Semi-finalists in 1965 and then losing finalists in 1966, Bill Scott’s youth team were determined to push on and win the FA Youth Cup in 1967.
With the bit between their teeth, they cruised past local rivals Newcastle United and Hartlepool United in the early rounds before then seeing off Preston North End, Manchester United and Scunthorpe United to set up a two-legged showdown with Birmingham City, the second game of which was played on this date 55 years ago.
Five days before the Roker Park match the two sides met at St. Andrew’s, and after a niggly affair Sunderland held a slender advantage thanks to Billy Hughes rolling in a penalty in the 23rd minute.
There had been opportunities to score more, but after some wayward finishing the tide started to turn and on Wearside it was Birmingham that looked the most dangerous.
Nerves seemed to play a part in both legs, and with the Blues trying to force an equaliser Sunderland’s half-back line of Brian Chambers, Dick Huntley and Keith Felton all had to be on their game. The trio stuck to their tasks well, as did goalkeeper Derek Forster, who was making a club record 23rd appearance in the competition.
Three years earlier, whilst aged just 15, Forster had represented England Schoolboys and then become Sunderland’s youngest ever first team player. He was still eligible to play in the FA Youth Cup come 1967 and looked assured throughout. He managed to do enough to put Trevor Rushworth off in a one on one situation and was equal to a Bob Latchford shot, and when he was beaten he saw Stephen Lee’s effort rebound off the post.
Although on the back foot for the most part, Sunderland did have their moments. Colin Suggett had a first half chance cleared off the line, but his side had to wait until the closing stages before they made sure of the victory. With Birmingham starting to get desperate and push more men forward Patsy Fagan won possession and slipped Albert Brown through for the clincher, giving his side the lead on the night and some precious breathing space.
At full time the players swapped shirts, meaning that when captain Suggett went to collect the trophy the FA officials that were present had to be convinced by referee Les Hamer that they were indeed handing it to the rightful owners. Once in their possession the team took the cup on a lap of honour around the pitch and were joined by several youngsters from the terraces; a nice moment for a side that had gone so close in recent seasons.
Less than 48 hours after the game Forster, Hughes and Suggett travelled to North America as part of the squad selected by manager Ian McColl to represent the club in the United Soccer Association, where they played under the guise of the Vancouver Royal Canadians. As for match-winner Brown, the closest he got to the first team was two unused appearances at the end of the 1967-68 campaign.
That same season saw the youths reach the quarters finals in their defence of cup. It was a golden era for the club’s youth setup, who would win the competition again 12 months later having first enjoyed glory on this day in 1967.
Monday 22 May 1967
FA Youth Cup final second leg
Sunderland 1 (Brown 85)
Birmingham City 0
Sunderland: Forster; Robinson McLaughlin; Chambers, Huntley, Felton; Fagan, Suggett, Moore, Brown, Hughes.
Roker Park, attendance c. 15,000.