THIS MUST BE A FAIRY TALE SAYS STOKOE
SUNDERLAND manager Bob Stokoe’s impact during the past six months when he dragged Sunderland from the depths of the Second Division, and plotted the down-fall of Manchester City and Arsenal on the way to Saturday’s Wembley battle with Leeds United, is impressive.
Stokoe’s name is echoed in the streets, in the shops, in every household on Wearside.
“When I came back to the North-East I did not expect anything quite like this. You get fairy tales, and this must be one. The way the people have welcomed the success of the club is incredible.
“I’m not grumbling, but I can’t go out of the house, or take the dog for a walk, without someone coming up and patting me on the back,” he says.
“The atmosphere which has been generated in Sunderland is tremendous, and I have never experienced anything like that moment at Sheffield when we beat Arsenal in the semi-final.
I can’t remember feeling quite like that even when Newcastle won the cup.
“The way the town has reacted to our Cup run is frightening to me. I am so dependent on the players. I get a lot of credit which I don’t think I deserve because I don’t go out on the field and do it. They are the ones who beat Manchester City and Arsenal,” says Stokoe.
The events at Roker Park this season have not happened by accident, although the degree of success was totally unexpected.
Keith Collings, the club’s chairman, says: “In October we took a good look at ourselves and decided that changes should be made. We altered the structure of the board, changed the manager, managed to get Bob Stokoe, and made some money available to him.
“Even when you get a new manager you expect it to take a while for him to settle in. I believe this is a platform from which we can launch into the future, and Sunderland has always maintained a First Division set-up.”
Judging by the views of Jack Tennick, the 64-year-old holder of the Sunderland Supporters’ Association number-one membership card, Stokoe need have no fears of reaction by the supporters after all the Cup Final excitement dies down.
“There is no doubt about it that Bob Stokoe has made this town a different place to live in by virtue of the success of the football club. When he first came here, Sunderland were fourth from the bottom of the Second Division, and look at us now, let alone what’s happened in the Cup. The way he has cajoled the players and brought the team to life in the past few months is amazing.
“If it were possible for Sunderland to be beaten in the final it would make no difference to the supporters, who will remain 100 per cent behind him after what he has done.”
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 3, 1973.