The epic 1973 FA Cup victory has long been written into the annals of history. Sadly it is so distant that the majority of current fans were not even born or too young to appreciate the full scale of the achievement. Although I was fortunate enough to attend the heroic final, there is also a particular game I remember in the cup run against Manchester City, who were favourites after knocking Liverpool.
Sunderland managed to scrape past Notts County and Reading, both after replays in the 3rd and 4th rounds respectively. Then we were pulled out of the hat to play City at Maine Road, which again resulted in another hard-earned draw. I was visiting the north-east from London for the weekend and had told my boss in a rather nonchalant manner that I may extend my trip in the forlorn hope of earning a replay. It turned out much more than a joke.
So the scene was set on February 27th, 1973, for one of the most dramatic and emotional nights experienced at Roker Park in its 100-year history. The form of the Black Cats had been pepped up since the arrival of Bob Stokoe in the previous November, when they were down at fourth from bottom of the Second Division. Three months later cup fever was sweeping Wearside and tickets for the replay were sold out within hours with many supporters, including myself, queuing up overnight to get one.
It was in the days when replays were held within days and were never settled by penalties, only by continuously playing each other. There were no benches of seven substitutes, only one and typically for injury, not tactics or time wasting. Those with videos of the final will also know that tackles were allowed; sendings off were much more of a rarity.
On the incredible night, Sunderland produced one of their all-time great performances including one of the finest goals ever seen at the famous old ground. It was scored with a cracking shot from centre-forward Vic Halom, who had only arrived for £30,000 from Luton Town a couple of weeks earlier. The team that played in the biggest game for years were the same eleven selected for the eventual final against the mighty Leeds.
Halom's goal was scored after only 15 minutes in a flowing move which began on the left, ended with Bobby Kerr, the little general, pushing the ball through for him to fire in the top corner off the post from the right edge of the penalty area. The goal set Roker alight for the nearly 52,000 fanatical fans and by the 26th minute Sunderland were two ahead, when Billy Hughes scored in his second attempt after receiving a long throw-in from Kerr.
In the second half, City fought back and claimed their reward when Francis Lee scored from close range. The search was now on for an equaliser with Sunderland restricted to only occasional breakaways, but from one of these in the 78th minute Hughes scored his second and Sunderland's third goal that effectively ended the match. City failed to come back and the game ended 3-1.
The rest is ingrain in the minds of all fans. For those involved that night, players and supporters alike, it was an experience they would never forget at a ground legendary for the Roker Roar.
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