The glory that will never die in Sunderland

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Today we launch a weekly Retro round-up – a nostalgic look at Wearside life over the years. Heritage writer Sarah Stoner focuses on 1973 in this first feature.

WEARSIDE went football crazy and football mad in 1973.

Homecoming FA Cup 1973 old ref number sport 6 19

Homecoming FA Cup 1973 old ref number sport 6 19

With odds of 250-1 against them, and written off as hopeless cases by the pundits, Sunderland AFC arrived at Wembley for the FA Cup Final as the rank outsiders.

Just hours later, the team’s proudest moment in 36 years arrived, when the mighty Leeds fell to the Rokermen – thanks to a goal by Ian Porterfield.

“It was the highlight of my career, of course it was,” skipper Bobby Kerr was later to recall. “I’ll never forget 1973. No one would ever let me forget it anyway.

“You do try and get on with life, put it behind you a bit, but the subject always crops up. It was a wonderful day for Sunderland. We had a great rapport with the crowd.”

Homes and firms were festooned with flags throughout the cup run, while the win prompted street parties galore. A Welcome Home parade attracted 500,000 visitors.

“Sunderland won because they were undaunted by the myth that Leeds are invincible and brought qualities Leeds were lacking,” the Echo told its readers.

Wearsiders in their thousands “took over” London on May 5 to support The Lads at Wembley, pouring into the capital by train, coach, car and plane.

Twenty coaches left Park Lane in the early hours – part of the biggest fleet of coaches ever run by United Northern Companies – and 14 trains were specially chartered.

Even the Sunderland players themselves broke a travel record – becoming the first team to be taken to Wembley on a coach wired for live TV.

And, although heavy rain fell on London that morning, it failed to dampen the spirits of the Sunderland fans – or players.

“Because they believed in each other and in themselves, Sunderland’s brave and skilful Cup fighters won a place in soccer’s Hall of Fame,” the Echo reported.
l Wearside baby Ian Elliott scored headlines of his own in May 1973 – after being born just as Ian Porterfield kicked in Sunderland’s winning FA Cup goal.

“My sister was shouting “It’s a goal – it’s a boy!” His name just had to be Ian,” said his mum, Ann, of Villette Brook Street. “He arrived just as the goal was scored.”