THOUSANDS of Sunderland soccer fans arrived in Manchester about noon today and made straight for Maine Road to ensure a place in the ground before the expected early closing of the gates for this afternoon’s FA Cup-tie against Manchester City.
A decision earlier this morning to postpone the First Division match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Crystal Palace meant that thousands of Manchester soccer followers who would have gone to Old Trafford would also be heading for Maine Road.
This afternoon’s fifth round Cup-tie is not all-ticket and earlier in the week City officials predicted that there would be a gate of about 45,000. But today a club spokesman said that because of the United game being off – due to a frozen pitch – a capacity 50,000 crowd was anticipated and arrangements were made to open the turnstiles early.
Early this morning 10,000 fans left by road and rail in the biggest exodus of Sunderland supporters since the team’s Cup marathon with Manchester Utd in 1964.
Among the early travellers was Miss Gertrude Carr, from Park Parade, Roker who has followed the club since she used to take the short walk with her four brothers and three sisters to Roker park at the turn of the century. She never tells anyone her age but admits being in her eighties – a fact which did not stop her taking a place at the front of the queue at Sunderland Railway Station waiting to board a special train for Sunderland Supporters Association.
British Rail also laid on a train for other fans and the line of supporters wound a red and white path into Fawcett Street.
Undaunted at the prospect of being in a jostling crowd, Miss Carr felt that a draw was on the cards. “I would like to see them back at Roker Park on Tuesday night,” she said.
Travelling with Miss Carr was her nephew, Mr JK ‘Kip’ Watson, of Folldon Avenue, Fulwell, who was wearing a rosette he sported when Sunderland beat Preston North End in the 1937 final. He was also carrying a bell he brought for 6s 6d and which was first sounded at Southampton during Sunderland’s first game on the way to their only Wembley appearance.
Mr Watson also took it to the games with Manchester United in 1964 (Sunderland’s promotion year), when City could only finish in the top six of the Second Division.
He regarded as an omen the fact that the last time Sunderland won the Cup, Manchester United were relegated. “It looks as though Sunderland can win the cup on that principle,” he said.
Footnote: Sunderland’s sixth round FA Cup marathon with Manchester United in 1964 began at Old Trafford with a 3-3 draw after Sunderland were leading 3-1 with minutes to go. The replay at Roker Park ended in 2-2, but the second replay at Hudderfield, United emerged 5-1 winners.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on February 24 1973.