Sunderland, Leeds and Wembley 1973 (9): Sixer’s Soapbox on a day of glory

Jake remembers ...
Jake remembers …

Pete Sixsmith***** was there. Monsieur Salut was not, having been repeatedly promised a ticket by a drunken colleague whose work gave him close contact with Wembley. The promises continued right up to May 4 but the ticket did not materialise.. A fabulous day all the same, even if you had to watch it in an upstairs company flat in Uxbridge (upstairs of said colleague who was nowhere to be found) before heading off to sink pints with the Co Durham lads who always ended SAFC awaydays at the Wealdstone ex-Service club. Pete describes the day, as I could describe that night, as if writing for this site on May 6 1973 …

What a day.
Never in my 22 years on this planet have I experienced a day like this. Never again will there be a footballing day to match this one. Oh what joy it is to be alive.

This is being written in an alcoholic haze after an overnight train from Kings Cross to Sunderland, a train that was full of disbelieving Sunderland fans, revelling in the greatest victory in the club’s history. Work tomorrow, but who cares.

I am sure that everyone reading this saw the match. We have very little televised football and I know that the FA Cup final is a game when the whole nation stops what it is doing and sits in front of the new colour set from Radio Rentals and soaks up the Wembley atmosphere.

That’s what I have done in the past. The build up, Meet the Players, Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo, It’s A Cup Final Knockout, I’ve seen them all. But not this year. Not on May 5th. 1973. Because I was there, in London, at Wembley, roaring the lads on to the greatest cup final victory in the history of the competition.

It was a great performance. There were 11 heroes out there on the pitch and one in the dugout. Not one of them put a foot wrong – or in Monty’s case, a hand. It was brave, gutsy and not without skill. But most of all, it was about determination and commitment and organisation – and we had all three in abundance.

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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Players like Ron Guthrie, plucked from the obscurity of the Central League, Vic Halom, a journeyman striker signed from Luton and the likes of Monty, Billy Hughes, Richie Pitt, Bobby Kerr, Mick Horswill and Dennis Tueart products of our excellent youth policy set up and nurtured by Alan Brown and brought to fruition by Bob Stokoe, surely a candidate for the England job when Ramsey finally leaves.

Towering over them all was the new Charlie Hurley, Dave Watson, who gave a display that smacked of numerous England caps once he has led us back to the First Division next season. He headed, tackled and passed as if he knew that this was his destiny, that the years spent flogging away at Meadow Lane and Millmoor were worth it for this. Surely he is the second greatest centre half the world has ever seen.

And for Ian Porterfield, who had been in and out of the team under Brown, there was vindication of the £45,000 fee paid for him 5 years ago, when his volley beat Harvey and brought the cup back to Roker Park for the second (and I am sure, not the last) time.

Not only did he take the goal well, but his careful passing and his refusal to give the ball away cheaply frustrated Billy Bremner, who appeared to identify the Fifer as a soft touch. How wrong the wee redhead was.

From an old birthday card sent to Monsieur Salut
From an old birthday card sent to Monsieur Salut

It was a day to remember for the rest of your life. When I am in my dotage, I am sure I will regale all and sundry about the wonderful save that Monty made from Cherry and Lorimer. I gather that David Coleman was sure that Leeds had equalised. Monty, local boy, loyal servant, cruelly overlooked for Mexico, broke Revie’s team’s hearts. They were never in the game again after that.

There are so many stories of the day. People sleeping in the luggage racks of the ancient carriages that trundled through the night to carry Wearsiders to the capital; the torrential downpours that caught us out several times in the course of the day; Sunderland fans swarming all over the capital and delighting camera-clicking Japanese tourists with their antics.

After the game toasts were made to absent friends who had failed to get tickets. The Sherlock Holmes, just off Trafalgar Square was crammed with fans asking the long suffering barman for pints of Elementary. The fountains in the square, having had red dye poured into them, were turned red and white as Roker fans danced the night away. Foreign visitors must have thought that three years of living under the savage yoke of Ted Heath had made the nation mad.

Then, back to Kings Cross to snap up the first copies of the newly pink Football Echo, flown down from Wearside to London so we could read about the astonishing victory we had witnessed. Rarely has a paper been so keenly devoured, rarely has there been so much good humour and bonhomie in the seedy pubs and restaurants alongside Kings Cross. As well as witnessing my first cup final victory, I also witnessed my first Chinese Runner as a table full of red and whites brilliantly choreographed a successful dash for the door.

A wonderful, glorious, fabulous day, which ensures that Sunderland are back in the limelight and will be joining Leeds, Newcastle and the rest in the First Division after the formality of promotion next season. The club will also embark on the first of what I am sure will be many European adventures. This has all the makings of a club that will be a permanent fixture at the top end of the table for many years to come.

Ha’way The Lads!!!!!!

Sixer: still a happy man when he thinks of this day 40 years ago
Sixer: still a happy man when he thinks of this day 40 years ago
***** Pete Sixsmith’s writing lights up the pages of Salut! Sunderland. He is also as knowledgeable about football and SAFC as they come, and in large measure from first-hand experience. Pick a moment from Sunderland’s history over the past half century and he was probably part of it. Salut! Sunderland salutes the incomparable Sixer.

4 thoughts on “Sunderland, Leeds and Wembley 1973 (9): Sixer’s Soapbox on a day of glory”

  1. Looking out of my work window now at Wealdstone club. It’s still a popular place for visitors to Wembley.

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