SIX of players who fought Sunderland’s cause so magnificently in two Fifth Round games against Manchester City were spared the rigours of a League visit to Luton Town on Saturday. Five of them are given an extended break and will not start their preparation for Saturday’s Sixth Round tie until tomorrow, but Richie Pitt, who missed training last week through a virus infection, will be given the benefit of a run-out with the Reserves against York City Reserves at Roker Park tonight.
The big build-up for the game, mentally and physically, starts tomorrow and Manager Bob Stokoe promises to produce them in the right shape to play the game of their lives on Saturday.
“This is the most important game Sunderland have played for years,” he said, “and I have given the players every opportunity to get over their knocks and bruises and come up sharp and fresh.
“Naturally, they are all a little bit starry-eyed with the Cup and the atmosphere which goes with it. But when you get within three hours of Wembley everyone gets a little anxious.”
He warns that ambitious Luton have just as much to play for. “If they get a result on Saturday it would be no better performance than ours in the previous round in holding Manchester City at Main Road and beating them in the replay. And City were generally rated bigger favourites to beat us than we are to beat Luton.”
Mr Stokoe is well briefed on Luton’s strengths and weaknesses, having managed Carlisle United and Blackpool sides against them, in addition to Saturday’s below-strength sparring match. “We know what we are taking in and I am still confident that we will do well. This is going to be a tremendous week for us.”
Ray Ellison, who received slight concussion early in Saturday’s game, is recovering well on precisely the lines described by the Luton club doctor.
“There has been no reaction,” said Mr Stokoe, “and he will be training tomorrow, though he will not be heading the ball for a day or two.”
The training schedule throughout the week covers two sessions a day at Washington New Town tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday with a final work-out at Roker Park on Friday.
For their North Midlands League game against York City at Roker Park tonight, John Hughes will make his first appearance in competitive play since being injured in the early seconds of his debut against Millwall.
He will line up at No. 11, the position in which he gained his first full cap for Scotland in the home international championship.
The team will be: Forster, Coleman, Rankin, Hepworth, Pitt, Tones, Harrison, Chambers, Lathan, Hamilton, Hughes J. Substitute, Shannon.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on March 12 1973.