BY FIRST light yesterday Sunderland fans were on their way to Roker Park to collect their tickets for tomorrow’s Fifth Round F.A. Cup replay against Manchester City. By private coach, by car, and on foot they invaded the street around the ground.
Because of the crowds the turnstiles opened ahead of the advertised time of 10.30am and 49,000 tickets, Sunderland’s share of the 54,000 gate fixed for Tuesday were sold in just under three hours. No returns are expected from Manchester’s 5,000 allocation.
A senior police officer told the Echo: “There was plenty of enthusiasm outside Roker Park, but everything went off in an orderly way.”
When extra police came on duty at 9am they estimated the crowd outside the ground at about 15,000. Having wound themselves several times around the stadium, the queues were stretching hundreds of yards along Roker Baths Road and Roker Avenue.
But the first detachment of the Red and White army had arrived at the ground just before midnight on Saturday night. By 2am there was several hundred fans huddling under the stands on one of the coldest nights of the year. “As supporters arrived back from Manchester they were going straight to the ground to queue,” Mr Jack Tennick, transport manager for the Supporters’ Association told the Echo.
Other fans slept in their cars in the Roker area to make sure of getting good places in the queue in the early morning.
The fans did not go without refreshment. Traders sold hot drinks throughout the night and at 6am more refreshment was provided by Mr Gordon Dimbleby, the club’s commercial manager.
Fans arriving at 9am queued as long as three hours, but later some of them must have been wondering whether their long wait was really necessary. Arriving at 12 noon an Echo reporter queued only ten minutes for a ticket at the Roker end.
And about 12.30pm there was still a handful of tickets available at the Fulwell End with the queues having disappeared altogether.
Some fans found themselves taking part in a game of football roulette. They had to guess which turnstiles were least likely to close with people still queuing. Those who guessed wrong had to scamper to other turnstiles where tickets were still on sale. It all added to the fun of a Cup crazy morning.
The exact ticket issue for Tuesday’s game is 54,227. Manchester have taken their full allocation of 5,000.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on February 26 1973.