The day Roker Park was packed with 80,000 fans - and 40,000 more outside

Richard Thorpe can trace his SAFC allegiances back to the days when the supporters association was formed.

Thursday, 10th May 2018, 3:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th May 2018, 3:31 pm
Action from the 1966 World Cup, featuring Russia and Italy.

And that means he has seen many a high point – and quite a few low ones – in the years that followed.

It all started when his brothers began going to matches and “took me along”.

1973 40 Years Supplement Sunderland v Manchester City SAFC v Man City old ref number sport 4 75 Score Sunderland 3 Manchester City 1 played Roker Park FA Cup Tuesday 27 February 1973 F A CUP ROUND FIFTH ROUND Wembley FA Cup Final 1973 Sunderland v Leeds

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It was round about the end of the 1958 season, and not long after that, Richard was a regular.

The highlights of his Sunderland years, said Richard, was the Peter Reid era.

“The atmosphere then was great from the supporters and the brand of football we played was something we have not done since, and have not done too many times in the past,” he said.

“It eclipsed the cup final.”

The low points, he said, included the period when Lawrie McMenemy “took us down. We knew what was coming”.

The best games he ever saw in football were against the Manchester sides.

He recalled a 3-3 draw against Manchester United in the FA Cup sixth round in 1963-64 when Sunderland had gone 3-1 up at Old Trafford before Bobby Charlton and George Best pulled United back into the tie with two goals in the last five minutes.

The replay at Roker Park saw the ground packed to the rafters with some estimating there were 80,000 inside and another 40,000 outside.

Richard remembered: “It was elbow to elbow with people.

“The gates collapsed and people were carried in. The game was really good again.”

With Charlie Hurley and Nick Sharkey in their ranks, Sunderland were a potent force and just like in the first game, they almost had it won until Bobby Charlton again came up with a late equaliser.

The match went to a second replay and Manchester United won it.

But just as memorable was another cup tie – this time Sunderland’s 1973 battle with Manchester City.

The match at Roker Park “surpassed anything I have seen,” said Richard.

But it has not just been about following the Black Cats for Richard. He remembers 1966 when Roker Park was used for World Cup matches.

Russia, Chile, Italy and Hungary all played there and Richard said: “Sunderland took to the Russians more. I think it was probably because they were in red.”

He remembers how boards were put in to make temporary seating.

And Richard also recalled: “The standard of football was better than we had seen in league games.”

The fans were a memorable lot as well, said Richard.

“The Chilean supporters made plenty of noise and they were really colourful. They took over the Roker End.”

He remembers watching legends of football such as Lev Yashin in goal for Russia, and one particular incident where an Italian forward had the ball in midfield and went to ground after a foul.

“There was Yashin going to see if he could help him up. He seemed to be the gentleman.”

Another fan to share his memories was Roy Mills, 75, who remembers the day he first saw his beloved Sunderland in action.

He was a mere boy when, in 1947, they were in action against Blackpool. “I think we lost 3-2,” he recalled.

It was the start of a lifetime of watching football with its many highs and lows.

“We had some good players go through the club in that time,” said Roy who named stars such as Dave Watson and Charlie Hurley.

Roy’s family left Sunderland when he was five and they moved to the Isle of Dogs where there was more work at the time.

But Roy had already been inducted to life as a Sunderland fan and said: “I used to come back to see relatives and friends every year.”

We previously told how he stood outside Roker Park collecting autographs and taking photos of his heroes.

They are memories which last a lifetime and we would love more.

Is there a match, a moment, a particular highlight you would like to highlight?

If you have your own SAFC highlights to share, email [email protected]