Long ago, when all the world willed us to beat Leeds

There were no neutrals. Everyone outside Leeds wanted Sunderland to win the 1973 FA Cup Final. Continuing our coverage of Lance Hardy’s new book** on the sensational upset our Lads caused at Wembley, Pete Sixsmith wallows in the memory of a quite different world …

Photos from 1973 by kind permission of the Sunderland Echo

Patrick Vieira on £150,000 a week; Kenwyne Jones valued at £40m; Manchester United with debts of £750m and tickets for Saturday at Chelsea at a tad under £50.

Money, money, money. I don’t think the game has ever been so wrapped up in finance and it somewhat dissipates the pleasure of watching a simple football match.

There were days when football, and everything around it, was much more innocent. I was reminded of this as I read Lance Hardy’s excellent book, Stokoe, Sunderland and ’73.

The title tells you everything you need to know; it’s a book about the greatest FA Cup victory in living memory, the manager who engineerd it, the players who delivered it and the fans who witnessed it and who have never quite got over it.

I got the impression that the heroes of 73 were not in it for the cash. Yes, they made a good living and they were better paid than most, but wages had not reached the astronomical levels they have now. In fact the ’73 team come across as people who loved football, loved fame and liked, rather than worshipped, money .

The book is a very exhaustive (but not in the least bit exhausting) account of that wonderful period 37 years ago. when to be a Sunderland fan was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Relegations, cash problems, were all forgotten about as we became the nation’s darlings and slew the hideous dragon known as Leeds United. The author has been able to access 10 of the 12 players involved, back room staff, journalists and supporters and has used their accounts to recreate the days when a Wembley Final ticket could be had for a pound and supporting a football team was not an example of lifestyle choice, more something in your blood.

The book is particularly strong on the various background stories to the triumph: Stokoe’s career at modest clubs, his intense dislike of Revie, the differences between Alan Brown and Stokoe, all of which will be unfamiliar to younger readers, but which seem like yesterday’s news to me.

He makes the point that it was Stokoe’s predecessor Brown who had laid the foundations for success with his youth development programme. This gave us Monty, Ritchie Pitt, Bobby Kerr, Billy Hughes, Micky Horswill and Dennis Tueart.

In addition, it was Bomber Brown who had brought in Dick Malone and Dave Watson. What Stokoe was able to do was add three and then to encourage these players to express themselves in a positive way for four months and become legends on Wearside for ever and ever.

Stolkoe comes across as a straightforward figure, more of a man manager than a master tactician and as someone who, at this time, could get the best out of the excellent raw material that he inherited.

Hindsight is a great gift, but Kerr, Tueart, Hughes and a few others wax lyrical about his ability to get them to play as they wanted to rather than the way that the more methodical, cerebral Brown insisted on. Deep down, they realise that Brown’s insistence on doing things his way, made them better players as they matured but that Stokoe was able to give them the licence they had craved under the austere Brown. Only Ritchie Pitt has bad words to say about Stokoe; the manager didn’t rate him and was keen to sell him. I had forgotten that Stokoe regarded John Tones as a better player than Pitt.
For people like me, it’s a wallow in nostalgia, almost like a sepia tinged print of what the game was like in the days when it was much simpler and uncluttered by financial considerations and restrictions on how you watch a game.

Hardy evokes this period exceptionally well in his interviews with the players and fans, who all realise that the product they are watching now is as far away from ’73 as ‘73 was from The Team Of All The Talents.

It’s an excellent read. If you are a younger fan, read it and you will get a whiff of the euphoria of those magic winter and spring months. If you are one of those, now in their 50s and above, who experienced it, the sights, the smell, the sounds and joy of Roker Park, Meadow Lane, Maine Road, Hillsbrough and Wembley and that utterly improbable, utterly glorious story will come flooding back.

As the song goes;

We went to Wembley Stadium, it was on the 5th of May

In nineteen hundred and seventy three, what a f****** day

We showed them how to drink Brown Ale, we showed them how to sup

We showed the Yorkshire B******** how to win the FA Cup

And now, we have an away trip to Portsmouth in a competition that, in its early stages, few seem all that bothered about. How times have changed.


** Stokoe, Sunderland and ‘73: The Story of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time. Published by Orion. Buy it at a bargain price at this link.

17 thoughts on “Long ago, when all the world willed us to beat Leeds”

  1. I have just found this site and I have to leave a comment. The 5th May ’73 is indelibly marked on my memory as the day I gained a daughter and lost a bundle! My wife was pregnant and as a passionate football fan I had told her not to have the baby on Cup Final day but she didnt listen to me and delivered a beautiful baby daughter at 2:50 on game day. I so wanted to see the game as I just knew Sunderland would beat Leeds and I was going to back that belief with a fiver(lot of money in ’73!) at odds of about 5-1 if memory serves me right. Couldn’t get to the bookies though and lost the 30 quid I would have picked up and then had to wait until Match of the Day to see the game!

    I have forgiven my wife since – only just though, and remind her on our daughter’s birthday about the 30 quid she still owes me! I also remember very fondly the Sunderland team that day and as an Arsenal fan, it was great to see Leeds get beaten. My lasting memory of the game is not the goal but the instinctive save that Montgomery made to to tip the ball over the bar from a Leeds shot that loked certain to hit the back of the net.

    Good luck to Sunderland this season and thanks for allowing me to remember what was a great day for your club and also a great one for our family.

  2. Bill – I’d painted the one shoe specially for the occasion. I was, of course, wearing my red and white Doc Martens on the evening in question.

  3. Damn! I wonder if it’s too late to get a correction in the Echo — I wrote that it was his boot!! I hope the Porterfields still have it, Paul. Did you spend the rest of the evening with only one trainer on or had you taken the gold one specially? Either way, good for you.
    It was a full-size truck, not a pickup. There was a considerable media presence including a lot of national hacks. Everybody wanted to be in on that particular act.

  4. Bill Taylor comments on his presence in the pick-up truck of journalists in front of the open-top bus in ’73, and that Porterfield had been waving his boot about.

    It was actually my Adidas Scorpion trainer, painted gold, that I’d lobbed up to a very bemused Ian at Belmont as the procession started. It’s the first time I’ve heard anything about it since.

    I’ve often wondered what happened to the shoe in question – whether went in the Porterfield loft., or the Porterfield bin in May ’73!

  5. mmmm Pete your in the older league im not there yet.
    Correct you on a few points
    Leeds even though 1/3 is rugby supported the 2/3 make them bigger and better than Mackems. You went to watch Super Leeds in the 50s well good going mate I wouldnt have endured that! 60s/70s much better.

    If Beckford stays and gets us up then job done we shall revamp squad again keep Johnson, Howson, Snodgrass and Kisnorbo and the young guns and away the lads (sorry couldnt resist).

    With regards the 73 final well I actually watched the whole match 2 years ago and was shocked. For over 30 years I have been told that was the luckiest cup win ever, well boys and girls it wasnt. Leeds played ok but not as well as S’land. Leeds had chances but S’land played out of their skins. Fully deserved cup win. My only issue is STOP talking about it its gone its history yes you won so end this. We dont keep going on about winning the centenary cup final in 72 do we?

    With regards the man u win – it was lucky but we deserved that luck since we went with a positive attitude to win and boy did we win. Shame what happened this weekend Exeter good god! and I wont mention Chelsea.

    Marching on together

  6. I was born and brought up in Leeds in the 1950’s. As a lad I watched Leeds RLFC at Headingley and they were always the biggest, best supported club in the city. My Uncle took me to Elland Road once and I was bored stiff.
    Leeds have spent three seasons in Division 3. They have an owner who is, to say the least, circumspect about his future plans for the club. Grayson has done an excellent job, but will he keep his players? Beckford doesn’t want to stay, Delph went. How good are the others?
    Leeds is not a football city, Sunderland is. Leeds are not a bigger club than Sunderland, because the city is divided between two teams in two different sports. Look at the respective grounds; modern, purpose built stadium v 1960’s relic with white elephant stand tagged on.
    The only way they outdo Sunderland is in the insufferable arrogance of their fans. I would imagine Division One will be glad to see the back of them.
    And as for lucky………. watch the dvd and see how effective Sunderland were. Watson, Hughes, Montgomery, Porterfield, Kerr were outstanding. Of course, some would say that Manchester United were unlucky on January 3rd – but not Mr Singh, I suspect.

  7. I like i like it, bring it on.
    We’re on a tour around league one grounds make a change from PL. Yeah we’ve slummed it for a few years in L1 but were back now, so Sunderland Mackems beware, anyway Leeds is miles bigger in all aspects …bigger city larger fan group, larger CLUB, thats us mate Super Leeds

    Enjoy the PL
    Best wishes.

  8. Your dad used to take you to Elland Road when you were 3 or 4 years old? That’s child abuse!
    Your memory as a 5-year-old of the cup final plays you false — nothing lucky about it. A beautifully taken goal and some stellar goalkeeping. Leeds was beaten fair (not a word they knew the meaning of) and square.
    You don’t seem to have grasped that League 1 is Division THREE. And “Championship” is a euphemism for “second rate.” And your Freudian slip is showing with your double-negative (“You havent done NOTHING”). We’ve done and are doing a great deal. Leeds has done a great deal, too, but that’s all in the past. Winning (if, in fact, you do) Division THREE is nothing to shout about.

  9. Hello Salut Sunderland
    Im a male im 42 supported the mighty whites for over 38 years.
    Your win in 1973 was the luckliest of the FA cup wins ever. I was 5 and recall it.

    Stop living in the past about former glories, or glory – 1 win in the seventies means jack all. You were a 2nd division team and we are top of League 1 soon to be in Championship and straight back to the dreamland.

    You havent done NOTHING since that fluke yet you have to cling on to something i suppose.

    Keep dreaming….

  10. all you mackams always go on about 1973 havnt we heard enough of it yet but i work up there and theres fuck all else to do so you might as well, all the women are ugly and you all still think the sun shines out of roy kean you sad gets, leeds forever!!

  11. I dunno how old A Singh is but does he/she honestly believe Leeds will be back in the Premiership in his/her lifetime? They may be a few points to the good at the top of League One but let’s not forget that’s actually Division Three.
    The photo of the Cats’ triumphant ride through the streets of Sunderland brings back a lot of memories. Right in front of the motorcycle cop in the picture was a truckload of journalists. I was one of them, covering it for the Northern Echo. An amazing experience; I’d never seen such ecstatic crowds — a tidal wave of sound following us as Porterfield waved his magic boot.
    There was a Guardian writer on the truck, too, who asked me at one point what “haway the lads” meant. As I wrote at the time, the crowd answered that one for him.

  12. Except, I suppose, that we have won both the top flight title and the FA Cup twice as often as Leeds (although SAFC fans are the first to acknowledge that half of our six championships were in the last century but one!).

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