All the lads and lasses of Budapest out on the town to celebrate a Sunderland win
Pete Sixsmith is not a man without romance. However, his idea of how to make perfect a romantic wedding anniversary weekend in Budapest – a choice of football games – is not necessarily one Madame Salut would share and risks being overlooked. There is certainly romance in the idea of our beloved club whizzing over to Hungary for a major European cup competition. We did it once, way back in 1973, and our Pete was there, breezing through the Iron Curtain to witness splendid goals from Billy Hughes and Dennis Tueart. Let him set the scene for some powerful memories …
While perusing Sunday’s 16-page Observer Special on “Why The Donald Was Able To Seize The Hearts And Minds Of Millions Of Americans” I was disturbed by the phone. Fearing someone trying to convince me that installing solar power was a good idea (in Shildon? Really?) I answered it with a certain amount of trepidation.
Fortunately it was Monsieur Salut, always a welcome caller at Sixsmith Towers, informing me that he and his good lady were heading for Budapest this weekend and he would be missing the delights of a home game with Hull City in order to sample coffee and cake in the Hungarian capital.
Should he be so inclined, he will be able to take in at least one game on the Saturday. At 2.30pm, just as the atmosphere is building up at the SoL – and the wretched clapper things are being dumped – MTK, the club that the Hungarian Secret Police attached themselves to after the Communist takeover in 1946, are playing provincial team Debrecen.
At 5pm, just as we are wildly celebrating/trooping disconsolately (delete as applicable) across the car parks, there is a seriously important Budapest derby between Vasas and Ferencvaros, 1st and 3rd in the league respectively.
Both clubs resonate strongly for me. Ferencvaros boasted the wonderful Florian Albert who played for them for his whole career.
He also played many times for Hungary, including the 1966 World Cup, where he gave a master class as the Hungarians beat Brazil 3-1 at Goodison Park. I saw that game on a black and white Ferguson and remember oohing and aahing at his touch and his masterful control of the ball. There is a grainy clip on YouTube which shows his touches in that game and the number of outstanding passes that he made.
The Brazilians were so demoralised by him that they resorted to the kind of tactics that one would expect to see at the bottom end of the Brandon and Byshottles Sunday League Division Three, but Albert had the last laugh. He set Ferenc Bene away and the Ujpesti player crossed for Janos Farkas of Vasas to score what is one of my Five Favourite Goals and then he galloped through the Brazilian midfield to set up Bene, who was brought down in the box. Meszoly (also of Vasas) stepped up to convert the penalty and Hungary were home and dry – as we say.
The Goodison crowd, who had gorged on players like Alex Young, Roy Vernon and Colin Harvey, took a real shine to him and he was cheered off the park; one Scouse wag (there are so many!!) said: “If I came home from work and Florian Albert was in bed with the missus, I’d go downstairs and make him a cup of tea.” He was that good.
Vasas are the home team on Saturday, although they have begun to demolish their stadium, the Rudolf Illovszky, and I am unable to direct M Salut to their temporary home.
With it being a top of the table clash, it could well be played at The Ferenc Puskas Stadium, once the Nepstadion (People’s Stadium), home of the Magical Magyars of the 40s and 50s and the only foreign ground where Sunderland have won a competitive European game.
And I know, because I was there.
The game was in the European Cup Winners Cup, the second most important trophy in the European canon and,unlike the Fairs Cup, a trophy competed for by teams who actually won something.
We were there by virtue of our win over Leeds United at Wembley in May while Vasas qualified by beating Honved, a team then associated with the Hungarian Army. Their final had taken place on May Day, four days before our glorious victory and Vasas had won 4-3 in front of 10,000 spectators at the Nepstadion.
When the draw was made and it was an exotic trip, I made up my mind to go. I negotiated a day off from my teaching duties (without pay and an assurance that I would be there the next day come hell or high water) and, along with a good friend called Don Coupland, reported for duty at Ponteland International early on the morning of September 19.
It was my first trip abroad, the passport was pristine and the weather was grim. Photographs were taken with Don hiding away as he did not want the Labour Exchange to see that he was away to Hungary and we climbed aboard the Dan Air Comet that took us across the North Sea and then behind the Iron Curtain.
Hungary was a relatively prosperous Communist dictatorship. After the 1956 uprising, Khrushchev and his successors Kosygin and Brezhnev had made sure that the Hungarians were pacified by a relatively comfortable life style; comfortable by East German or Soviet standards but not by those of the West. The leader of the Party, Janos Kadar, ran a fairly easy going regime and he was a keen Vasas supporter, often standing on the terraces to cheer his team on.
It poured down all day in the city. From getting off the plane to getting back onto it, the heavens opened and the goodly number of Sunderland fans were wet. No Goretex in those days; we were wet through and squelched around a city that was still showing signs of the 1956 Uprising.
There were bullet holes in the tenements and huge lumps of concrete missing from the edges of the buildings.
The coffee was different, thick, black and very sweet, a long way from the instant that most
English people drank at that time. Street food was sausages and bread and the beer was weak and not very tasty. However, plum brandy was taken by some of the travelling fans and for at least one member of the party, it was to be their downfall as they slept through the entire game.
It kicked off at 7pm after Ferencvaros had played Legia Warsaw in the European Cup. The Nepstadion had no cover save for a flimsy canvas tent that was for the protection of the Party leadership and their apparatchiks so, in true Orwellian style, everybody got wet apart from the so-called “brain workers”.
This was the last time that the FA Cup winning side played a whole game together. Ritchie Pitt was injured in the next game at home to Luton and never played again. Ended up as a teacher, poor sod. But he played in the club’s sole away win in Europe and I can’t see that record being challenged for quite a while.
We won comfortably with Billy Hughes opening the scoring with a flicked header from a Dick Malone cross. With two minutes left, Dennis Tueart slalomed through the Vasas defence and scored the finest goal ever scored by a Sunderland player in Europe. YouTube recorded a mere 2,407 views for this clip at the moment M Salut downloaded it …
There was a dinner for us in The Fisherman’s Castle overlooking the Danube and the city with its fine suspension bridge and magnificent Parliament building. Food and Bulls Blood were taken before we were ferried back to Budapeas Airport for the flight home. The Comet resonated to many songs and the sounds were as joyous as any I have known over the 53 years I have watched Sunderland.
Work the next day was a blur. Students did not believe that I had made the trip and the passport, complete with photo and Hungarian visas had to be produced the day after. Few knew where Hungary was; foreign travel was not widespread in the industrial areas of South West Durham.
I missed the trip to Lisbon and have waited patiently for another opportunity to see competitive European football at Sunderland.
Judging by this season’s performances, I may never see it again.