Monsieur Salut writes: tomorrow, one week before Sunderland meet Portsmouth in the EFL Checkatrade Trophy final, Pete Sixsmith opens a mini-series on his own acquaintance with Wembley.
He wasn’t at Sunderland’s first cup final and nor even was I. We both had other things to do, like waiting to be born. It would be a long wait. Sunderland’s introduction to FA Cup finals came in 1913, our opponents were Aston Villa and although the match attracted a world record attendance of 121,919, it was not played at Wembley but Crystal Palace. The opening of what is now, in reconstructed form, our national stadium but was then the British Empire Exhibition Stadium, took place 10 years later.
Aston Villa beat us 1-0 in what was at the time described as a rough old scrap so would probably have been positively murderous by today’s standards.
The intensity of the contest was unsurprising: both clubs were huge at the time. Not only were we together in the cup final, we were locked together at the top of the Football League top flight. And that battle we won, our fifth championship. Only one more has come our way since, in 1936.
Pete and I missed both the 1935-36 title-winning season, too, and were also absent a year later in 1937 when we beat Preston North End 3-1 to lift the FA Cup for the first time.
But both of us, and especially Pete, have been at Wembley on several occasions since the start of our Sunderland-supporting odyssey back in the early 1960s.
Over the coming days, before we attempt to beat Pompey in our latest cup adventure, he will bring you some of his own memories in his extraordinarily warm, wise and eloquent way.
Ha’way the Lads.