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Roy Of The Rokers: Sunderland vs Manchester City FA Cup 5th Round Replay Edition!

Gary Engel continues his look at Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup run in the style of the legendary cartoon. Today’s edition takes in the 1972/1973 legendary fifth round replay against Manchester City.

Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

For those of you who remember the heady days of Sunderland’s remarkable cup journey, have you ever wondered what it would’ve been like to be one of those players, particularly one of the lads on the fringes before Bob Stokoe arrived?

Well, here’s a player who lived that dream.

This isn’t an opinion piece or a true story. If anything, it’s simply a short series written in tribute to the feats of Sunderland’s heroes of 1973, as witnessed from the pitch itself.

Tweaks have been made in order to reimagine and incorporate our own young ‘Roy of the Rovers’ player, Jim Sharp (Jimmy Sharp).

He’s loosely based on someone I knew of the right age, and who had the right doors opened- the powerful young forward could also have joined that magical journey towards lifting the FA Cup under Bob Stokoe…

Soccer - Sunderland Photo by Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Roker Park was a-buzz after Sunderland’s heroics at Maine Road three days earlier resulting in the two-all draw. While some thought Saturday was a chance missed against one of the cup favourites. But Stokoe appeared in no mood to write off his side's chances.

‘I know often a club from a lower division has their best chance to surprise one of the big-boys first time around. So, the papers will think we’ve missed our opportunity. However, I think we are just getting better with each match in this competition and when our Roker crowd really find their voices and we have that Roker Roar behind us… well, I’d say we’re in for a memorable night,’ Stokoe declared.

Sharp had been forced to sit it out due to a slight knock. With Stokoe’s confidence, the team are raring to go for the reply. Both Sharp and recent signing Vic Halom have already hit it off. While both vying for the number 9 shirt, Stokoe can see how their different styles can compliment one another. Suddenly the question isn’t necessarily which one of them to leave out, but how playing both can get the best from the two very dangerous forwards at Stokoe’s disposal. Certainly, the papers have debated it since Halom’s arrival.

Soccer - Football League Division Two - Charlton Athletic v Sunderland Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

February 27th 1973, Sunderland v Manchester City

FA Cup Fifth Round – Replay at Roker Park

The roads leading up to the ground are chocker with fans pouring in. Expectations are high - 10,000 Sunderland fans had travelled to Manchester on Saturday so it's no real surprise.

‘Okay boys, we’re not going to let them settle and play their game. If we do, they have some top players that can hurt us. But don’t get star struck, it doesn’t matter if you are facing up to Mike Summerbee, Francis Lee, Colin Bell or Rodney Marsh you’ve already showed you can match them. Get in their faces, let them know you’re around. But show your own quality. They kind of know what to expect, so I’m going to make a change tonight.’

The team looked at each other. Who was he going to drop? Stokoe picked up the number 8 shirt and handed it to Sharp.

‘Sorry Billy (Hughes), but it’s purely tactical. I want you, Jimmy, to play your game. Only a little deeper and from the right. Get hold of it and drive at them. Can you do that?’ Stokoe concluded.

‘Of course, boss!’ a smiling Sharp confirmed, stamping his boots on the floor.

‘Okay lads, we’ve got this. We were so close on Saturday! Now we can give them a lesson on our home turf,’ Kerr shouted, clapping his hands together.

‘Aye, we’ll match them, man for man,’ Porterfield cried.

Soccer - Football League Division Two - Fulham v Sunderland Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

The Sunderland team took to the pitch in front of a loud and expectant Roker crowd.

‘Well, Jimmy, let’s see what you’re really made of. Remember you’re playing right in front of me, so I can rollock you if needs be,’ Kerr laughed.

‘No need, City are going to see me at my best tonight,’ Sharp winked as he adjusted his shin pads.

Sunderland’s following Stokoe’s order from the team talk, on the front foot from the off. They’re keeping the ball and their shape well. Some good work on the left before Porterfield picks up the ball and plays it across to Kerr. Kerr looks up and splits the City defence releasing the ball to Sharp at the edge of the area. Without much time to think he releases a thunderous right foot shot from just outside the box. His strike is as sweet as any he’s unleashed before; it riffles towards the opposite corner of the net at the Fullwell End who rise in unison – Sunderland are 1-0 to the good after 15 minutes.

Jimmy, where the hell did that come from? I knew you could hit them, but Christ on your wrong foot too!’ Kerr said, shaking Sharp’s hand before slapping him on the back.

Sharp took a breath to drink in the noise, the crowd, the moment and the adulation. He looked towards the bench, even Stokoe was smiling and doffed his trilby towards his goal scorer. Sunderland continued to control the game, although it was end-to-end, but it’s no surprise as Sharp doubles the lead. Again, down the right, just inside the area Sharp skips over the ball, dummies to throw the defender off and at the second attempt arrows a shot from the outside of his left foot past the keeper.

Sunderland’s in dreamland now, with less than half an hour gone and 2-0 up.

Manchester City try to rally, they’re pushing hard to get back into the match. Sunderland’s defence is holding firm and whenever breached, they have Montgomery to thank for going in at the break still two-up.

Manchester City finally breach the Sunderland goal from the City forward, Francis Lee.

‘Don’t worry lads, you’re still in control!’ Stokoe reassures from the touchline.

A strong City side are throwing everything they have at Sunderland. But the backline with Pitt and Watson are standing up to the barrage well. Sharp has kept City’s left flank occupied nicely. But now he is being withdrawn for Billy Hughes. Sharp is getting a standing ovation from the Roker faithful after an unforgettable night, as Stokoe had promised.

The substitution is another Stokoe masterstroke, as within a few minutes of coming on Hughes has snatched Sunderland’s third of the night – to restore the two goal lead – drifting in from the left-hand side. City heads drop and they know the game is up with only 12 minutes remaining.

With a home tie with Luton next to look forward to. Sunderland have seen out the 90 minutes of fantastic night on Wearside, sure to live long in the memory.

As will the toast of Roker Park, Jimmy Sharp.

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