Sunderland, Leeds and Wembley 1973: a Frenchman in search of the Roker Roar

Steed gets some last-minute training in
Steed gets some last-minute training in

The latest edition of French Fancies is special and timely, a must for any Sunderland supporter who happens to be studying – or knows a little of – the language of Molière.

Entrez, s’il vous plaît, our new friend Kevin Quigagne, who is French but has been in England for 21 years, lives in the North East and follows the Lads with some enthusiasm when not demonstrating a soft spot for Sheffield Wednesday.


Kevin has produced a tour de force par excellence at his French-language blog Teenage Kicks: a four-part series on the anniversary of the 1973 FA Cup Final entitled Sunderland, à la recherche de la clameur perdue (in search of the lost clamour). The lost clamour? The Roker Roar.

The series kicked off with some powerful words:

Mackem bairns do not grow up watching Teletubbies or similar sterile distractions but in front of DVDs of the 1973 Cup Final. Transfixed. The date is a local obsession in every respect. The fact is that for every supporter of the Black Cats, it is impossible to escape permanent remembrance of that glorious time when the FA Cup counted every bit as much as the league. The phone number for the club ticket office ends in 1973 (0871 911 1973), the bars of the stadium carry the names of heroes of ’73 as well as other SAFC legends and there’s a fanzine called Seventy3. For many veterans, time stood still 40 years ago.

And above all, there is the majestic statue of Bob Stokoe in front of the Stadium of Light. This monument to nostalgia immortalises those few magical seconds when Bobby ran towards his hero, Jimmy Montgomery, at the final whistle, arms in the air, trilby on his head, red trousers and overcoat flowing in the wind. An original statue financed by fans was inaugurated in 2006 two years after the death (at 73!) of the man who had given pride back to an entire region Bob Stokoe. Total funds raised? £73,000 of course (the statue cost £68,000 and the balance went to an Alzeimer’s charity project).

We can perhaps argue about the extent to which the children of Wearside have grown up deprived of television characters, or indeed whether quite the whole region took enormous pride in Sunderland 1 Leeds United 0. One reader, “roberto cabanastonvilla”, posted a comment praising the series while admitting that his brother-in-law, an out-and-out Mag, would disapprove. But the points are well made all the same.

Jake remembers ...
Jake remembers …

There are interviews with older fans, one with a pre-1973 player, Cec Irwin (in the final instalment), links galore to YouTube clips, excellent use of photographs and great input from Kevin’s French and/or Francophile readership.

Claude Kervern, himself a blogger, with a site about a youth sport association in Brest, wrote: “In 73, two days before the final, I was in London on a school trip. I found myself in Trafalgar Sauare where there were hundreds of Sunderland supporters having a party. They weren’t like the paunchy, short-haired English football fans we’d known. This was the time of Slade (”Cum on feel the noize”) and the Sunderland fans were very young, in blue jeans and their red and white striped shirts and long hair.”

Claude goes on to compare Kevin’s epic to Homer’s Odyssey, and why not? “Just too beautiful,” he declares. “We’ll never replicate the fervour of these ordinary guys.” He actually used the phrase petites gens but you can take it from me it was not a pejorative reference.

Don’t worry if you haven’t a word of French beyond ooh-la-la. There’s so much to look at, clips to explore and – if you really struggle – that familiar linguistic tool, dodgy online translations.

Bravo Kevin. Yours is the last but one part of Salut! Sunderland‘s 1973 commmemorative series, with just the homecoming parade – 40 years ago today – still to appear, this afternoon.

I hope you have enjoyed the articles, the memories, the history. Ha’way the Lads …

1973 May 5See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory:

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Monsieur Salut, by Matt
Monsieur Salut, by Matt
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