WEARSIDERS “took over” London today as they poured in by train, coach, car and even plane. From early morning the capital was aglow with red and white favours and emblems of all descriptions.
Londoners – used to cup finals and other big event invasions – said they hadn’t seem enthusiasm like it for years.
With two Northern sides in this afternoon’s final, the “invasion” took on particularly impressive proportions.
The first of the 14 trains crowded with Sunderland fans arrived just after 3am.
Leeds United are in the final for the second year running, and the excitement of their fans was at a lower pitch. But the cup holders had their share of fanatics.
Earlier, as the 5.57 special left Sunderland railway station, Mr James Carling, British Rail’s area manager, said: “It’s just fantastic. We had a hectic round all last night. To look at them you would think Sunderland had already won the Cup. I don’t know what it will be like if they do. They’ll just go mad when they get back here.”
As each of the trains left cheering supporters hung out of carriage windows. The Echo special was right on time and by 7.15am only the cries of the seagulls could be heard after the “League Liner,” chartered by the Supporters Association, had pulled away.
In all 11 trains carrying 7,000 supporters left Sunderland. Six during the night. Three others had left from Newcastle.
In Park Lane where the biggest ever fleet of coaches run by the United Northern Companies picked up hundreds of passengers shortly after midnight, the scene was one of “absolute chaos” said a spokesman.
The first 20 coaches left at 12.30am and by 6.30am another 20 coaches had taken more supporters. The Company put on 60 coaches and were taking bookings up till the last minute.
Two Viscount charter planes left Newcastle Airport carrying 60 supporters each, and there was another charter flight from Teesside.
Sunderland taxi drivers said it was just like New Years Eve. “We never stopped all night,” there were parties all over town, we couldn’t get near the station for crowds. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said taxi driver, Mr Thomas Donkin, of Flodden Road, Ford Estate.
But not every fan who left Wearside had a ticket. Three young supporters from Hebburn were among the hundreds who left in the hope of buying one outside the ground. They were prepared to pay up to £18 for a ticket and one man said he would go as high as £50.
And those who had tickets were confronted by people trying to buy them. Bidding was going as high as £30 – but nobody was selling.
At Wembley itself although minor ticket touts faced a big operation to keep them out of business at the stadium, big-time black market operators had already done well out of this year’s match.
Profits for dealers were well up this year despite the fact that they paid more for tickets.
Some who bought £1 stand tickets for £9 compared with £6 paid last year, have been selling them at £12 to over £20 to late comers.
“Fantastic,” said a British Rail official at Sunderland station as he toiled to see 7,000 fans off in 11 special trains. And the enthusiasm of the group (below) was typical of them all. No wonder he also observed: “What’s it going to be like if we win?” The cheers they sent up as they left were too much for 8-year-old Christopher Nevin (right), of Cleadon. But though he covered up his ears he seems to be enjoying the excitement.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 5, 1973.