On this day 55 years ago, First Division Sunderland took on Third Division Peterborough United in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup – although it’s fair to say that Posh weren’t in the most positive frame of mind before the game.
Upon arrival in Sunderland the night before the game, Peterborough’s manager Gordon Clark admitted they were going into the game ‘with a prayer and no plan’ after injury forced their strikers John Fairbrother and Tommy Watson to travel to Sunderland via Blackpool, where they went for some ‘high pressure’ treatment on their ankles.
With two of our key players absent from the party for two full days, it has been impossible to have any real tactical talks.
The best I can do is have a quick word with them when I have decided on the team just before kick off.
The Peterborough manager brushed off suggestions that stories of injuries to his two strikers were mere kidology.
I don’t kid. I’m not trying to con anybody. That kind of thing has a habit of springing back at you. I ask you... would I have my groundsman drive all the way from Peterborough to take the players down there for treatment? Would I have the ankles X-rayed and treated at Blackpool?
And then, in a wonderful line which demonstrated the extent to which Clark was determined to see his star men turn out:
And would I have taken the pair of them into the sea myself on Wednesday morning to see if that would have any effect?
I wish I was just kidding.
‘Where are we going boss?’ ‘Follow me!’
As it was, his dip into the sea was partially worth it, with Watson turning out against Ian McColl’s Sunderland in a match made possible by the home team’s 5-2 demolition of Brentford in the Third Round.
Fairbrother, presumably, went for a dip at Seaburn.
After a poor run of form had left the lads 19th in the table, results had picked up at the turn of the year after the introduction of slight Scotsman Bobby Kerr.
After a debut goal sealed a 1-0 New Year’s Eve win over Manchester City, the 19-year-old had continued his fine form, scoring more goals and helping the team go on an unbeaten seven-game run.
Three goals, four wins and three draws: not a bad way to introduce yourself.
Kerr lined up in a starting XI containing 21-year-old John O’Hare and 18-year-old Colin Todd, and it was O’Hare who opened the scoring in 13 minutes, followed in quick succession by strikes from Neil Martin and Bobby Kerr.
Eighteen minutes in, 3-0 up.
It was four at the break, Martin netting again, and he completed his hat-trick – the only one scored in the Fourth Round that season – two minutes after the break.
Bobby Kerr got Sunderland’s sixth, and a Jim Baxter penalty made it seven. Only a goal from Watson, following evidently successful high-pressure treatment, gave Peterborough any semblance of consolation.
After the game, Peterborough’s manager Clark, who I must admit to becoming increasingly fond of, said:
It was racehorses against carthorses.
As for Bobby Kerr, the youngster had impressed again – so much so he drew glowing praise from the referee, Mr Harold Richards.
This lad could become another Stanley Matthews. I hadn’t seen him before today but I think he has a great future. He is always on the move and his ball control and shooting are excellent.
I had a job keeping up with him. I’m only glad I was refereeing and not marking him!
In hindsight, however, maybe it wasn’t such a good thing that Sunderland cruised through. Despite McColl – whose post-match summation consisted of ‘we should never have conceded that goal’ – wishing for a home time with Swindon, we were landed with a home game against Don Revie’s Leeds.
And that was a bad-tempered game in which Bobby Kerr suffered a leg break – after attempting to tackle Norman Hunter.
The game ended in a draw, and Sunderland were finally eliminated from the competition at second replay stage – a last-minute Johnny Giles penalty at Boothferry Park knocking Sunderland out of the competition, much to the disgust of Georges Herd and Mulhall, who both dismissed on the final whistle.
As for Kerr, Sunderland fans would have to wait another 18 months to see this exceptionally bright prospect turn out again.