As the FA Cup 3rd round looms, and just for the memories, here are some jottings that have cropped up here in the eight years since Salut! Sunderland was created …
Forty-one years on from our great triumph at Wembley, 77 years after we had last done it and a shorter time, though still too long, since the FA Cup seemed to stop mattering to most, a 3rd round tie would not merit undue attention.
But memories and emotions have been stirred, for many though perhaps not for all, by the pairing of Sunderland and Leeds, contenders in what Wikipedia calls “one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition” back in 1973.
Most of us are more concerned about staying in the Premier and, at last, moving away from yo-yo status or threat. Leeds fans may dearly want revenge for Wembley but they, too, would probably settle for an early exit if concentrating on survival led to a surge up the Championship table.
Even the London and Southern England branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association voted to change the name of its newsletter from 5573 after younger members began complaining that 1973 was an awful long time ago, and highlighted our subsequent under-achievement.
Yet a title recalling such a glorious day in our club’s history as May 5 1973 seemed a perfectly good one to me, and I was among the minority voting to keep it (though I quickly acknowledged that the new name, Wear Down South, was even better).
We didn’t just win the FA Cup that day in the spring of 1973; we earned a place in history for the manner in which we did it, raising our game as an above-average Division Two team to overcome mighty, arrogant opponents for whom winning would have seemed like just another day at the office.
Some excellent memories of the day have cropped up over the years at Salut! Sunderland, some new and others drawn from other sources, notably Monsieur Salut’s Celebrity Supporter that began life at 5573, entered young adulthood at Wear Down South and then found itself being reproduced here (you do tend to repeat things with age).
Here are a few of them. Feel free to add your own:
Melanie’s best SAFC moment came after the family moved briefly to Kent. Now 5573 is a collection of numbers that might strike a chord with a few supporters. Melanie’s May 5 1973 was spent at home in Gillingham watching Sunderland 1 Leeds Utd 0 on the box as her mother went off to meet Uncle David, who had got her a ticket.
“I can still see her that evening, staggering down the street half-cut in the red PVC coat she’d bought specially for the cup final, and carrying a fake cup and a flag. Goodness knows what the neighbours thought. They wouldn’t have understood, but even now I love to think of it…it’s so brilliant to have a memory like that of your mother.”
Denise Roberston (agony aunt, author)
She remembers sitting up all night knitting scarves for the boys to wear when the FA Cup was brought home in 1973. All that red and white wool? Not quite. The shops had been bled dry of red, and she had to make do with orange. “Terrible stuff,” she admits.
Steve’s own childhood memories include the 1973 Cup Final and afterwards, when the players took it in turns to visit clubs to show off the trophy.
Wherever they went, they were plied with as much drink as they wanted. Let us just say that when the roadshow reached Hebburn Labour Club, the two players in charge of the cup had such an enjoyable time that the police took it into safe custody over night.
Pc Cram was on night shift. When he got home, he roused young Steve and his younger brother Kevin – who sadly died in a fall, aged just 39, while out running very soon after our conversation – whisked them off to the station to be photographed holding the trophy.
“I was about 12,” Steve, pictured on the left, recalled. “It made me realise I’d love to be a top sportsman, even if I wasn’t good enough to do it at football.”
Alan Price (pop, blues and jazz musician who topped the charts with the Animals)
Since leaving the North East, Alan has seen only occasional Sunderland games. He flew back from working in Los Angeles for the 1973 FA Cup Final. To most people, it was a fairytale, but Alan had predicted the outcome. On TV with Jack Charlton, he’d said we would win 1-0 while Jackie insisted that we had no chance.
That night, at the West End victory banquet, Shack and Jackie Milburn danced (with their wives, not each other; Shack would surely not have invited a Mag on to the floor) as Alan sang his heart out for the Lads.
Later, he rang his brother. John, sadly no longer with us, who had watched the game nervously at home. “You know,” he told Alan, “my behind was nipping the buttons off the sofa.” Hands up those WDS readers who practicised their own button-nipping technique as they read that.
And what was May 5 1973 like for me? It was, of course, brilliant, but tinged with the bitter disappointment of not being at the game. This is how I described it earlier in Salut! Sunderland‘s life:
Each year, my dad’s role (as secretary of Shildon AFC) brought him a ticket for the FA Cup Final. Fantastic news, in 1973, for his Sunderland-supporting son? Not likely. He’d promised his ticket elsewhere long before our cup run gathered steam and, being a thoroughy decent man, kept to his word.
It shouldn’t have mattered. A drink-sodden colleague – I was by then working for a local newspaper in London and he was its sports editor – promised me a ticket every day we spoke, from the Monday after the semi-final victory against Arsenal to the eve of the final itself.
The ticket never materialised and, though he was my neighbour in a company-owned flat, he was nowhere to be found on May 5 1973. Then, or soon afterwards, he disappeared from the flat and from the paper, to live in a caravan in East Anglia according to some.
And I watched the heroics of Monty and Porterfield at home in Uxbridge, later joining a whole gang of luckier, ticket-bearing fans from Shildon to celebrate at a workingmen’s club in Harrow.
Everyone who was alive in 1973 has memories of our win. Even those who weren’t have knowledge of it, because it has been drummed into them, if they come from Sunderland-supporting households.
Will it happen again? One part of me hopes not, or at least not in that fashion. Don’t ever forget that the occasion is remembered by neutrals and historians because we were the victorious underdogs.
And much as I enjoy being a victorious underdog, it would be nice to think that Sunderland can now build on the first fruits of the Drumaville/Quinn/Keane revolution. And go on to be something that no one alive today has known unless they were old enough in 1937 to care about such things: an established footballing force that approaches each season with the expectation that every major trophy is winnable.
That, at any rate, is the dream. And if it comes true, I’ll let you know if I like it. For now, let’s just raise a glass to the memories of Bob Stokoe and Ian Porterfield and to the rest of our heroes of 35 years ago today, and remember that another anniversary – a centenary this time – occurs later this year.
Put Dec 5 2008 in your diaries now: it will be 100 years to the day that the biggest away win in top flight English history occurred. As every SAFC fan should know, we beat Newcastle – that season’s champions, would you believe? – 9-1, the last eight of our goals coming in the second half.
Ha’way the Lads once more.
* See also: two fine Who are You? interviews.
One – at https://safc.blog/2015/01/fa-cup-who-are-you-1-part-of-sunderland-family-supporting-leeds/ – features Susan Gutteridge, the official photographer of the wonderful SAFC Ladies team.
Yes, the game will be a special occasion for me. Although I have been a Leeds supporter for as long as I can remember, I have a soft spot for Sunderland and you could probably say they are my second team. Natalie my daughter, started playing for Sunderland Ladies back in 2006 and I suppose the interest started then. I bet there are not many houses in the North East where a Leeds and Sunderland shirt are drying side by side on the washing line!
The other is with Julian Young, a friend in Paris with painful memories of 1973. At https://safc.blog/2015/01/the-fa-cup-who-are-you-2-proud-of-that-dirty-leeds-tag/
They were a hard-tackling team, perhaps overenthusiastic at times! But it never bothered me being called Dirty Leeds – in fact, secretly I was rather proud.
** And here is Pete Sixsmith’s review, published in 2009 and again at the time of the 40th anniversary last year, of Lance Hardy’s book*** about the final: https://safc.blog/2013/05/sunderland-leeds-and-wembley-1973-part-4-when-everyone-willed-us-to-win/
*** Stokoe, Sunderland and ‘73: The Story of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time. By Lance Hardy. Published by Orion. Buy it from the Salut! Sunderland Amazon link or at this link.
**** And anyone with a real thirst for more from the same cup will find a selection of other articles about May 5 1973 at https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/