The greatest FA cup final shock of all time?

Stokoe and Sunderland

Just out: Lance Hardy’s carefully researched story of the 1973 cup final when Sunderland threw off underdog status to defeat Don Revie’s mighty Leeds and win the FA Cup. It needs a great leap of faith to think you’ve much chance of getting the book from Amazon before Christmas. But you can get it, by clicking this link, at the knockdown price of just over £11 (instead of £18.99 and it’s even cheaper if you opt for second hand). Colin Randall wallows in nostalgia …

were you when Sunderland beat Leeds 1-0 in the FA Cup Final of May 5 1973?

Not born, some will say. Or too small to care. A lot of us, though, are old enough to remember.

I know exactly where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated – the Essoldo in Bishop Auckland (they interrupted the film to announce it) – and when Diana, Princess of Wales died (in bed at a friend’s house in Middleton Tyas).

And I know only too well where I was when we won the cup: in the upstairs flat I then rented in Uxbridge, watching on television a game the man in the downstairs flat had promised I would watch at Wembley.

My neighbour was the sports editor of the Harrow Observer, for which I was working. We both had company flats. And being sports editor of a paper with a sister edition covering Wembley, “knowing everyone you need to know”, meant getting me a ticket would be a cinch.

He kept up the mantra from a day or two after we beat Arsenal in the semi-final, throughout the build-up and until the eve of the game itself.

But that Friday night, all was silent from downstairs. My colleague was a noisy drunk with a combative wife, so this was unusual. They’d disappeared to their caravan in East Anglia (they later disappeared again, but more conclusively and he was not, as far as I know, seen again in the office. I doubt, though, whether guilt at the acute disappointment he’d inflicted on me had much to do with it.) There was, of course, no ticket.

Even my wife, whose view of football is a bit like mine on reality TV and talent shows, knows where she was when Ian Porterfield scored our winner. She was ambling back from the shops and had reached our street. She then heard an almighty roar, in a voice she recognised, from an upstairs window a little farther along the street. And very nearly went back to the shops.

Lance Hardy, a broadcaster and writer who edits BBC1’s Final Score, knows an awful lot about sport. He has covered World Cups, Olympic athletics and darts championships. He, too, watched the final on TV and includes thanks to his parents, for plonking him in front of the set with orders to shout for Sunderland, among his acknowledgements.

I have already started dipping into a book he has produced from generous access to the family of the late Bob Stokoe, our 1973 manager; Sunderland’s winning team (with the sad exception of Ian Porterfield, who is no longer with us); former Leeds players; footballers managed by Stokoe at other clubs; assorted TV colleagues; and fans ranging from Sir Tim Rice to Paul Dobson (Sobs of A Love Supreme fame) and our own Pete Sixsmith.

Before long, I will tell you what I think of it. In the meantime, you can at least be sure of one thing: it is a subject dear to the hearts of Sunderland supporters whether or not they are old enough to have been aware of, or present, at the game.

“It was something you couldn’t put into words,” Hardy was told by one of his interviewees, Bobby Kerr, skipper of the SAFC cup-winning side “I don’t know how you are going to do it, If you can do it, it could be a bestseller.”

The greatest cup final shock of all time? Maybe, maybe not. But the story deserved telling and I am looking forward to getting properly stuck into it.

* Stokoe, Sunderland and ’73: The Story of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time. Published by Orion.

8 thoughts on “The greatest FA cup final shock of all time?”

  1. Colin – I remember exactly where I was. In our front room in Greenwich with Dad and all his pals who included a fanatical Makem who had pinned a large Sunderland rosette on me (I’ve wondered ever since why he wasn’t at the match). It was the most memorable Cup Final for me (up there with Chelsea’s replay against dirty Leeds), but not the most memorable final ever at Wembley. That would be our great game against Sunderland in the 98 Play-Off final. Salut Charlton Atheltic! Best Wishes.

  2. Not all of us were shocked!
    I watched the game at my parents’ house in Bishop with Steve Wolstencroft, that extremely rara avis — a Magpie fan who could put aside his prejudices and cheer the Mackems on. He wound up as sports editor on the Scottish Sun and retired, I believe, a couple of years ago.
    For the record, when Princess Di was killed, I was staying at a B&B in St. John’s, Newfoundland. But JFK? I have no idea.

  3. My brother got married that day. I was the first out of the church. Didn’t bother with the reception, which got me in trouble later, but got home in time for the kick off. Well worth the earache I got later. As it happened my other brother was married on Grand National day.

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