On this day exactly 75 years ago, John Ian Porterfield, the son of a miner, was born in Dunfermline.
He was raised in the small town of Lochgelly, and very quickly his football talent was noticed at an early age playing for local sides Lochgelly Welfare and Lochgelly Albert. Even as a 15-year-old the talented midfielder was offered trials at Heart of Midlothian, Glasgow Rangers and Leeds United, where the latter resulted in a return north of the border due to being homesick.
He would eventually start his professional football career on signing for Raith Rovers, where he made his debut as an 18-year-old in 1964. His comfort with the ball at his feet and his elegant style brought obvious comparisons with Scottish legend Jim Baxter, who had departed Stark’s Park to sign for Glasgow Rangers four years prior in 1960.
Baxter went on to become a major signing for Sunderland in 1965, with Ian McColl luring him south from Glasgow Rangers, but after two years of inconsistency, Baxter left for Nottingham Forest in a deal worth £100,000. To put this fee into context, the British club record at the time stood at £115,000, which had been exchanged between Manchester City and Italian club Torino for the services of Denis Law in 1961.
A replacement for Baxter was required and Ian McColl once again looked to Scotland to provide the entertainment. In a deal worth £38,000, plus a further £5,000 after 20 appearances, Ian Porterfield signed for Sunderland from Raith Rovers in December 1967. Only two days after joining his team mates, the manager threw him straight in at deep end to play Newcastle United in front of 46,030 at Roker Park, which ended in a 3-3 draw.
Sunderland continued to struggle to maintain their place in England’s top flight as Ian McColl made way for the return of Alan Brown as manager, before eventually we ran out of luck in 1970 to suffer our second ever relegation - both under the management of Alan Brown.
In the midst of Sunderland struggling for the next six years to get out of the Second Division and back to the top flight, there was the small matter of 1973. Alan Brown was sacked in October 1972 as Sunderland sat 14th in Division Two, and was replaced by Bob Stokoe, who had almost exclusively spent his career playing for Newcastle United.
As Sunderland squared up to face Notts County in the third round of the FA Cup in January 1973, we sat 19th in the second tier and a cup run was unlikely to have ranked high on a list of priorities for the new manager. This thought became even more ridiculous when Notts County, who were sitting in the lower reaches of the Third Division, forced the tie back to Roker Park for a replay.
We would eventually win the replay 2-0, and then dispatch Charlie Hurley’s Reading via a replay in the fourth round and the same followed in the fifth round against Malcolm Allison’s Manchester City. Cup fever grabbed Wearside as 53,151 turned up to Roker Park for the quarter-final against Luton Town, which was a significant increase on the 12,658 who turned up to witness the opening home game of the season against Orient.
Luton were also put to the sword, as were Arsenal in the semi-final at Hillsborough, setting up a final at Wembley against Don Revie’s Leeds United. By the time the day arrived, Bob Stokoe’s men had climbed to 7th in the table and were flying, only Bobby Charlton gave us a chance and Brian Clough likened our chances to the existence of fairies living at the bottom of the garden.
On the 5th May 1973, after 31 minutes and 32 seconds of the 1973 FA Cup final, time would forever encase Ian Porterfield and the Sunderland supporters in a moment.
As it dropped to Porterfield from a Billy Hughes corner, he hit a right-foot shot that seemed to sail through any solid body placed in front of it and over the despairing arms of David Harvey into the Leeds United goal.
There was an instant look of surprise on the Scotsman’s face, and it wasn’t the fact that Sunderland had just taken the lead, but it was more the surprise that he had just scored with his right-foot which he almost exclusively used for standing on.
The goal and the celebration from Porterfield, has become synonymous with the history of the FA Cup, the history of Sunderland Association Football Club and simply an image of a romantic age where people needed hope, and when this seemed to matter more.
It has long been regarded as the biggest upset in FA Cup final history, and the fairytale ending gave further validity to the existence of fairies in gardens across the land.
Bob created a good spirit and we had a team with wonderful ability, a good balance to it, and a great work ethic. It was just sad that it got broken up in the years that followed because Sunderland have just drifted along since then and not achieved what their fans deserve, and there are no better supporters anywhere - anywhere - than the Sunderland supporters.
As Sunderland continued to improve under Bob Stokoe, so did the form of Porterfield. As he was on the verge of a call-up to the Scotland national side at the age of 27, he was severely injured in a car crash in December 1974. The result of which was a broken jaw and a fractured skull.
Bobby Brown was manager of Scotland at the time and I was more or less told that I was going to be picked for the next game. Then I had the car crash and it changed my life. I was very, very lucky to come out of it, to play football again, to coach, to do all the activities I do. Most certainly, God was good to me.
The injuries he suffered in the crash meant although he returned to the side the following season he would not return the same player, and would eventually leave after scoring 19 goals in 269 appearances during his ten years on Wearside, moving to Sheffield Wednesday in the Third Division as a player-coach for £20,000 in July 1977.
He then began his extensive management career at Rotherham United where he was an immediate success via winning the Third Division. This was followed up by taking Sheffield United from struggling in the Fourth Division to mid-table in the second tier in the space of five years.
Porterfield’s reputation as a manager was steadily building and resulted in being chosen to be the man to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen following his move to Manchester United in 1986.
His return to Scotland would end in 1988, and after a spell at Reading, Ken Bates saw the potential in Ian Porterfield as a manager, having previously been assistant manager to Bobby Campbell as they won promotion to the Second Division in 1989. With this clearly in mind, Porterfield was appointed as Chelsea manager in the summer of 1991.
In his second season, and the first season of the Premier League, Porterfield had the distinction of becoming the first manager in the Premier League to be sacked from his post in February 1993, after a run of 12 games without a win.
Other than a stint as Colin Todd’s assistant at Bolton Wanderers in the mid-1990’s, Porterfield managed on the continent for the rest of his career. During his adventure, he would manage the national sides of Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Oman, Trinidad and Tobago and Armenia.
His final post as manager of the Armenian national side, Porterfield continued through his chemotherapy treatment after he was diagnosed with colonic cancer in March 2007. A month before he died, he presided over Armenia incredibly holding Portugal to a draw during a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Ian Porterfield died on 11th September 2007 in Surrey, but will be forever be remembered for distinguishing the red and white stripes, providing entertainment, and achieving something that not many footballers at Sunderland can claim during their careers - success.