SUNDERLAND manager Bob Stokoe talked today about Arsenal, the side that now stands between his team and a place in this year’s FA Cup Final. “Arsenal are a very good side. They are consistent and in Bertie Mee have one of the best managers in the business. He is one of the managers you can really respect,” said Mr Stokoe.
Mr Stokoe dismissed any fear of the “lucky” tag that has followed Arsenal through four previous rounds. “We have also had our share of luck so you can say that there are two lucky teams left. But let’s face it, any side that reaches the semi-finals must have a little bit.”
But Mr Stokoe conceded; “Arsenal certainly seem to have had their share from what I saw on television on Saturday, and then there was last night’s penalty fiasco against Chelsea, there was not one player booked for dissension.”
The Sunderland manager has not seen Arsenal play recently. “I don’t need to, they are on television nearly every week,” he said.
“We shall not be spending too much time thinking about Arsenal in the next two weeks. We have four League games between now and the semi-final and must concentrate on pulling away from the relegation zone.”
Would he have preferred to play Chelsea? “In fairness to ourselves it does not matter who we play, we are still the underdogs. The Press have already written us off, but we shall just have to wait until semi-final day,” he added.
Arsenal are using the same key tactics for the semi-final as they have in the last two FA Cup campaigns.
Bertie Mee, who likes to keep the tension out of his team’s build-up said today; “The next game is the important one for us and that is against Manchester City on Saturday”.
Obviously Arsenal will have Sunderland watched before the semi-final at Hillsborough and Sunderland will be treated with the utmost respect – the same respect Arsenal show all opponentes, whether they are Fourth or First Division sides.
Arsenal will have the ideal opportunity to run their rule over Sunderland on Saturday when they are in London playing at Fulham.
Arsenal are already well aware of the skills of one Sunderland player, Richie Pitt, who was due to play for the Gunners on a month’s loan. Pitt was only at Highbury for a few days before injury forced his return to Roker. But Arsenal must rate him highly to have invited him down for the trial period in the first place.
Sunderland have not been watched by Arsenal this season, but despite their single minded match-by-match approach, Arsenal will no doubt prepare a run-down on the style, strengths and weaknesses of Sunderland before the big game.
Stories taken from the Sunderland Echo on March 21 1973.