Half-million welcome the heroes

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A fantastic half a million Wearsiders, in an unashamed display of emotion gave Sunderland’s Cup heroes a never-to-be forgotten welcome home, one which was described by manager Bob Stokoe as fit for Royalty.

The Roker roar was there for the world to hear all along the packed 12-mile route from Carrville, where the team, manager, and officials, transferred from their team coach to an open-topped bus.

But when the coach set off no-one could have guessed at the incredible scenes that were to follow all along the route to the tumultuous welcome at Roker Park,

For two hours the coach had to swing through a red and white river of fans that at times threatened to engulf it and bring it to an early halt.

Grown men cried unashamedly as sentiment and pride brought a memorable finale to the drama that had earlier been played out on the Wembley turf.

When the coach reached the Borough boundary at East Herrington, a crowd of about 5,000 spilled over and choked the nearby roads, and from trees, rooftops, and traffic signs they sung their praise – “Sunderland, Sunderland.”

From there along the five-mile route through the town it was the same. The fans packed streets and pavements. They danced. They chanted. They sang. Everywhere there were fans.

Fireman climbed from a tender to shout their welcome, and scores of youths had climbed 30ft to the roof of the Prospect Hotel, where they swayed alarmingly with scarves held high.

And so it continued. From every window there leaned a face, and everywhere along the route fans wild with delight were packed on pavements.

Mounted police joined the cavalcade at the Royal Infirmary, where nurses in uniform danced with patients on balconies.

Mounted police cleared a path through Brougham Street and the coach then headed for Fawcett Street, where the deafening noise which had accompanied them through the town became ear-splitting.

Hundreds of youths swung from scaffolding erected by contractors giving facelifts to the shops in Sunderland’s main street.

A solid wall of people followed the coach over Wearmouth Bridge chanting continually: “Now you’ve got to believe us. We’ve won the Cup.”

And after the two-hour drive through Sunderland’s packed streets, they arrived at Roker Park, where 35,000 fans were let through the turnstiles.

After being met by the Mayor of Sunderland, Coun. Leslie Watson, the players went through the entrance and emerged from the players’ tunnel, led by manager Bob Stokoe and captain Bobby Kerr to deafening chants of “Stokoe, Stokoe, Stokoe,” and “Sunderland, Sunderland.”

The fans inside went crazy as the players and manager carried the Cup on a lap of honour, and there was a terrific reception when the players hoisted Stokoe to their shoulders, and minutes later when the manager repeated his famous Wembley embrace of goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery.

Then captain Kerr stepped up to a microphone to broadcast to the fans. “Everyone has enjoyed tonight, and we are very pleased that we have been able to give you this Cup,” he said. “We are sure you have all deserved it.”

Then Stokoe told the chanting fans: “I cannot express how much we appreciate this reception tonight. You have given us a night we will never, never, never, forget.

“We believe we did something for you on Saturday, but what you have done for us tonight is something I will always remember. Royalty could not have received a reception like we have had tonight.”

Waving the Cup to fans, the players then left, obviously tired from their trip to Cardiff, and the drive through the town, tired, but overjoyed at being the stars of the biggest show ever seen on Wearside.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 14, 1973.