Salut! Sunderland is thrilled to join the chorus of praise for Jimmy Montgomery, who has been awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) for – and this is an understatement – services to football over the past half-century.
The official club site talks of Monty as a “Sunderland AFC legend and club ambassador” and quotes him as saying: “I am absolutely delighted and it’s a great honour to receive this award. I’ve been involved with football for a number of years, in many different and enjoyable roles. I have so many great memories that last a lifetime and to share this one with my family is something that I will savour [SAFC.com wrote ‘saviour’ which seems a Freudian slip – Ed].”
SAFC’s chief executive officer Margaret Byrne – once, I believe, a member of the SAFC Supporters’ Association London and SE branch – described Jimmy as a “true gentleman … held in such high esteem by everyone in the city”, a view definitely held by Salut! Sunderland codgers who have come across him.
And let us mark the occasion by republishing a piece – without amending dates etc – that appeared during our 2013 series on the 40th anniversary of the 1973 FA Cup final that remains, in the broader public vision, Monty’s finest achievement in a career that took him beyond his Wearside home ground to Birmingham City, Vancouver Royals, Southampton and Nottingham Forest.
Continuing our series of reminiscences of May 5 1973, Salut! Sunderland talks – thanks to the excellent Jeanette Sutton (nee Coyle) – to Jimmy Montgomery. Check out the generic link – https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973 – for commemorative items you may have missed. Monty was not alone; there were 10 other heroes that day against Leeds United – Dick Malone, Ron Guthrie, Richie Pitt, Dave Watson, Mick Horswill, Ian Porterfield, Bobby Kerr, Dennis Tueart, Billy Hughes and Vic Halom – plus the unused substitute David Young. But Monty was an obvious choice to speak to …
It was not, in Jimmy Montgomery’s view or mine, the best game he ever played.
But in the few seconds it took him to make his extraordinary double save from Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer, Monty ensured his place in the imaginary goalkeepers’ hall of fame that inhabits the minds of countless fans of every club in most countries where footballs are kicked.
“It’s absolutely as fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday,” Monty told me in a warm, chatty phone call set up by a friend from his young days at Roker Park, Jeanette Sutton (nee Coyle).
“And I mean the whole match. If someone switches on the TV and it’s on, you can stop it anywhere at random, I could tell you exactly what happens next. And I don’t deny it’s lovely to sit back and watch it.”
Now 69, Monty vividly recalls the whole run, the sudden realisation after Manchester City were beaten in the momentous 5th round replay at Roker that “maybe we’ve got a chance of going all the way – we hadn’t thought way until then”.
And, when quarter finals and semi finals led to the final and lifting the trophy how much it meant to the local lad!
“To me as a player it was something you grew up with, you always wanted to win the FA Cup,” he says. “Being local and playing for the local club, my club, representing my town, you can understand what it was like. A dream coming true. To bring the cup back to Sunderland, to have that parade – we knew nothing about it before – was absolutely unbelievable. It spoke volumes for what people wanted, what it meant.”
For anyone who needs to know, Monty was a Sunderland fan before he was a player.
“My dad took me to Roker Park from when I was seven or eight. I couldn’t tell you now what my first game was, though I remember a big cup game against Tottenham (somewhat later; he’d have been 17 when a 6th round tie ended 1-1, Spurs walloping us 5-0 in the replay- ed).”
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/
He started with his father in the Clock Stand before moving leftwards and upwards – to the highest barriers of the Fulwell.
“Just loved it, good days with big crowds and a brilliant atmosphere. Then I was on the groundstaff at 15-and-a-half … goodness knows what I would have done if I hadn’t played football.”
Monty recalls his 17 years at the club with affection as well as pride. Alan Brown gave him his first chance, a league cup game at home to Walsall on October 4 1961 (5-2, including a Brian Clough hat-trick, and we reached the 5th round), and by the end of February he was the first choice.
Which brings us to, or close to, the best game I saw him play. Happily, Monty agrees.
Season 1962-63 (the Clough injury, the heartbreak of just missing out on promotion); Monty ever-present in league and cup tournaments. On Decemeber 8, we travelled to Huddersfield, paper round money in my case providing the means, train – if I remember correctly and often I don’t – the transport.
Q: “So do you think the Wembley double save was the best of your career?”
A: “I think I made better.”
Q: “Well, the best memory of you I have is at Huddersfield in 1962. Do you remember than one?”
A: “That was probably the best game I ever played! We were battered for 45 minutes and then came out and won it 3-0.”
For anoraks, Brian Clough got two, George Mulhall the other, and there was big away contingent among the 21,260 crowd.
Monty’s first-half saves – a whole stream of them as Huddersfield threatened to do a Villa on us but a bit earlier in the game – were sensational.
I seem to recall a narrow brush with assault causing actual bodily harm on my way back to the station after unwisely waving my Sunderland scarf in the general direction of a less than appreciative Huddersfield supporter’s face. I was only a young lad; Sixer, even younger, may have saved me by angrily hurrying me along.
Monty has seen all his successors keeping goal for Sunderland. He agrees the club has had a string of great goalies but especially rated Tony Norman and Chris Turner.
He is honest enough to say that while Simon Mignolet also deserves much applause, he represents an aspect of goalkeeping he considers alien, the tendency to charge out of goal and spread the body to block a striker’s attempt to score.
To Monty, speaking the morning after Christian Benteke completed his hat-trick by slotting a shot from a tight angle through a gap left by such spreading, this is not proper goalkeeping. “You’d try a block now and then,” he says,” but nine times out of 10 you’d try to stand up and set yourself to deal with the shot.”
These days, having been in and out of SAFC in various positions since his playing career ended at Nottingham Forest in 1980, Monty is the club’s worldwide ambassador.
From a ‘Who are You?’ interview with a Birmingham City supporter bearing the name of Kevin Ball:
Q: Plenty of past links between our clubs beyond SuperKev and Clark: Craig Gardner, Steve Bruce, Steven Caldwell, Seb Larsson, James McFadden and Andy Cole (only just), Nicklas Bendtner and, going back, Jimmy Montgomery and Mike Hellawell. I just stopped looking them all up, but who sticks in the mind?
A: Some good names there eh? I have to pick Montgomery out of that list because many people reading this won’t remember him [remind us! – Ed]. A goalkeeper who helped win the cup for Sunderland also played for Blues. I remember one game where we were totally under the cosh from Villa, but he saved absolutely everything thrown at him. We went on to pinch it 1-0. He was a very dependable keeper.
Monty greets former players attending to SoL games, meets fans galore and travels the world promoting Sunderland AFC. On Sunday night, he will be at the stadium for a special anniversary meal with the nine other surviving members of the 1973 line-up, plus the substitute David Young. Dennis Tueart called during Monsieur Salut’s chat with Monty to confirm details. Only Ian Porterfield is no longer with us; he died in 2007.
“Great set of lads,” says Monty. “We all got on great as a team and we still have great laughs when me meet up.” But back to 1973 and May 5. Monty missed most of the spectacle of Bob Stokoe charging across the pitch to acclaim his goalkeeping hero.
“My back was turned,” he remembers. “The Sunderland fans were right behind me and I was clapping them. When I turned back, Stokoe was just 10 yards away. What a lovely occasion, great to recall.”
Ever the fan, Monty knows Sunderland are living in dangerous times.
Like most of us, he could barely work out the stunning nature of the collapse at Villa Park. “So many people chose the same night to have bad games,” he says. “But I have been in that position myself when everything just seems to go wrong. We have to bounce back. It would be a wonderful way to round off the 40th anniversary to go out there and beat Stoke City a day later.”
* Salut! Sunderland’s usual thanks to http://www.therokerend.com – brilliant site and home of the SAFC Former Players’ Association