STOKOE, SUNDERLAND AND ‘73
The Story of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time
With football today dominated by money it is almost inconceivable that in 1973 Second Division Sunderland beat Manchester City and Arsenal before facing Don Revie’s mighty Leeds United in the FA Cup Final. Yet the Wearsiders, helped by the greatest save seen at the famous old stadium, thrilled the nation by taking the cup.
Why did you write this book?
It was the story I always wanted to write. I fell in love with football and Sunderland AFC on 5 May 1973. It was hard work though. There were so many sub-plots concerning Bob Stokoe, Don Revie, Brian Clough and Alan Brown - and they were just managers! Sunderland were near the bottom of the old Second Division at Christmas 1972 and Leeds United were the best team in the country. So how could it happen?
Were Leeds playing the whole nation?
Leeds were pretty unpopular at the time and Sunderland were the romantic underdogs. It was David and Goliath stuff. If you had no association with Leeds, you supported Sunderland.
What made it the greatest FA Cup Final shock of all time?
Sunderland had no internationals whilst Leeds had ten. So there was no way they could win it, but they did. They also knocked out Manchester City and Arsenal earlier in the competition. Other Second Division teams later won the Cup but they don't compare in my opinion. This remains the greatest and I believe it will never be repeated.
But surely winning the FA Cup is no big deal?
In 1973 it was a very big deal. It was the only domestic club match
shown live on television in those days - and both BBC and ITV covered it. When the Sunderland players returned to the North East 750,000 people lined the streets welcoming them home. The match touched the hearts of the nation like none has done since. It also gave the area a great sense of pride and honour in what was a very bleak time up there. Production in the mines and the shipyards rose tremendously during the whole Cup run. People were so happy in their work. The mood around the area was joyous.
You suggest the Sunderland fans played a big part in their sides success?
The incredible team spirit within the players was carried along by the fans on the terraces. Sunderland had a great history but little success leading up to 1973. The whole thing came together with such momentum on that Cup run. The players acknowledged the importance of the support to me and the fans there at the time genuinely felt they played a part in the triumph. The support was awesome; the semi-final win against Arsenal at Hillsborough provided the most emotional post-match scenes I have ever seen.
Leeds lost many cup finals and important league games in the 1960s and 1970s - any reason why?
There is a great quote from Peter Lorimer in the book when he talks about the famous 7-0 thrashing of Southampton in 1972 and the difference in how the Leeds players approached that game from how Revie preferred them to play. Fixture build-up is mentioned a lot too. Squads were smaller and Leeds were often challenging on all fronts and couldn't cope. Lorimer cites losing the 1973 FA Cup final as perhaps complacency and under-rating Sunderland. He gave a really honest interview.
The match wasn’t the greatest, but there was a moment that has stuck in people’s memories as ‘Wembley’s greatest save.’
That involved Peter Lorimer! He had the hardest shot in the game and was faced with placing the ball into an open net from six yards out but the Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery flung himself off the ground to somehow turn it on to the crossbar. Peter said if he had the same chance again he would have hit the ball exactly the same. Montgomery made the save due to sheer instinct and his superb reflexes. His upper body strength to get himself up from the floor and to get anything on that shot was truly remarkable. Every time you watch it you think it has to be a goal. That won Sunderland the Cup, really.