Cup Final Count-Down: 2 Days to Wembley
Argus report from Roker Cup HQ
SUNDERLAND manager Mr Bob Stokoe does not want to engage in slanging matches with anyone over the controversial issues which seem to abound on the road to Wembley. But he made a few points in passing at Wembley Stadium yesterday afternoon when Sunderland players inspected the ground on which they will be pressing their challenge against Leeds United in Saturday’s FA Cup Final.
Mr Stokoe’s chief complaint was against a system which gives Leeds United the psychological advantage of using the home dressing room and packing their supporter into the end of the ground where the players enter and leave the playing area.
“I have no quarrel with Leeds United, but I must protest against the favouritisms they appear to be enjoying,” he said.
“We have had no say in the matter at all and I don’t like the way we have been treated. These decision should have been left with the clubs instead of being taken out of our hands. We would have been quite happy to spin a coin for choice of ends and for dressing room. That would have been fair.
The Wembley official who heard Mr Stokoe’s outburst said that these arrangements were made on behalf of the FA, who hire the ground for the day. “My responsibility,” he said “is to look after 100,000 people and if there are any protests, they should be made to the ruling body.”
Mr Stokoe said: “With all their experience of big games at Wembley, this is like water of a duck’s back. We appreciate that we are a Second Division team, but we are definitely not second rate. That is the way we are being treated.
“We are entitled to a fair crack of the whip,” he said “and I shall be having more to say on this subject later.”
The playing surface still bore scars of Saturday’s FA Challenge Trophy Final between Scarborough and Wigan Athletic. Several players expressed their disappointment that it was short of the perfection expected of Wembley, but Mr Stokoe was quite satisfied.
“I think the pitch is in beautiful condition and if they cannot knock the ball around here, then they can’t knock it around anywhere,” he said. “I’m only sorry that the ground does not hold a lot more people. I keep thinking about the thousands of genuine football followers who cannot get a ticket for the game. It is a tragedy that we do not have a stadium to hold 250,000.”
Following light training yesterday the Sunderland players put in their hardest training of the week in today’s session on a school sports field adjoining the hotel ground.
All are now completely fit and it is certain that a full strength side will be on duty at Wembley.
“I’m sure training will go smoothly,” said Mr Stokoe. “I have no problems as everyone is fit, but I will not be naming my team until tomorrow.”
After resting this afternoon, the Sunderland party will be attending the Player of the Year dinner given by the Football Writers’ Association in honour of Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings.
The Sunderland players will not stay too late for the celebrations which follow and will have an early night.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 3, 1973.