As the 50th anniversary of our FA Cup win approaches, names like Stokoe, Kerr and Montgomery still roll off the tongue as club legends, and on this day in 1990, our goalscorer from our day at Wembley, Ian Porterfield was to be reunited with Sunderland from his position as manager of Reading.
The draw of the balls from the velvet bag in December 1989 took us to Berkshire to face Reading, where Ian Porterfield had been appointed as manager, leaving his position as assistant manager of Chelsea, in November 1989.
Reading were sitting 15th in Division Three after Porterfield had hit the ground running and taken the Royals to the relative safety of mid-table in the third tier, while we were impressing in Division Two, chasing Leeds United and Sheffield United in third where Denis Smith had his sights set on promotion to the top flight.
But, that had to take a backseat as an emotional FA Cup tie took centre stage and there were defensive issues for Denis Smith to contend with in the Sunderland dugout. Gary Bennett and Paul Hardyman were ruled out through injury, so Reuben Agboola was required to partner John MacPhail and Tommy Lynch filled in at full-back.
It was an issue that the Sunderland manager could do without considering we’d leaked eight goals and the games were coming thick and fast as a result of progressing to the last eight of the Littlewoods Cup. The run to the quarter-final of the League Cup was a polar opposite to Denis Smith’s record in the FA Cup up to that point, having won just one cup tie as Sunderland manager - against Darlington two seasons prior.
It was maybe reflected in the comments from Smith ahead of kick-off that maybe didn’t ooze with confidence regarding the timing of taking on a Reading side that Porterfield had only taken charge of two months prior:
It’s not a good time to play Reading with them having a new manager in Ian Porterfield. But you’re never going to have things your own way all the time and there’s no point in complaining about it. You just have to have enough faith in yourself and way you’re playing.
Smith didn’t sound overly confident of Sunderland progressing, and neither did another club legend when Charlie Hurley predicted that Reading could cause an upset:
If Reading fans get behind the team, then I think they can spring a shock. I notice they’ve won their last few games and haven’t been beaten much recently.
Hurley was the manager of Reading when Sunderland were the winning side in the third round of the FA Cup in 1973 on our way to winning the competition, after the current manager at Elm Park Porterfield stunned the football world by scoring the winning goal against Don Revie’s Leeds United.
Three years later, Hurley took Porterfield from Sunderland to Reading for a month on loan in 1976 and all the build-up was unsurprisingly about the emotion of Porterfield taking on the club that he became a legend only 17 years earlier.
When kick-off arrived, it only took us 40 seconds to take the lead, when a hopeful low ball into the box from Marco Gabbiadini looked innocuous until full-back Linden Jones missed the ball completely, and allowed it to land at the feet of Gordon Armstrong who drilled it into the bottom corner.
But after Reading kicked off for the second time in the space of a minute, they took the initiative and looked the more likely to score next.
It was a case of surviving for Smith’s side until the interval and early in the second half, John Kay was a relieved man when the referee decided the full-back’s lunge on Gooding wasn’t worthy of a penalty, but on the hour mark the home side were on level terms.
Marco Gabbiadini failed to clear a Reading corner and it was Linden Jones, who had gifted Sunderland the lead, who took full advantage but smashing the ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar. And, having got back level, it only took Reading seven minutes to take the lead when that man Linden Jones did it again.
This time sweeping home at the back post after good work from Steve Moran down the Reading left, which prompted Smith into a predictable change when Eric Gates made way for Thomas Hauser to partner Gabbiadini for the final quarter of the game.
But it wasn’t to be, and it was Ian Porterfield and his Reading side who progressed to round four and I doubt there were too many Sunderland fans who begrudged him that after his heroics for Sunderland 17 years prior.
Saturday 6th January, 1990
FA Cup 3rd Round
Reading 2-1 Sunderland
[Jones 60’, 64’ - Armstrong 1’]
Sunderland: Norman, Kay, Agboola, MacPhail, Lynch, Owers, Bracewell, Armstrong, Pascoe, Gates (Hauser), Gabbiadini Substitute not used: Ord
Reading: Francis, Jones, Richardson, Gooding, Hicks, Whitlock, Beavon, Tait, Senior, Gilkes, Moran Substitutes not used: Conroy, Leworthy