David Jones: FA Cup ticket fiascos and why it’s shame Bradford tie isn’t on TV

MEMORIES: Tony Norman, Kevin Ball and Gordon Armstrong salute the fans for their Wembley support back in 1992
MEMORIES: Tony Norman, Kevin Ball and Gordon Armstrong salute the fans for their Wembley support back in 1992
Have your say

The cup has always been special to Sunderland; I was too young for ‘73 but ‘92 I will never forget.

Not so much the final itself when we were outclassed by Liverpool but everything else that happened along the way!

Those who packed Roker Park for the quarter final replay with Chelsea will always remember the spine tingling moment Gordon Armstrong’s header sent Sunderland into a winnable semi final at Hillsborough against Norwich.

And we had to be there.

At that time, the club had very little experience of how to sell tickets for big games so the fairest way they could come up with was to ask fans to queue.

And we did ... in our thousands!

I was 17 at that time and the only other Sunderland fan at my school, Dan, picked me up in North Yorkshire in his Mini Metro at 3am to head to Wearside.

Our hearts sank when we arrived to see the mass of bodies, smothered in hats and scarves, snaked around the old stands.

It took us about half an hour to choose a queue: none seemed smaller than another but every minute more people were filling the Roker roads and panic was rising.

As light dawned, the turnstiles started to crank open. Our queue didn’t seem to be moving and word reached us that behind the Clock Stand a new gate had opened.

We gambled, having queued for four hours in one place we left our spot to chance our arm elsewhere.

Frustration spilled over in some who realised they weren’t going to be going to Hillsborough; the atmosphere which had been jovial overnight was turning sour.

We just had to keep our heads down and hope we were edging closer and closer to the open door.

Two hours later I emerged from the stand clutching two tickets for the FA Cup semi finals ... it had all been worthwhile.

Hillsborough felt like a dream, the long journey down, the climb up the towering Kop from where the players seemed like red and white dots below, the dizzying celebrations, and on the way home the plans for Wembley.

To prevent the frightening and potentially hazardous scenes of weeks earlier a voucher scheme was deemed the best way to distribute tickets for Wembley: three stubs from league games and hope the lucky number on your ticket came up.

And so crowds leapt for the last few games of the season as we all joined the cup final lottery.

But when it came to the crunch my numbers came up but my brother’s didn’t and nor did my mate Dan’s ... and I couldn’t go without them.

My other cup memories are fairly random, particularly since I moved south.

There was an embarrassing exit at Brentford in 2006 which was barely considered a shock, despite the fact they were two divisions below, when Gary Breen and Neill Collins were terrorised by DJ Campbell.

But more enjoyably I recall a fourth round win at Rotherham in 1998 when Super Kev plundered a hat-trick in a 5-1 win and the away following in that tiny ground was as loud as any I can remember.

And those memories came flooding back to me last week at Craven Cottage when I was part of the 4,000 who revelled in a display of real attacking intent.

And that’s the beauty of the cup.

It isn’t about going away to try and nick a point.

It encourages managers to be positive, more away fans fill the grounds and help to create an atmosphere that we just don’t experience at league games any more.

Sunday at Bradford is going to be special, and it’s a great shame a wider TV audience won’t be able to experience it too.

I understand the reasons, broadcasters fancied Fulham to progress in the replay at Sunderland’s expense.

And that tie would have been a much harder sell.

But the Bantams could pose an even greater threat to Gus Poyet and his team than Fulham did in round four.

A confident side, a woeful pitch, an old stadium packed to the rafters, this is what the FA Cup is all about.

And believe me, the 4,000 fans in the away end will make it a day to remember!