Stokoe confident his Cup fighters will all be fit

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SUNDERLAND manager Mr Bob Stokoe was well pleased with the haul of four points from three games over the Easter weekend, despite that fact that his F.A. Cup Final team was torn apart by sickness, injuries, and the two-match suspension of Mick Horswill. And there is comfort in his confidence that all his Cup fighters will be fit for the big day at Wembley on Saturday week.

Ian Porterfield, Billy Hughes, and Vic Halom are still undergoing treatment, but Dave Watson and Richie Pitt resumed training yesterday after missing all three Easter games. “I’d like Dave and Richie to get a game in this weekend so that they will be geared up again,” said Mr Stokoe “but we will have to wait and see.”

Jimmy Montgomery, Dick Malone, Bobby Kerr and Dennis Tueart were the only members of the recognised Cup side who appeared in all the Easter games and it was in the last one, against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night, that Tueart became a target for particularly tough treatment.

On Saturday, Sunderland will be playing their last home game before Wembley and the opposition will be provided by Mr Stokoe’s former club, Blackpool.

The fact that it is a confrontation with the team he left behind matters less to Mr Stokoe than a desire to put on a special show for Sunderland supporters before signing off at Roker Park and moving into their Cup Final headquarters at Selsdon Park.

“I want the strongest possible side for Saturday to make it a good day for the fans,” he said. “I know the Cup Final overshadows everything else at the moment, but we don’t like losing and we don’t want to give anything away. We want as many points as we can get to finish as high as possible in the League.

“Three months ago we would have thought 42 points and a place in the middle of the table would be great, but we can do better than that and we’ll certainly be trying.”

The players who bore the brunt of the Easter fixture rush were given a two-day break from training in line with Mr Stokoe’s belief that there is no need for tough training schedules while there is such a concentration of competitive match play.

The players will have their usual sharpening-up drill at Roker Park tomorrow before he looks for answers on fitness and decides what his line-up will be against Blackpool.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on April 26 1973.