Rowell Report: My Milk Cup memories all took place off the pitch!

Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
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THE last time Sunderland appeared in a League Cup final at Wembley was an occasion I remember very well.

After several seasons of being a Sunderland player, I left Roker Park in the summer of 1984 to join Norwich City.

Leaving Sunderland wasn’t easy for me.

Roker Park was like a second home and I had a great relationship with the fans but I left with many great memories.

Little did I know when I signed for Norwich that before the season was out, my old club and my new club would face each other at Wembley in a major cup final!

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t to play any part in the game itself as I’d suffered a serious knee injury in a pre-season game, forcing me to miss most of the season.

And by the time the cup final came around I was nowhere near fit enough for such an important game.

I don’t remember too much about the match itself, other than it wasn’t the best game of football I’ve ever seen.

And my main memories of the occasion are off the pitch ones.

Before the game, when the two teams are on the pitch to get a flavour of things and check the conditions, I met up with Sunderland defender Shaun Elliott who was in the same position as me, as he was also missing the big day, in his case through suspension.

Shaun was a great friend of mine.

We’d come through the ranks at Sunderland together and played for years in the same team, dreaming of an occasion just like this.

We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as we stood on the turf at that famous stadium, as between us we probably had more Sunderland appearances than the whole Sunderland team about to play at Wembley put together.

After the game, when the teams did a lap of honour, I got a great reception from the Sunderland fans as I held the cup decked out in red and white colours and that is something I will never forget.

I’d like to think that although the fans were massively disappointed at their team’s defeat, they knew at least one Sunderland fan got his hands on the trophy that day!