‘Roker fans were not to blame,’ say police

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SOCCER fans at Roker Park were never beyond police control. This was the verdict of Sunderland police today following incidents at Sunderland’s end-of-season game against Queen’s Park Rangers last night.

The head of Sunderland Police Division, Chief Supt. Ronald Kell, said today that the Roker Park incidents had to be seen in perspective.

There was no trouble before the match and there were only eight arrests during the game and immediately after.

“This could be expected during any game, but we are disappointed that the season finished on such a note. Until the game was held up, the police were more than delighted with the crowd’s behaviour.

“We have gone a full season, including Wembley and a victorious return home, and had nothing but praise for the team and supporters, not only from ourselves but from police and supporters throughout the country.

“We have provided extra men expecting enthusiasm at the end of the game, but I would consider that at no time was the crowd out of control. This was proved by the fan’s behaviour as they left because there were no incidents at all outside the ground.”

Hustled off

The 43,000 crowd – which has earlier won police praise for the orderly way they filed into the ground – became incensed when Sunderland player Mick Horswill was sent off for retaliation.

A youth ran on to the pitch but was hustled away by a Sunderland player before reaching the referee, Mr Peter Reaves, of Leicester.

A handful of youths made further attempts to reach the referee following the “booking” of Guthrie in the 73rd minute. Then Mr Reaves, after speaking to Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe, called off the players.

Insp. George Docherty appealed over the loudspeaker for the fans to cool down as the referee had threatened to abandon the match.

But it tool Mr Stokoe to catch the attention of the crowd. He pleaded: “Let’s not spoil one of the best seasons the club has had for many years. We have had a pretty good run and we have learned to win, but if we have got to lose tonight let’s do it in Roker tradition.

“Let’s get the game finished, whatever the result, then we can come back next season and start again.”

Mr Stokoe was cheered and applauded and the game was restarted after eight minutes.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 10, 1973.