Bill Taylor could not make the final and watched it instead at his parents’ home in Bishop Auckland. His dad had been at Wembley for the previous Sunderland FA Cup-winning final, against Preston North End in 1937, and was gutted not to be able to repeat the trip 37 years later. He is no longer with us, unfortunately, but must have been quite pleased that his lad, then a Northern Echo reporter, was able to play a bit part in the homecoming parade that brought 500,000 onto the streets of Sunderland on this day 40 years ago. That’s it, the last of Salut! Sunderland‘s series of articles remembering May 5 1973 …
May 5, 1973 was a triumph all around, not only for Sunderland but for me and my friend (and Northern Echo colleague) Steve Wolstencroft, who went on to become sports editor of the Scottish Sun.
The Black Cats scored one and Steve and I scored 11 apiece…
We shared a flat in Darlington and if we had a TV (memory fails) it certainly wasn’t colour so we watched the Cup Final at my parents’ house in Bishop Auckland.
Steve was a Magpies fan (no one in those days had the faintest inkling of what a Barcode might be) but we weren’t quite so rabid about our rivalry back then and he was happy to watch a North-eastern team at Wembley. As I recall, he tried but couldn’t quite bring himself to cheer for Leeds. It was Jimmy Montgomery who finally turned him into a believer.
After the shouting had died down in our front room – my dad had been at the 1937 final and rued not getting to this one – Steve and I headed off to the Top Hat club in Spennymoor. And, for the first time for either of us, got into double figures – a pint for every man on the winning side.
It was ice-packs and short-lived vows of sobriety for the pair of us next day.
But there was more shared glory to come.
As I wrote in the Echo at the time and reiterated here three years ago, I was on the media truck, a large artic, that immediately preceded the team bus as it made its triumphant way through the streets of Sunderland, pummeled by wave upon wave of sound from a crowd on the brink of hysteria.
My story began something like: “The road to Roker Park could have been paved with gold last night and not a soul would have noticed.”
Something like that. What I remember better is the error I made, which went uncorrected for 37 years and finally came to light here at Salut! Sunderland.
Ian Porterfield was hanging over the side of the open-topped double-decker waving a boot at the crowd. I made the very basic journalistic error of not checking. I simply assumed it was the one he’d scored the goal with.
And wrote as much here in late 2009. Paul Dobson – Sobs of A Love Supreme and, often, here too – set me straight: “It was actually my Adidas Scorpion trainer, painted gold, that I’d lobbed up to a very bemused Ian at Belmont as the procession started. It’s the first time I’ve heard anything about it since. I’ve often wondered what happened to the shoe in question – whether it went in the Porterfield loft, or the Porterfield bin, in May ’73!”
Paul wasn’t at the celebration only half-shod. He’d painted the shoe gold for the occasion and was wearing his red-and-white Doc Martens.
This must have set a record for the delay in getting a correction published in a newspaper but on January 26, 2010, Mike Amos in his Backtrack column finally set the record straight.
I felt better. And, coincidentally, was introduced to Paul by Monsieur Salut at Mike’s retirement do the following year.
Time is a funny thing. A week after the Cup Final, I met the woman was to become – and still is – my wife. We’re coming up later this month on our 36th wedding anniversary.
And it was 36 years that separated Sunderland’s two FA Cup wins. So you could say we’re four years overdue for our third. Who knows when next we’ll be in the final?
Whenever it may be and whatever the result, it won’t be the same. Just as the ’73 final and aftermath must have differed considerable from that of 1937.
JL Carr wrote his implausible but wonderful little novel, How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup in 1974. I like to think he might have been at least a little inspired by the previous year’s final.
For me, the last few sentences of the book say it all:
“And it is sad to know that those days, win or lose, can’t return. Nor those remembered faces be gathered into one place again.
“I stood there… in the dusk one Saturday in January and, the next thing I knew, Mr Fangfoss was there as well. ‘Mr Gidner,’ he said, ‘I know what you’re looking for. But it’s gone, and it’ll never come back.’
“Then – and only for an instant – our chairman gave himself away. ‘And more’s the pity, lad,’ he said.”