THE FA Cup is back on Wearside today – locked away in a secret place. And it will stay there until tomorrow when half-a-million ecstatic fans are expected to give it and the Sunderland team a welcome such as has never been seen of Wearside.
An estimated 500,000 Wearside men, women and children are expected to line the route as the Sunderland heroes drive to Roker Park in an open top coach.
The team will board the coach with the cup about 7pm at Carville, Durham, and will then drive along the main Durham Road to the Board Inn at Herrington.
From there the coach, escorted by mounted police, will take them slowly through the town along Durham Road to the town centre and finally to Roker Park, where they will parade the cup to as many fans as can be safety packed inside the stadium.
Mr Ron Linney, Sunderland AFC secretary, said today: “I can’t put into words what the atmosphere is like here today, so I can’t begin to think what it will be like tomorrow.”
The Cup itself was brought back on the coach with the players’ wives yesterday.
“We had thought of letting the wives parade it through the town as they came back. But it could have stolen a little of the thunder from the players.
“When we got back to Sunderland I put the cup safely under lock and key and it won’t be brought out until it is ferried to the players’ coach tomorrow,” he said.
All police leave in the town has been cancelled for tomorrow and there will be over 300 policemen on duty, as well as mounted police, special constabulary and traffic wardens, during the team’s triumphal tour. But police are expecting no problems, other than from the sheer weight of humanity.
A taste of what is to come tomorrow was given on Saturday night, when the town centre had a football fiesta. Chef Supt. Ronald Kelly, commander of Sunderland Police division, said it was like New Year’s Eve, as good natured crowds thronged Fawcett Street blocking traffic.
Last night cars festooned with red and white steamers and scarves were still driving around the town hooting their horns. Fans could still be heard chanting slogans and waving anything red and white.
But throughout the whole delirious time there was no serious trouble.
Welcome for fans
Supporters returning on one of the first excursion trains back into Sunderland got a heros’ welcome from fans in the town. Unlucky fans who couldn’t get to Wembley were out in force to welcome the train back at 1am.
The players’ wives were given VIP treatment during their journey up the motorway. When their coach carrying the cup stopped at a restaurant the staff were all wearing red-and-white and red-and-white flowers decorated their tables.
With the wives was Mrs Toni Collings, wife of the Sunderland AFC chairman, Mr Keith Collings. She was the attractive woman in a light-coloured coat and red hat that millions of viewers saw kissing the Sunderland players after they had received their medals at the Royal Box.
After the game the players, officials, and their wives were at a celebration banquet in London, where Mr Collings presented Mrs Bob Stokoe with a £750 pendant in gold with the letters SAFC picked out in red-and-white – in diamonds and rubies. Mr Stokoe’s daughter was also presented with a brooch.
Stories taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 7, 1973.