Pete Sixsmith is ready for his latest excursion with Sunderland to Wembley. Will the Lads – without Monty or Ian Porterfield – make him a happy as he was on his first visit? …
HERE WE GO
Trip number eight to “Wembley, Venue of Legends” aka The National Football Stadium, is rapidly approaching.
It’s not a great record for me with one win, two draws (both ending in penalty shootout defeats) and four straightforward losses.
Each game has defining moments, so allow me to share them with you before discussing the runners and riders for Sunday.
In 1973, it was Monty’s save. Ian Porterfield’s goal was marvellous but the save won us the game. Had Dirty Leeds equalised, they would have won comfortably.
But the spirit drained out of them when he saved the second attempt and on we went to wrap it up. For a Sunderland-born player to do that in a game we were not expected to win has got to be my favourite Wembley moment.
In 1985, it was Clive Walker’s penalty miss. We had conceded a silly and avoidable goal and then two minutes later, had the chance to equalise after Dennis van Wijk handled the ball in the box. Walker, who had been in good form that season, stepped up, seemingly full of confidence and promptly hit the post. We never recovered.
In 1990, it was several defining moments as Tony Norman pulled off save after save after Alan McLoughlin had shanked one in to put The Moonrakers ahead. But the real defining moment came a couple of weeks later in an FA Committee Room, when Swindon were exposed for the cheats they were and we took their place in the First Division.
Much rejoicing in Sunderland and Oxford (they don’t like Swindon) and much gloom in Swindon and Newcastle (who had finished third and demanded that they be given the place instead).
In 1992 it was probably John Byrne missing a good chance early in the game. This one passed me by completely and ranks as one of the dullest games I have ever seen – maybe. Liverpool looked right tits in their white suits.
In 1998, it wasn’t poor Micky Gray missing the 14th penalty kick that defined it. Martin Smith was on BBC Newcastle on Wednesday and said Gray was not a great penalty man but that he would never criticise him for taking one when others didn’t.
The key moment came when, with five minutes to go and Charlton wilting, Lionel Perez, resplendent in his white top, came charging off his line for a ball that was never his and allowed Richard Bloody Rufus, a good centre half but not one renowned for his goal scoring, to head home an equaliser and force extra time.
In 2014 it was a tackle by the (rightly) much lauded Vincent Kompany that defined that game. Fabio Borini had scored an excellent opener and when he was put away again just before half time, a second looked certain.
Kompany came across and timed his challenge to perfection; one slip and it was a penalty and a red card but he won it cleanly and City went in to the break with a chance. They took it…
Finally, six weeks ago, the defining moment came when Portsmouth changed their approach at half time and instead of being all nicey-nicey, switched to being aggressive and forceful as Ollie Hawkins and Gareth Evans appeared and bullied our central defenders. From being in cotrol, we became second best and eventually lost the game on pens. Boo, hoo.
Now to Sunday. Will I witness my second Sunderland win at Wembley?
And let’s keep plugging Jake’s Sunderland song for Wembley …