Memories keep flooding back. If you’re old enough, they are your own, If not, you’ve had them handed down. Even Sunderland supporters well under 40 have a clear notion of what is must have been like – what it was like – 40 years ago today, Ken Gambles, from the first category, offers his own recollections …
So, 40 years have passed, in which time I’ve married,had children,become a grandad and retired, and yet Sunderland still remain frustratingly perennial under-achievers.
For that wonderful few months, however, all was well with the world culminating in that most unforgettable day at Wembley.
Living and working in London,as well as playing regular football on a Saturday I’d only managed to see the replay at Reading before buying a ticket from a tout at Hillsborough and then it was the undreamed of Final at Wembley.
By a great stroke of fortune my flatmate got me a ticket by courtesy of Oldham Athletic and although it was for the Leeds end it meant I wouldn’t miss the big day.
First though came a Monday night game in Cup Final week at Orient. Some 9,156 of us turned up to see Sunderland applauded onto the pitch by the opposition in what was to prove a 1-1 draw. Despite it being only five days before the Final just Monty, Porterfield and Tueart were rested from the team which eventually triumphed.
On the Saturday I’d arranged to meet some mates from Hartlepool outside of the stadium and Brew (bless him ) took my ticket and yelled to passers-by about a swap of a Leeds end ticket for a Sunderland one. Magically in less than 30 seconds a swap ensued and furthermore it was for exactly the same section as them.
Leeds, whatever their current supporters might think, were widely depised for their attitude to the game in terms of gamesmanship and uncompromising (I’m being polite here) play, so as well as our being underdogs Leeds were unpopular final contenders anyway.
Porterfield’s goal caused delirium -I still get goose pimples every time I see it even now -but there was still about an hour of play remaining.
When Monty’s save came in the second half the moments were almost dream-like in their passing. In that split second I can remember thinking what a good save from Cherry, but it had been immediately followed by the realisation Lorimer was lining up the equaliser and what a blow that would be, before miraculously the ball wasn’t in the net at all but back in play.
Seriously, for some seconds no one really knew what had happened until the realisation came that he’d saved it.
Monty was, and still is, my all-time football hero and had amost single-handedly given the club some credibility and dignity during the constant relegation battles of the late sixties and the treading water of the early seventies in Division 2 (Championship). If anyone deserved to be a hero on this day it was Monty.
When the final whistle blew it was the most marvellous moment, winning the Cup, Stokoe racing across the turf to embrace Monty and Sunderland supporters going mental.
As eventually we left the stadium all the talk was of how far this team, a match for the best in the land, could go. As per bloody usual with us it all fell gradually apart.
That evening as I waited at a major roundabout in Twickenham for my girlfriend (now wife) to collect me, still proudly wearing my rosette, I’d say a good 90 per cent of the passing traffic waved, gave thumbs up or tooted their delight.
The world loved us.
And in the subsequent 40 years on only rare occasions have we been anything like as popular: with the appointment of Paolo Di Canio (sorry, only joking), in the days of Superkev and Quinny banging them in under Peter Reid and the 2007 Championship season under Roy Keane.
The FA Cup Final is no longer what it was, nor are Leeds but like a Faustian pact, I had the most wonderful day of my Sunderland-supporting life. Yes,1973 was a great year – oh, and I also got married. (Sorry Pat!)
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/