GOALKEEPERS tend to acquire more prominence in cup runs – it’s natural in sudden death competitions.
Jimmy Montgomery’s double save is the most enduring moment of the 1973 FA Cup final.
Tony Norman’s superlative run of form which helped Sunderland reach the 1992 FA Cup final was every bit as important as John Byrne’s goals.
And here, the former Welsh international tells GRAEME ANDERSON of a moment that all keepers dream of….
MONTY must have felt it in 1973. Tony Norman experienced it in 1992. And Norman, who served Sunderland from 1988-95 and made just shy of 200 appearances for the Rokermen, hopes Vito Mannone feels it tomorrow at Wembley.
He’s talking about that moment when a goalkeeper feels almost impregnable, when he senses it is going to be his day and – far more importantly – so does the opposition.
In the seconds after Monty made that world-famous Wembley double save – beating out the efforts of Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer, Leeds hard-man Norman Hunter turned to Dennis Tueart and said: “It’s your day now, Dennis.”
Tony Norman had a similar moment in the electrifying FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea at Roker Park in 1992.when he withstood enough of an onslaught to help Sunderland edge past the Blues.
It was a night all of us who were there will never forget so loud and raw and primitive was the passion and desire from the terraces; so atmospheric was the evening at Roker Park that night.
Peter Davenport had given Sunderland a first-half lead, but in the second-half, slick top side Chelsea absolutely battered their Second Division opposition.
It looked as though victory would be assured, such was their dominance but Tony Norman stood between Chelsea and victory andd he played the proverbial blinder.
The Welshman made stunning saves from Kerry Dixon and Andy Townsend – who also hit the woodwork – before the moment came where in-form Dennis Wise had to score.
Taking up the story, 56-year-old Norman, now goalkeeping coach at Darlington, recalls: “What a night that was.
“As soon as you went on the pitch with your bottle of water, you could feel the atmosphere from the crowd.
“We went 1-0 up for so long but then they scored and they were the stronger team and you felt there was going to be only one winner at that stage.
“If a team was going to win it; it was going to be Chelsea.
“They had their chances but there was some good defending and we kept them out but then came a moment from Dennis Wise where he knew he was going to score.
“The ball came from my right, crossed in and Wise has just come in and gone bump – little header, six-yard line, and it came at me at such a speed and angle that I couldn’t get a glove up quick enough.
“All I could do was move my shoulder towards it, but incredibly it struck me, and bounced up and over the crossbar from the line.
“People were saying what a save, but it was purely reflex.
“On that occasion it simply went my way – right place, right time – and I’ll always remember his face when that happened, Dennis Wise’s face.
“ I’ll never forget it.
“They were so much on top in the game, and they were so strong and he’s come in and he’s thought ‘It’s in”’ and the ball’s hit me and just dropped the other side.
“And he just looked at me, in that peculiar way, and I just thought to myself, I wonder if he’s just gone, ‘it’s not our day here today’?”
“If he did?
Wise did eventually score, breaking Sunderland and Norman’s resistance, six minutes before full-time.
But they were exhausted by the prolonged and thankless siege and in the moments afterwards they took their feet of the pedal and Gordon Armstrong pinched a famous winner.
“We scored off a corner and do you know, what I remember most about that game, was that at the corner they didn’t have a man at the back stick!”smiles Norman.
“It was something I always did as a goalkeeper – have a man on the back post – always said it, and still do it at Darlington, but they didn’t do it and Gordon got his goal.
“It was the most amazing night.
“Before the game, the atmosphere was like a hum but it was one of those nights where there was no wind and without sounding romantic, you had that fine mist hovering and the dew on the ground and all you could hear was the atmosphere of the game.
“And of course when the game started, it was ‘Here we go’.”
Norman hopes Vito Mannone experiences that ‘Wise’ moment, that ‘Cherry-Lorimer’ moment at Wembley.
But for the former Sunderland keeper, his memories of the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool beneath the Twin Towers in ‘92, are not something he dwells on.
“My abiding memory of Wembley is that we got beat,” he sighs.
“I’d love to say going down Wembley Way is brilliant and the bit before the game is brilliant, but I just remember us not winning.
“At the banquet afterwards, I don’t think I spoke until about 11pm that night.
“The day is a game of football.
“The reality of Sunderland players’ day this Sunday, March 2 is that they are at work, no-one will want to get too involved in the social side of things, it will be game on, just as it was for me.
“If you win it must be amazing, but it’s not great if you lose.”
Tony Norman’s amazing saves in that cup run were the key to getting Sunderland to Wembley but ironically one of the moments that defined him came in the cup run the following year when he fumbled a simple ball and Sheffield Wednesday’s Mark Bright scored the matchwinner in a 1-0 fourth round win for Sheffield Wednesday.
“It’s an easy one for Norman,” the commentator had said before the mistake and that comment formed a fanzine which perhaps gave an unfair slant to Norman’s time at the club. Perhaps it was meant as a back-handed compliment because the Welshman’s keeping was usually so assured and he helped save Sunderland many points in his time between the posts.
Norman knows though that many Sunderland fans still hold him in high regard and it is a lesson Vito Mannone is likely to learn at the club, that Sunderland fans cherish the service of those who are as passionate at them.
Norman remains a Sunderland fan and is hoping to get to the final if Darlington’s schedule permits. He has a Sunderland-supporting son who will definitely be there.
And Tony Norman – born in Wales – still wells up when he remembers his return to Roker Park after his playing days were over for the red and whites.
“One of the best moments I had in my career was returning,” he says.
“I left Sunderland and went to Huddersfield as an understudy but injury put me in the first team unexpectedly and I went to see who we were playing next week – it was Sunderland, at Roker Park.
“I remember leaving Huddersfield and I was sat on the team bus with my stomach churning and telling my team-mates I had no idea of the reception I would get.
“I was so nervous.
“But I went out to warm up – Shay Given was down at the other end – and then it came time to change ends, so I picked up my spare pair of gloves, started jogging, got to the half-way line and then the sides started applauding me – the Paddocks and the Clock Stand – and then when I was approaching it, all the Fulwell End started applauding me.
“The noise was deafening to me and when I got to the penalty spot, I’d gone from being nervous to being choked up!
“The reception was fantastic, so I thought I must have done something right”
“But that’s Sunderland fans – if you do your best for them and show it means as much to you as it does to them – they’ll love you.”