Feature - Sunderland 1973 legends reflect ahead of FA Cup clash with Leeds

Micky Horswill, Dick Malone and Jimmy Montgomery talk about their FA Cup win at the Stadium of Light

Micky Horswill, Dick Malone and Jimmy Montgomery talk about their FA Cup win at the Stadium of Light

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A NOSTALGIC atmosphere awaits at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, as Sunderland face Leeds United in the FA Cup for the first time since 1973.

This time the roles are reversed from that famous Wembley victory, with Sunderland the firm-favourites against a Leeds side perched a precarious one point above the Championship relegation zone.

The Echo’s CHRIS YOUNG sat down in conversation with 1973 cup winners Jimmy Montgomery, Dick Malone and Micky Horswill to reflect on that famous day, how it has changed their lives and Sunderland’s quest for subsequent silverware.

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN THE DRAW CAME OUT?

JM: It’s the first time we’ve played them (in the FA Cup) since that historic day, so it’s going to be Goliath against the underdogs again, but this time the other way around.

Leeds are in transition and going through a difficult period of time at the moment.

They are where they are, and if we maintain the way we’re playing, then we should go through alright.

LAST YEAR SHOWED WHAT THE CUP CAN DO FOR THE CITY

DM: As Jim rightly said, the cup games are iffy because form and league position goes out the window.

The Sunderland team will be approaching the game with a positive attitude; thinking they’re going to win, and I think that’s what Leeds did against us.

But the town itself is just crying out for a bit of success.

If we can manage to get through to the final again, then that would be outstanding really.

MH: The whole team went down in March, apart from the one or two who are missing.

Mr Short invited us all down and we had a fantastic weekend.

I went into Covent Garden and Leicester Square at night-time, and it was just a fantastic atmosphere.

The supporters are just waiting for something like that to happen again.

I think for the teams who are not in the Champions League, it’s massive for the supporters.

JM: And we’ve got to be realistic, we’re not going to win the championship, but you’ve got a chance of winning a cup.

I’m sure Gus will take it seriously with a strong side.

LET’S GO BACK THEN, TAKE US THROUGH THAT FAMOUS DAY

DM: Well, I never slept.

MH: He was out on the town!

DM: Well, I didn’t like to say that! But no, if I slept an hour I’d done well.

But it didn’t have a negative effect the following day. I was so pumped for the game and constantly thinking about it.

I was thinking about how I was up against Eddie Gray.

I was awake pretty much all night. The match day started for me the night before.

MH: I don’t think any of us slept because we were so excited. The night before there was a programme on the television with Jackie Charlton and Brian Clough on a panel.

They were talking about how Leeds were going to pummel us and give us a good hiding.

That geed us all up. We didn’t need a team talk after that.

I roomed with Joe Bolton, who was just one of the young lads.

We just ate bags of sweets all night and watched the television.

The next morning we went down for breakfast and all the television cameras were there, so we all sat around.

Billy Hughes, God bless him, had a laughing box.

We all went down in our scruffs, while Leeds, in the other hotel, were there in their suits and ties early in the morning.

We were there in our scruffs and every time one of us were asked a question, Billy set the laughing box off.

Nobody answered a question really because we were laughing so much.

JM: That’s one of the main things I remember, the laughing box.

MH: It kept us from thinking about how good a team Leeds were.

I was the youngest and the only time I really thought about that was when they played the national anthem.

In those days, you faced each other, so I stared at Alan Clarke for some reason, because he was the top English player.

That was the only time I was a little bit nervous.

As soon as the national anthem finished, we were off and running.

JM: I think the biggest thing for me on cup final day was that we’d already beaten two other top quality sides, with Arsenal in the semi-final and Man City in an earlier round.

That’s the thing I thought about. We’d beaten those two so there was no reason why we couldn’t beat Leeds.

I wasn’t having to deal with the Eddie Gray, Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner though!

DM: To be honest, I don’t think we ever thought we’d get beat. We didn’t go into any game thinking that.

DID THAT CHANGE WHEN BOB STOKOE CAME IN?

DM: Well, when Bob came in, things just started to go our way.

The crowd got off our back because they were on Alan Brown’s back.

I don’t want to take anything away from Bob because he did a great job, but it was Alan Brown’s team still.

MH: Alan Brown was a very strict manager, but Bob gave them that freedom up front.

The only one he didn’t give any freedom to was me. I just had to sit there and cover.

WHEN IAN PORTERFIELD SCORED, DID YOU SENSE IT WAS YOUR CUP?

JM: No, I don’t think that was the case either with the goal or the save.

When I made the save, Dick kicked it clear and you’ve just got to deal with the situations as they come along. You just think about the next thing that comes along.

TALK US THROUGH THE SAVE THEN

JM: You look at all the little things afterwards, like Ian scoring with his right foot, and you think maybe it’s your day.

I’ve spoken to Peter Lorimer many times since and he says he hit it as sweet as he could.

He always say he’d do the same again. Well, I’d do the same again too!

MH: Monty made great saves all the time. You didn’t realise how good it was.

JM: I think it was just the occasion.

I probably did a better one against Hull City two weeks before that, but there were only two men and a dog there. It’s when the cameras are there and it’s the occasion. It’s like Banksy’s save in the World Cup.

If he’d done that at Stoke City, no-one would remember it.

If we’d lost the cup, no-one would talk about it either.

DM: You should have saved the first one though!

JM: Well, if I had we wouldn’t still be talking about it!

WHAT WERE THE LEEDS PLAYERS LIKE?

DM: In my experience, they took it well. They weren’t nasty. They were quite magnanimous afterwards, wished us well and said we’d deserved it.

A cup game is on the day really and it’s whose up for it and who isn’t.

I think we were under-estimated in each game we played and I don’t think they realised we were a really good team.

JM: That’s something I could never understand.

We knew Don Revie and Les Cocker (Leeds assistant manager) and they did dossiers on everybody.

They knew what you had for breakfast, what time you got up.

They must have seen that we’d beaten Man City and Arsenal, so they could not take us for granted.

The only surprise for me was when I’ve spoken to Peter (Lorimer) since and he was of the opinion that they just had to turn up to win.

For me, that was not what Don Revie or Les Cocker did.

I can’t get into Revie’s mind, but did they do this to make their team look superior and it worked in reverse for them? I don’t know.

They were the best team in the land, so maybe he hyped them up so much that they thought they only had to turn up.

MH: It was like the Jack Charlton interview the night beforehand.

Saying that, when we eventually got to the dressing room after the game, there were quite a few of them who came in and said we deserved it.

They took it really well.

HOW WAS THE WALK UP TO THE ROYAL BOX?

DM: Well, when Bob ran onto the pitch and wrapped his arms around me, he stuck his thumb in my eye!

So I couldn’t see very well going up or going down the steps.

MH: When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was go up those steps, get my medal and turn around at the crowd.

My biggest disappointment is I can’t remember going up.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE AT FULL-TIME WHEN YOU REALISED YOU’D WON?

JM: For whatever reason, Bob chose to do that (run onto the pitch and embrace him) although I was very good friends with him afterwards.

He just said that it was because of the saves I’d made prior to that in the semi-final.

That was Bob’s way of releasing all his adrenaline. That was the way he was.

I was looking around at all supporters and waving, and then suddenly Bob appears.

Micky says he can’t remember going up, I certainly do.

I remember Bobby (Kerr) forgot his medal, so I had to turn around and get it.

WHAT WAS THE DRESSING ROOM LIKE?

JM: I can’t remember anything in the dressing room – before, at half-time and afterwards.

The only thing I can recall is throwing Bob Cass (a North East journalist) in the bath!

MH: After the game, we threw Cassy in the bath, then we got changed and all that.

Then Dave Watson came to me and said “do you fancy going out?”

I said “do I!”. So we went out with one of those red and white striped plastic bowler hats on and a bottle of champagne.

There wasn’t a person in the stadium, so we walked to the six-yard box and didn’t say a word.

We just took in this weird atmosphere, and thought back to the game.

It was fantastic.

JM: I remember going to the perimeter and seeing the scoreboard with 1-0 still on it; I think with Ritchie Pitt and Ian Porterfield.

It was eerie.

WHERE WAS THE PARTY?

JM: The Dorchester. All the press expected Leeds to win, so all the cameras were there at their hotel, but then they had to rush across to ours.

We went upstairs into the function area where all the wives and families were there. David Coleman was there too.

MH: We were there all that time and there were four of us who hadn’t eaten.

We’d been partying, but we suddenly got hungry.

Anyway, someone said do you fancy going for something to eat?

We were on the end of Park Lane and Oxford Street and we went to this burger bar.

JM: The disappointment for me was that we had a game at Cardiff City on the Monday night.

So, on the Sunday morning, the wives had the cup on the bus and were driving home.

They had people passing them on the motorway, hooting them with the cup there.

But we had to go to Cardiff, who needed a point to stop up, which they got.

So we had a night out in Cardiff afterwards and we were a bit green going back!

MH: We had to stop at Scotch Corner to get tidied up!

HOW WAS THE RECEPTION WHEN YOU GOT TO SUNDERLAND?

DM: They were hanging off the top of the buildings going through town.

But there was that much going on that you couldn’t take a lot of it in.

There was just red and white supporters everywhere on the top of roofs.

JM: They pushed the beds out of the hospitals as we went past just so they could see it.

MH: When we got to the stadium, they had a coffin with RIP Leeds on it in the centre-circle.

When we went out onto the pitch, that was the first thing we saw.

DID YOU FEEL LIKE SUPERSTARS?

DM: Nah, not really. It took a long time to sink in.

JM: I think that’s why we didn’t do so well the next year, apart from people leaving obviously.

It was just so hard to take in.

If we had been in another cup final, like Leeds and Liverpool, who had been there a couple of times and knew what they were getting, maybe it would have helped us.

DM: It was such an occasion for us and there was that much going on after our first time.

THAT ONE GAME HAS DEFINED THE REST OF YOUR LIVES REALLY

MH: Yes, most of us have ended up back here because we love the club.

Us three work here on matchdays and it’s a great club to be associated with.

JM: When I’m walking around the town now, they all know what we’ve done, obviously.

But what I like is when they say they watched it at their aunty’s because it was their first colour television.

I love to hear those stories of what they were doing.

When they were getting their first colour tellies, it shows you how long ago it was!

MH: What amazes me is that people who were born 20 years after that all know us.

Their parents have drilled it into them, so we’re still household names with people who were born in the 80s or 90s.

Maybe if we’d won a cup or two since then, we might not be as well known in the town.

DM: It does mean a lot to everybody here because we have a big fanbase.

I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s still going on, because it’s passed down from generation to generation.

It’s a bit of a religious thing now.

HOW MUCH WOULD YOU LIKE TO PASS ON THE BATON?

DM: It’s a bit embarrassing talking about it still, 41 years on.

JM: The fans need something. They don’t want to win the Championship because that means you’ve gone down and you’ve got to struggle to get back up.

We need to win a cup.

We can say that about a lot of teams though. It was the 50s for the lads up the road!