You may have thought John McCormick stretched things somewhat when he wrote about his trip to the 1973 semi-final. He disagrees, having retained a fairly clear memory of that remarkable day 40 years on. When it comes to the final itself, John says, things are much more cloudy leaving his recall of that particular weekend full of holes …
I didn’t come up in any of the ballots during our cup run and, living 120 miles away, my chances of getting a final ticket were remote. It was my brother-in-law Ed who came to the rescue and somehow got me one, at 3½ times face price, if I remember correctly. That £3.50 was surely a bargain, you might think, but my student grant was only £350 for the whole year so it was a lot of money at the time. And from there things do get vague. I hitched home to take the overnight train down from Newcastle. But did I hitch home on the Thursday or the Friday? I really can’t remember. I’m equally unsure about my return to Hull. I got a lift from a Leeds supporter on the way; he was very complimentary and said something like “My God, you brought a lot with you” but I’ve no idea if that was on the Sunday or the Monday.
And what happened between? I have no memory of Bob Stokoe running across the pitch or of Bobby Kerr lifting the cup. What’s more, some of the memories I do have are false. I was behind the goal when Montgomery made his alleged double save. I say alleged because I saw the ball hit the back of the net, which bulged. Then the ball dropped and bounced out of the goal. As Dick Malone kicked it away I said to my mate “we’re going to get stuffed now“ but for some reason the ref gave a throw. I’ve replayed the video, watched the save on YouTube and so on, but my memory of Leeds scoring is so powerful I can see it even now. I swear to this day that I saw the ball hit the back of the net.
I do have some memories which are not only clear but true. I remember Richie Pitt’s tackle, Vick Halom’s charge on Harvey and players collapsing as the game reached its end. Horswill, flat on his back, sticks in my mind. I didn’t hear the whistle and thought if a player as tough as him couldn’t hang on we were stuffed. (TV replays only show Billy Hughes on the ground. If you were there let me know if I’m right about Horswill and others going down at the end of the game).
And I do remember Ian Porterfield’s goal, which I saw very clearly and, from the moment Dave Watson went for the ball, in glorious slow motion.
All in all, true or false, these memories are just a small part of a great story, one which could have inspired Shakespeare. He must have loved days like this; look at how, 150 years after Agincourt, he managed to convey the hopelessness, the spirit and the eventual triumph of a beleaguered army in one short speech.
So what would he have written if he had been there, in that fateful place upon that fateful day? Not northern France on 25th October 1415, that is, but northern London on 5th May, 1973:
O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those tickets
retain-ed by the sweet FA!
What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? Oh, my fair cousin;
‘Tis true they’ve hangers-on, there are enow
To do our fanbase loss; Committee men,
get tickets, aye, and luncheons that hath prawns.
I’d love, Dear ‘coz, to give them all what for!
By Jove, I am not covetous for goals,
Nor care I who doth feast upon my pies;
It yearns me not if men do want to stand;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to want a ticket,
I am the most offending soul alive.
Thank God, my section came up in the ballot.
But faith, my coz, wish more for Durham folk.
God’s peace! I’d easy share another hundred
The Duke of Kent* might deign to pass to me
For the game of our lives. O, try to get some more!
Go and proclaim it, Westmoreland, throughout the touts,
That he which hath spare tickets for this match,
Let him cough up; a toerag he remains,
unless he sees true fans get just desserts;
We would not die in that man’s company
That would steal a penny from a dead man’s eye.
This day is call’d the feast of Porterfield.
He who heads south, and staggers home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Porterfield.
He who gets in, and sees the game,
Will yearly on the vigil mock a Magpie,
And say ‘To-morrow’s when we wellied Leeds.’
Then will he sway the scarf and show the stub,
And say ‘the fifth of May and I was there.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What deeds they did that day. Then shall their names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Stokoe and Kerr, Watson, Pitt, Malone,
Tueart and Guthrie, Halom, Horswill, Hughes,
Be with Montgomery and Porterfield rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Ian’s goal shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we who cheer and sing shall be remembered –
We few, we noisy few, Sun’land supporters;
For he who goes to chant “Haway the lads”
at Wemb-er-ley; be he ne’er so vile,
This day will gentle his condition;
And men in dodgy bar-rooms scabbing Sky
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not there,
And hold their fanhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That walked with us along the Wembley Way.
*President of the football association at the time
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/