John McCormick writes:
Dennis Tueart was on local TV today, with a clip of his 1976 League Cup Final goal against Newcastle (and I have to say he looked a lot older and he’s lost weight), but that’s all I’ve seen about the final. Maybe both Manchester teams not doing well in Europe has muted the North-West TV bosses. I’ve been busy, of course, making arrangements for the weekend. Venues and times, phone numbers to exchange and confirm, and also organising a ticket for the Palace match.
One person I haven’t had any contact with is Pete Sixsmith so I’m looking forward to having a pint with him on Sunday (when I’ll apologise for posting only half of this piece at first). Here, whetting my appetite, are his ideas on who will tread the turf of Wembley:
So, here we are. The Salut Sunderland team are eagerly awaiting their first visit to the new Wembley Stadium to watch Sunderland. We have seen internationals, Vase Finals and Rugby League Challenge Cup Finals, but this is the first time that we and 30,000+ Sunderland fans have seen our team run out at the home of English football.
The butterflies are beginning to flutter in the expansive Sixsmith tummy. The mind is churning over what team we should play, what will happen if we win and what will happen if we get a spanking like the one at Ashburton Grove last week.
But the main feeling is one of pride as South West Durham, always a Sunderland heartland, rejoices in the fact that we have got to a final and we actually have a chance of winning it.
I have attended all of Sunderland’s appearances at Wembley barring the 1937 win and the strange competition that the Football League held in 1988. In 1973, as recounted a year ago, I travelled with college friends overnight on a train that would not have looked out of place on a Romanian branch line. Every moment of discomfort was worth it as that day became the defining day of mine and a whole generation of Red and Whites lives.
In 1985, it was a weekend in The Regent Palace Hotel, an institution already past its sell by date, huge amounts of beer, Hank Wangford and a disappointing defeat to Norwich City.
1990 was a flight from Guernsey, more beer and a dismal performance against a Swindon side, whose administration was even more corrupt than the departed Ukrainian government. Add to that Steven Wilson almost being arrested by the Secret Service for shouting at Tory Home Secretary David Waddington, who was on our flight back to the Channel Islands, and it was not a great day.
Two years later, we lost to a Liverpool side who exhibited all the arrogance and unpleasantness that we have come to associate with big time football and then there was the heartbreak of 1998. It might have been the best ever play off final for the neutral but I hated every minute of it – particularly the last one when poor Michael Gray saw his penalty saved by the Charlton keeper.
And so we come to the League Cup Final of 2014. As in 1973, we are huge underdogs. As in 1985, we are struggling to avoid relegation. As in 1992 we are up against a side who have top class players and who can display an overwhelming arrogance based on results and performances.
But we start the game level with them. There are no league points at stake. If we lose, we are no worse off in the battle to stay up. And if we win……………
Gus Poyet has made all the right noises this week, talking about how much a win would mean to the club, the city and those parts of the region who have not been seduced by the “charms” of the Sports Direct Arena. He knows that in the long term survival to play Stoke, Aston Villa and Southampton next season, is paramount. The Premier League is where he wants to manage; it is where the players want to be and where the owner definitely needs to be if he is to maintain his high levels of investment in the club.
But sometimes dreams become more important than the day to day realities of life. If we win, we have a trophy. If we stay up, we have nothing tangible. The chances of us breaking into the top four or even the top six is as great as that of the Daily Mail complimenting Ed Milliband on his policies and his green wellies. So, I might just be prepared to do what Joe Boyd did in Damn Yankees and sell my soul to Mr Applegate in the hope that both scenarios (we win on Sunday and we stay up) occur.
For the first to happen Poyet must get his selection right and we must create a tempo at the start of the game and not, most definitely not, allow City to dictate to us. If that happens, the likes of Silva, Navas, Toure and Aguero will pick more holes in us than there are in Rab C Nesbitt’s string vest.
Who does he pick? This is what I would do were I in the manager’s hot seat and looking forward to leading the team out. Comments appreciated;
Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Alonso; Larsson, Colback, Ki, Cattermole, Johnson; Borini Subs from; Ustari, Celustka, Vergini, Gardner, Altidore, Giaccherini, Fletcher, Scocco.
I can’t see him playing either Altidore or Fletcher. The American has not done the job he was brought in to do and has never looked a Premier League player. Fletcher is not fully fit and surely could not play a full game after four weeks off.
If Gus is adventurous, he may go for Giaccherini over Larsson. The Swede gives us more stability in midfield and works hard. He did well in a losing cause last week and has won this trophy with Birmingham (they were relegated). On the other hand,Giaccherini is an exciting player who may just rise to the occasion and cement his place in the hearts of Sunderland supporters as much as Ian Porterfield did all those years ago.
Are we up for it? Support wise, we will blow City away at the start of the game. There will be red and white shirts all over the stadium. The TV audience will probably be rooting for us. If we can match them early on, we have every chance. If they beat us because they were better than we are and we made them sweat for it, I can live with that.
What I can’t live with is a supine performance where, like Baldrick’s war poem, we start badly, tail off in the middle and the less said about the end the better. We have to be disciplined and strong. They will surely take the game to us as is their preferred style. We need a performance like the ones at Newcastle and Everton, where every player thinks about what he has to do, does not go lunging in and does not make any disastrous back passes. Let’s leave that to DeMichelis.
I will be crawling out of the master bedroom at Sixsmith Towers at 3.45 a.m. on Sunday. Pardew the Butler will be preparing the coffee and kedgeree for breakfast and will be laying out my 1973 replica shirt, my red and white pants and a pair of trousers last worn on that wonderful day when we won the hearts of the nation. I will then lock him in the coal shed with some bread and dripping. He deserves no more.
To all those going, have a wonderful day/ weekend. It is 41 years ago since we bet City in that wonderful game at Roker Park. They had Summerbee, Bell and Marsh. We had Pitt, Guthrie and Halom. Underdogs do bite. Let’s take a huge hole out of the seat of their pants and win this bloody thing!!!!
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