached yet.

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