Amid all Sunderland’s more pressing problems, it seems almost incidental to reflect on how old you now have to be to have any dependable first-hand memory of May 5 1973: Porterfield’s goal, Monty’s double save, Stokoe’s sprint and our cup.
Never forget that the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association voted years ago to change the name of its newsletter from 5573 to Wear Down South, an excellent title but the choice reflecting younger – and also some older – members’ reluctance to be reminded quite so regularly of how long had passed since the arrival of serious silverware at Roker Park or the Stadium of Light.
And we all know what has happened to the status and allure of the FA Cup in more recent times. It was different in 1973. And if Monsieur Salut’s younger daughter, Nathalie Randall, were somewhat older, enough to have seen that win against lofty, dirty Leeds, it’s a fair bet that the emotion and glory of that day – and her father’s celebrations – might have have steered her into lifelong support of Sunderland, not Liverpool.
But let Nathalie explain how her own feelings about the competition have been affected by two unexpected results, Wigan’s heartening act of giant-killing and Rochdale’s draw against Spurs to ensure at least one day out at Wembley …
Those who watched the recent games involving Wigan/Man City and Rochdale/Tottenham would be left in no doubt that there remains a lingering trace of FA Cup magic that many grew up to love and some feared had long ago started to fade.
The old story of supporting the underdog in the face of much superior opposition had once again reared its beautiful head.
Wigan were only the third side this season to dismantle Man City – playing at full strength – and claim the scalp of the side virtually certain to win back the Premier League title, an achievement they richly deserve.
It was a truly amazing result, an old-fashioned David and Goliath outcome. League One Wigan gave everything they had, competing with the determination and desire that only a tie like this in the FA Cup can bring.
Granted, City had Fabian Delph controversially sent off in the dying seconds of the first half and that, in all honesty, was enough to swing the match in Wigan’s favour. But I found myself rooting for a Wigan win and cheered Will Grigg’s winner as loudly as anyone.
The game had all the passion some feel has been missing in the modern era with the allure of the Premier League and Champions Leagues taking precedence. In fact, we saw that passion in the furious exchanges of the two managers, Pep Guardiola and Paul Cook.
We also saw ugly scenes at the end that should have no place in a game that seemed to have emerged from the dark ages: the pitch invasion and the Wigan fan allegedly spitting at Aguero, resulting in the Argentinian lashing out.
Even so, Wigan did their bit on the field and now have Southampton at home in the quarter-finals. It looks to be a game they have every chance of winning and plenty of new fans will be spurring them on after their heroics this week. And I hope they win the points from their three games in hand to regain top place in League One.
From the same division, but the opposite end of it in the table, Rochdale defied the odds to snatch a last-minute draw against another in-form Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur.
With the game poised at 1-1, Dele Alli won a dubious penalty which Harry Kane expertly put away on 88 minutes. One would be forgiven for thinking the game was done and dusted with so few minutes remaining.
However in the dying seconds up popped Steve Davies with a dramatic screamer to clinch a fantastic draw. The day out for the players and fans at Wembley for the replay will be a fantastic experience. Can they achieve the unthinkable and win the tie?
It is matches like these that remind people that the romance of the FA Cup can still cast a powerful spell.
Given his obsession with diving, my dad wouldn’t forgive me if I did not mention another aspect of the Rochdale-Tottenham match.
Rochdale’s manager, Keith Hill, declared that while he thought Alli had dived for the penalty, he hoped Alli would do the same for England in the World Cup this summer.
Dele Alli is fast gaining a reputation for diving, and is still only 21. Alongside Wilfried Zaha (a player Tottenham are interested in buying), he has received the most cautions in the league for simulation since 2015-16.
It is probably true that many of those castigating Alli now for diving in respective League and Cup domestic games will be cheering him should he repeat this in the World Cup this summer and winning penalties for England. There is the argument that all the “other teams will do it so why can’t we”.
I am a little more old school. If England are good enough to win on merit of their play, then they don’t need to cheat to win, it is as simple as that. But no, England are not good enough to win the World Cup and yes, we will probably see a lot of simulation this summer from other teams. It remains to be seen whether FIFA will seriously clamp down on these antics.
But at least on the domestic front, we can feel that Wigan and Rochdale have done so much, with jus one match apiece, to restore faith in the game.