Sixer Says: memories great and grim as Leeds cup battle looms

A day to remember
A day to remember

Pete Sixsmith, currently playing Santa for the children of County Durham, was born in Leeds and is an ardent supporter of the Leeds rugby league side. But we all know him as a passionate Sunderland supporter from boyhood, when he arrived in the North East and saw the light of righteousness. Who better to look at the history of our FA Cup encounters with Leeds United, 3rd round opponents at the Stadium of Light in January? United fans who want to engage in proper banter are welcome to add their own recollections or thoughts on Pete’s musings (one of them might even volunteer for the ‘Who are You?’ interview) …

Isn’t the BBC doing a rather splendid job with the FA Cup? After years of ITV and their desire to squeeze in as many advertising breaks as possible, it is a real pleasure to see non commercial TV take a real interest in a competition that gets better the further down you go in it.

I missed Monday’s live draw from ‘ull due to work duties on the railway. Broadband connections at the North Pole (aka Stanhope) were iffy so many thanks to John Penman and Sixsmith Minimus who texted the outcome of the velvet bag fest to me. I was hoping for Dover Athletic away, as The Crabble would have been a new ground for me. Instead we got Leeds United at home.

We have a history in the FA Cup dating back to 1927 when they put us out of the competition 3-2 at Elland Road. Forty Years On, to plagiarise that scion of the Scratching Shed, Alan Bennett, we played them in an epic Fifth Round tie that took three games to settle.

The first game at Roker was a 1-1 draw in a game that was marred by Bobby Kerr’s broken leg after a legitimate tackle by Norman Hunter. Neil Martin (better than Eusebio according to the Fulwell End song) had put us ahead, only for Jackie Charlton to level eight minutes later. The game was fierce and competitive and was played out in front of a massive crowd of 55,763.

Four days later, just before my 16th birthday, while a lot of my friends were getting their first 50cc scooters with their 50cc scooter insurance to race to the games, the two teams met again at Elland Road in front of what was a record crowd for United of 57,892. There were few Health and Safety concerns in those days as an estimated 15,000 Red and Whites squeezed into whichever part of the ground they could.

From the wall of my bunker in France
From the wall of my bunker in France

It turned out that Elland Road was incapable of taking a crowd of this size and there was severe overcrowding, leading to the collapse of a crush barrier. This led to fans pouring onto the pitch and a hold up in play. The injured were taken to hospital and the game resumed with fans squatting on the touchline within touching distance of the players.

And we criticise Health and Safety regulations!!!

Once again, we took the lead, this time through John O’Hare (When we want goals he’s always there, as the Fulwell Song Book had it) only for Johnny Giles to level within a minute. The game swung end to end, went to extra time but no winner could be found.

In those days, ties were played to a finish. The penalty shoot out was for foreigners; in England a tie was played to the end. So, five days later, we trundled off to Boothferry Park, Hull for another go at settling it.
It was controversial. Both teams had injuries, having played on the Saturday. We lost 3-0 at Stoke, a game remarkable only for my 16th birthday and Colin Suggett’s debut. He was an unused sub at Boothferry as the teams lined up.

Rod Belfitt put them ahead and it looked as if it would be enough. Then, Alan Gauden, in for Bobby Kerr and later to be a firefighter with the Durham Fire Brigade, rattled home an equaliser with 12 minutes left. Then it got controversial.

Cec Irwin (one of the Flowerpot Men –“Cec and Len, Flowerpot Men”) brought down Jimmy Greenhoff. With indecent haste, referee Ken Stokes awarded a penalty, ignoring the fact that the foul was outside the box and that Greenhoff was yards offside anyway.

Peter Lorimer wrote in his autobiography that Don Revie had told his players to go down wherever they could and that he was never sure if Stokes had been nobbled. We were convinced that he had and some fans tried to get at him and at Billy Bremner but the police cleared the pitch and Johnny Giles slotted home the spot kick.

There was still time for the two Georges, Herd and Mulhall to be sent off, Herd for a hack at Terry Cooper and Mulhall for using his extensive Aberdonian vocabulary on Mr Stokes.

So, four ties and not one win against United, until that glorious day in 1973. And no FA Cup tie since then, so this is a resumption of hostilities.

Pete: no split loyalties
Pete: no split loyalties

They have not had to look hard for troubles over the last few years. On their last visit to Wearside, in 2006, they were dispatched 2-0 on Boxing Day thanks to goals from David Connolly and the excellent Grant Leadbitter. The performance they put up that day under Dennis Wise and his assistant, a Uruguayan whose name escapes me at the moment was feeble and they finished the length of the division behind us as they were relegated with Luton and Southend.

Since then, they have had points deducted, changed managers on a regular basis, nearly gone out of business, banned various newspapers from the ground and had three different proprietors, the latest of whom has failed the fit and proper ownership test. They look as far away from a Premier League return as we do from a Champions League place.

But their fan base has held together and they will probably travel in large numbers to this game, leaving the rusting and ageing hulk that is Elland Road in order to gaze on a thoroughly modern football stadium that is not hemmed in by railway lines, terraced houses and industrial units. It is when passing by train that one realises how small Elland Road is.

Some good news on contracts, with Connor Wickham signing a new deal with the club. He has looked a good player at times this season and clearly Gus and the coaching staff have faith in him; he has started every PL game so far.

Hopefully, he will have a couple of new teammates in January – maybe even in time to play against Leeds.


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10 thoughts on “Sixer Says: memories great and grim as Leeds cup battle looms”

  1. For weeks after the Hull replay there were constant hope-filled rumours that the game was going to be replayed because of the ref being bribed, and I seem to recall Stokes was meant to referee a game at Roker shortly after and there were so many threats about getting him that he was replaced at the last minute.

    I was at the first match at Roker, it was all-ticket and me and my mates left home at 5 a.m. when they went on sale, I was 9 years old, there were no buses that early in the day and we walked along the railway lines from South Hylton to Seaburn, Jesus!!!

  2. Younger supporters will not understand how much those of us who were about in the 60s despise LUFC to this day and those too young to remember the 70s why we despise Coventry City FC just as much.

    For me, losing to Leeds next month would be worse than failing to beat The Mags 3-0 again.

  3. 1973 was the one that counted and it will always reamain so. I first encountered the brutality of Revie’s Leeds on Boxing Day 1963 when they were played off the park by Sunderland, Leeds spent the whole game trying to kick Sunderland off the park. It was one of the most satisfying wins I have ever experienced but little did I know that Leeds would prosper and we decline. Still when Leeds almost went bust and they ended up in the equivalent of the old Third Division

  4. The second replay at Hull’s dilapidated ground was one of my first away games with my mates. We boarded a Tennick charabanc and had a good stop in Yarm for some under age drinking. Then on to Hull and, as Sixer has reported, we were on the receiving end of some very controversial decisions. Still, we only had to wait a few years for retribution.

  5. I’d never previously heard of the Revie link before Phil. It does have my mind racing in terms of how things might have turned out.

    • My good manners and all round gentlemanly demeanour prevent me from saying what I think of that cheating twat Revie!

      • I’ve posted this link before, but just in case anybody is any doubt about Revie’s “integrity”….

        Apart from the revelation about Revie’s diving instructions, it’s worth reading for Billy Bremner’s quote, do you think he actually said this? They don’t sound like the words of a rough-hewn Scot.
        : “As the ball went into the Sunderland net, some of their supporters went wild. They surged on to the pitch to vent their displeasure in no uncertain terms and one fellow, twirling a haversack round and round in the air, made straight for Willie Bell … Behind him came three or four other gents, equally intent on forcing their attentions on Willie. Things were looking a bit grim, because I knew that Willie wouldn’t be likely to take such treatment with a light jest and a smile. He’d be more likely to hammer back, if someone tried to stick a fist on his jaw.

        “Then, in the nick of time … a copper materialised, as if from nowhere, and, for my money, he could have won his way into the Leeds Rugby League team, the way he brought down that fan with a flying tackle. It was perfectly timed … The other fans who had invaded the pitch took quick stock of what had overtaken one of their number, and they were deterred. That copper, I feel certain, prevented a real free for all punch up, maybe involving players of both teams.”

  6. Dear Santa, were you there in 1927 and can you bring me a proper 1927 goal-scoring centre forward for Christmas? Another Bob Gurney would do fine

  7. I dislike Leeds as much as any Sunderland supporter, of a certain vintage, but can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the board had managed to prise Revie away from Leeds following Brown’s departure.

    According to many accounts I’ve read we were very close to doing that which makes me ask the question “would we have ended up being as despised as Leeds were/still are?”

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