Is this Sunderland's oldest fan? John, 94, shares amazing memories of FA Cup win and Roker Park days

Veteran Sunderland fan John Dowling will never forget the 1973 FA Cup Final – because he shared a glass of champagne with Ian Porterfield’s parents.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 2:20 pm

John, known to many as Charlie, was at Wembley for that memorable day and has wonderful recollections of it.

But what could be better than watching a classic game with the goalscorer’s parents right beside you.

“Due to my friendship with Dick Malone, I was given six tickets to the final – three seats and three standing,” said John, now 94.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

John Dowling, 94, who has shared his memories of being a Sunderland fan.

“I took my wife and eldest son and we were seated directly in front of Ian Porterfield’s parents. When he scored the winning goal, they handed us glasses of champagne!”

John got in touch with the Echo as he believes he may be the oldest person who is still alive and who saw Sunderland when they were at the top of the English football league.

John was 10 when Sunderland won the Cup in 1937 and has memories of his earliest days at Roker Park.

John and his family with the FA Cup in their home.

"I was born in Dock street, Monkwearmouth in Sunderland , which makes me a Barbary Coaster, and I left Redby School aged 14 and got a job as an apprentice boat-builder at Laings shipyard.

"Before this, however, at the age of about 9 or 10, I was a regular attender with my mates, at Roker Park on match days. About half an hour before the final whistle, the gates were opened to allow the early leavers out.

“That gave us the opportunity to dive in and look for empty bottles as they were worth a penny when we returned them to the local shop. Great memories, happy childhood days.

"The memory is wonderful while you still have it, and making these notes has aroused names from 1937, Mapson, Gorman, Hall, Thompson, Johnson, McNab, Duns, Carter, Gurney, Gallagher, Burbanks, 1937 cup winners – I was 10 years old.”

John watching his beloved Sunderland at Roker Park.

John became a shipwright and later joined the Merchant Navy. He joined the ship Harpalion and sailed in West India before returning homesick to his wife Betty.

On his return, he eventually became an insurance agent with Refuge Assurance Company, collecting and servicing weekly premiums and learning about and selling life and general insurance.

It brought him into contact with Sunderland legends such as Brian Clough and Amby Fogarty.

John can also include a number of Sunderland stars from the past as friends. “It’s several years now since I was able to attend a match, but still keep a close eye on the score,” he said.

A close-up on John at Roker Park.

"I am still in close contact with Dick and his wife Rosalind. Dick and Jimmy Montgomery took me out for a meal when I celebrated my 90th birthday.”

And John also got to know Ron Guthrie through his work in the insurance field.

If you know different, tell us more by emailing [email protected]

Read More

Read More
The 92-year-old Sunderland fan who had Len Shackleton as a guest at his cocktail...

Support your Echo and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to all of our news and sport, see fewer ads, experience faster load times, test your brain with daily puzzles and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. The Sunderland Echo has been on Wearside since 1873, and your support means we can continue telling your stories for generations to come. Click here to subscribe.

Sunderland captain Bobby Kerr lifting the 1973 FA Cup after beating Leeds 1-0 at Wembley, with Ian Porterfield second right.
Ian Porterfield's match-winning goal at Wembley in 1973 which John Dowling watched as he stood next to Porterfield's parents.