It is a strange coincidence that the most unforgettable day in Sunderland AFC’s entire history comes on the eve of one of Sunderland’s biggest games in its recent history. It is a time when all toes and fingers will be crossed, prayers to higher powers will be offered, and when we seek inspiration and hope for a new time of glory and heroes.
Even at 27 years of age, I seek new heroes for my football team and I have often dreamt of what it would be like to see my team win a game of such significance and magnitude and can only imagine the joy, the celebrations, and the shared sense of happiness that it would generate.
What was it like to experience the 1973 FA Cup win and to witness the sheer elation that Bob Stokoe, Ian Porterfield, Jimmy Montgomery and company brought to the people of Sunderland?
The legacy of that encounter lives on in Sunderland fans young and old. Generations who witnessed that day pass their memories onto their children, and their children will pass it on to grandchildren, and so the memory is carried forward almost half a century later.
The Bob Stokoe statue now stands proudly in front of the Stadium of Light, ensuring that the impact he had on our football club is rightly never forgotten. The heroes of the day, ‘Stokoe’s stars’, still don their Sunderland suits for home games and meet and greet all Sunderland fans.
It is only right that Jimmy Montgomery, Dick Malone, and Dave Watson have been present at games at the Stadium of Light for years, and that Bobby Kerr is a regular at the Fans Museum on matchdays, meeting fans and listening intently to the impact the game had on fans’ lives at that time, the joy that it brought them, and the appreciation they have for some of their happiest times.
I will always remember fondly meeting Jimmy Montgomery and Dick Malone with my father in 2020. He wouldn’t be one for getting starstruck, but seeing him talk to the two men and thanking them for the memories was like watching him go back to an 18-year-old when he watched the match here in Ireland.
I have no doubt that being a Sunderland fan in 1973 in Ireland was as unusual as seeing a vegetarian in a butcher shop, he surely was one of a very few. He has seven siblings and none of them appreciated the passion he had for a random football club in the North East of England.
I love hearing him recall the joy it brought to him; buying the newspaper with the headline ‘Sunderland Wonderland’ after the game, the fact that he cheered alone when Porterfield stamped his name into folklore, and when Monty propelled himself off the ground to block the shot from Lorimer.
When I hear of his mother, his father, and siblings telling him to be quiet as he roared at the final whistle is endearing and makes me chuckle, but also a little sad.
Sad because I can completely relate to the elation he was feeling - a moment he probably wanted to share with someone else, a moment I would have loved to have shared with him.
I am certain many generations of fans from afar have that exact feeling. This is why the legacy of the ‘73 cup team will forever live on. We are all searching to live any semblance of a feeling that they felt in 1973.
The heroes of that time are the benchmark for every Sunderland team that comes after it. It is not living in the past, but not forgetting the past.
On the anniversary of our ‘73 cup success, we salute our heroes of that special day and hope our current stars can take inspiration from that day.