Vic Halom signed for Sunderland in the early months of 1973, he would be a starter in the infamous 1973 FA Cup win for Sunderland against favourites Leeds United. The big centre forward's finish against Manchester City in the same cup run would also be voted as the greatest goal at Roker Park. Halom played his whole career on Wearside under Bob Stokoe as he left in 1976 to join Oldham Athletic. In his time for the Mackems, Vic hit 35 goals in 113 competitive games.
WAW: First of all, talk us through that 1973 FA Cup final – what was it like to play in it and win?
Vic: “It took hard work to win it, we never stopped. We were very, very aware but very confident too; we believed we could beat them. We were not only aware of our quality but aware of Leeds’ quality too, after all they were a great side. None of us were nervous, we just enjoyed playing in all honesty.”
WAW: The manager who got you to that final was Bob Stokoe, a club legend – what was he like to work with?
Vic: “Bob was a great guy, he had a very quiet approach, we trusted Bob. Bob was a strong believer in hard work, any Stokoe team worked hard – look at Bobby Kerr in that final – in fact we all ran our socks off. He was fantastic in truth, when he arrived Sunderland were third off bottom and we finished 4th from top and FA Cup winners.”
WAW: In that team there were some great talents – Billy Hughes for one, someone you were good friends with, what was Billy like?
Vic: “He was top class! Again Billy was one who worked really hard, he was quick, strong and was always there, plus he had so much quality and skill too. Billy scored two in the cup run against a brilliant Manchester City side. We had loads of laughs together for example, if I wanted ITV on he’d press BBC and we’d sit there for about three hours pressing bloody buttons. He was just a great person to be around, a real character! Unfortunately, Billy isn’t very well at the moment, he recently had a tumour, as did his wife. I’m going down to see him soon as he lives near Derby and all of the lads have to look out for each other.”
WAW: What was your favourite goal for Sunderland?
Vic: “There were a few goals that stand out to be fair! Not just at Sunderland but at schoolboy level too, I didn’t score many at first as my debut was as a centre half, Bob Stokoe and I worked at Charlton and he played me a centre half, in midfield and up front! The goal against Manchester City was voted best goal at Roker Park so that’s definitely up there, and you cannot take that one off me! I scored a hatrick against Derby in the League Cup and a bicycle kick against Fulham too.”
WAW: Why did you choose to come to Sunderland?
Vic: “First of all I didn’t even know where Sunderland was! Luton had accepted an offer from Everton and I was going there but Bob Stokoe wanted to replace Billy’s brother John Hughes who was injured. I met Bob after the Reading cup tie down Elm Park and we agreed the terms and I signed just hours from the transfer deadline. Roker Park was truly electric, playing in front of 55,000 people every week was outstanding – a special place to play football.”
WAW: Who were the best players you played with?
Vic: “A bloke called Mike Bailey at Charlton when I was first starting out, he was tough, strong and very committed; Mike went on and played for Wolves for a few years and even got capped for England. Another lad called Frank Haydock was a great player too, a centre half who again was a quality player. I played with George Cohen, who won the ’66 World Cup; I played alongside him at Fulham. I played with Johnny Haines at Fulham too, a real top player – he played about 600 games for them! Of course Billy was a great player too at Sunderland as I mentioned. Dave Watson at Sunderland too, he got called up for England later on; Dave was so good in the air and he had so much ability plus he was quick too.”
WAW: Who or what were your inspirations to play football professionally?
Vic: “We never really had heroes back then; we just played football all the time. I’d watch Derby County with my dad at the Baseball Ground but apart from that I played for the school, the district and so on. If I was to pick names it’d have to be some of the West Ham boys from ’66, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. When you’re first starting out you learn all the time, you didn’t earn a lot but you enjoyed playing your football and money came second. I feel very lucky I got the chance to play football professionally.”
WAW: Back in the early days at Charlton what was it like?
Vic: “It was nothing like it is now. When I was doing my O levels in Burton, a scout came and told me I was an apprentice at Charlton Athletic and he came and told my headmaster that I would be moving to London; he then kicked him down the stairs! After I had signed properly for Charlton we played reserve team vs the first team; one game I chipped Charlie Wright and put it in the top corner, the sod then started chasing me up the terraces! Eddie Firmani was a great guy too at Athletic his body movement and position were brilliant and he could easily beat defenders.”
WAW: What did you go on to do after retiring?
Vic: “I got my full coaching badge in Norway; I went up to Barrow and we had won the league just after Christmas, I was very lucky as I put a team together with some great lads but there just wasn’t enough quality. I went to Rochdale which turned out to be a disaster; we were doing great in the league and were favourites for promotion but the owner forced me to sell all my players and we ended up near the bottom and I lost my job, it was a massive mistake. After all that I had a short time at Burton and then moved onto do a few years of scouting abroad.”
WAW: Why did you move back to Sunderland when you came back to England?
Vic: “I just loved the people, as well as that Sunderland simply felt like home. My family and my wife all agreed that Sunderland was the place to be.”
WAW: If you had to pick a Sunderland 11 of your teammates who would be in it?
Vic: “I wouldn’t change a thing to that cup final starting 11. It was a special side Monty was a fabulous goalkeeper, Dick Malone, Ron Guthrie, Mick Horswill, Dave Watson, Richie Pitt, Bobby Kerr, Billy Hughes, myself, Ian Porterfield and then Dennis Tueart. Mick was only 20 or something so that was a massive game for him and he stepped up brilliantly, as did Richie, especially with that tackle early on!”
WAW: What are your opinions on Chris Coleman? (I spoke to Vic almost straight after the 2-0 over Burton)
Vic: “I’m from Burton so I was too frightened to go down but I followed the game! The effort was there at Burton and Chris seems massively confident and he has a good track record. I’m personally quite pleased with the appointment, there were certainly improvements and I’m confident we’ll finish mid table. Personally, we need two or three quality players; Coleman needs to make the team a physical side to compete with the likes of Leeds and Wolves, not only this he needs to improve their mental attitudes.”
I would like to thank Vic Halom for taking the time out to speak to me about his playing days, it was honestly an absolute pleasure and Vic is a great guy and such a gentleman - as well as a very funny bloke!
Also, I would personally, as would everyone at We Are Wearside, like to wish all the best to Billy Hughes who, as Vic mentioned, is unwell at the moment.
Furthermore, you can hear more from Vic as well as other ex Sunderland players in the latest volume of ‘Tales of the Red and Whites’ by Lance Hardy, Graeme Anderson, Nick Barnes and Rob Mason (who’ll I’ll be speaking to shortly about his long and decorated career with Sunderland). It is a truly great book and all credit to all authors and contributors, the link to buy the book on Amazon is below and would make a great Christmas present.