How we had even got to the Quarter Final is anyone's guess really. We were struggling in the 2nd Division and would flirt with relegation that season and were without a full time manager having dispensed with Denis Smith earlier in the year. Step forward Malcolm Crosby, nice bloke but not a manager which would be later proved. He had guided us to the Quarter Final thanks to wins against Port Vale, Oxford and First Division West Ham which required a replay at Upton Park. Before I move onto the Chelsea game it is worth briefly looking back at the West Ham tie.
In swirling winds at Roker Park we forced a replay thanks to a scrambled goal from John Byrne. Replay it was. We didn't have a chance did we? Step forward John Byrne, David Rush and Tony Norman. For me, Norman provided one of the moments of the cup run that night. His save from Tim Breaker will stay with me forever. For those who didn't see it or haven't seen it just think Schmeichel with panache. Incredible stuff.
Bring on Chelsea. Away at Stamford Bridge, the scene of horrendous scenes of violence in 1985 for our Milk Cup Semi Final 2nd leg. A mixture of fear, dread and cautious optimism as i recall. Chelsea would be too good for us. Nope. We played well but were behind until near the end and once again John Byrne providing the goal. I don't quite know how to describe the header. It certainly wasn't a powerful and assured effort thats for sure but I'm convinced he meant it, kind of. Replay it was.
I wasn't around in 1973 so didn't experience the Manchester City cup tie and the legendary atmosphere from that night but without a doubt the Chelsea game produced the most memorable, passionate night of my Roker Park matches. Only about twenty six thousand in there but what a night. We lead through Peter Davenport at half time but were absolutely battered in the second half and had Tony Norman and the Fulwell goal crossbar to thank for keeping Chelsea at bay. Then, it happened. Up stepped Dennis Wise with about five minutes left and that was it. We were dead on our feet, Chelsea were better than us and it was a formality. An extra time defeat loomed. The rest is history. Gordon Armstrong in arguably his greatest moment in the red and white. Bedlam. Emotion and passion that i hadn't witnessed before. We had done it, the semi final beckoned.
Can we do it again on Tuesday? I hope so. We are certainly in a better place than we were then. The cup run often papers over the cracks from that time. We were poor, we very nearly slipped into the third tier again. Lets hope for a full house to create that atmosphere from back then. Lets hope for a Tony Norman moment, a John Byrne or Gordon Armstrong moment and most of all a semi final date with Liverpool. We have nothing to fear unlike in 1992.