On this day in 1967, St Andrews was the venue as Sunderland travelled to Birmingham City to play in the first leg of the Youth Cup Final.
Sunderland’s youth contingent were looking to go one better than their losing finalist appearance against Arsenal in 1966 and had seven players starting this match, including Colin Suggett, Billy Hughes, Dereck Forster, and Malcolm Moore, who had played in the final the previous season. The Sunderland XI also had three players with first team experience this season in Suggett, Hughes and Moore.
All the other players in the squad that night, had played regularly in the reserve league and with Sunderland the recently crowned winners of the Northern Intermediate League title, a very exciting double was in the sights of the club and its youngsters.
Birmingham were a big strong side but lacked the experience of the Sunderland team. On their team sheet that night were six players who went on to make a good living out of the game. The Latchford brothers Bob at centre forward and Dave in goal, Gary Pendry, Steven Lee, Alan Childs, and Keith Bowker all went on to play league football.
Sunderland had enjoyed a marvellous run to the final, which included a 4-0 defeat of Newcastle with a memorable Billy Hughes hat-trick. They had also defeated a strong Manchester United team 2-1 at Roker Park in front of ~11,000 fans. A young schoolboy named Dennis Tueart scored an absolute screamer that night and laid on the second for Albert Brown.
The game kicked off in front of ~10,000 fans and Sunderland were quickly on the attack, sending a clear message to Birmingham that they had not come to park the bus!
Chambers and Fagan had decent chances in the early stages, and Latchford saved well from Sunderland captain Suggett and Brown. For Birmingham, right back Reynolds was causing problems with his willingness to get forward at any opportunity and their captain Steven Lee was having a fine game.
On twenty-three minutes a lovely bit of play saw Colin Suggett clear through on goal. As he moved to shoot, blues defender Gary Pendry tripped the lively striker and the referee awarded what looked like a clear penalty. The City defence were adamant that an offside should have been awarded and controversially it had looked like the referee was going to blow in the split second before Pendry upended Suggett. The penalty stood despite vociferous Birmingham objections from players, management, and crowd.
Billy Hughes rolled the spot kick just inside the post and Sunderland took a deserved lead on the balance of play.
The game then developed a hard edge, with several free kicks and niggly tackles. The crowd were incensed with the officials and at one point the game was stopped to clear a bottle that had been thrown onto the pitch.
Sunderland continued to look more likely as Latchford in the City goal was the busier of the two keepers, however half-time arrived with the score at 1-0.
In a blistering second half performance, Sunderland ripped through the Birmingham defence on a number of occasions as their experience began to show. Hughes, Suggett, Brown and Moore had good chances to increase the lead but somehow the score remained 1-0 as the final whistle blew.
The young Black Cats had put themselves in the driving seat for the return leg at Roker Park five days later, a game I was lucky enough to attend along with a near 16,000 crowd as we won a tight contest by the same 1-0 scoreline with a goal from Albert Brown.
Between 1964 to 1969 was an extremely productive period of youth development for the club. Over half the home-grown players to represent the club at youth level, graduated through to first team football.
Sunderland were Youth cup semi-finalists in 1964/65, beaten finalists in 65/66, FA Youth Cup winners in 66/67 and 68/69 as well as quarter finalist in 67/68. Players such as O’Hare, Todd, Suggett, Kerr, Hughes, Tueart, Pitt, Chambers, McGiven, Coleman, Park, Lathan, Moore, Swinbourne and Forster all cut their teeth in the FA Youth Cup and would progress to the first team.
This cup pedigree would see no less than six home-grown players from this golden era in the starting eleven of the 1973 cup final team. Two days after the second leg of the 66/67 final, Billy Hughes, Colin Suggett and Dereck Forster joined the first team squad, with Baxter et al for the infamous tour of North America, a different kind of experience for the young stars!
17th May 1967
FA Youth Cup Final - First-Leg
Birmingham City 0–1 Sunderland
Birmingham City: Latchford D, Reynolds, Beckett, Lee, Saunders, Pendry, Rushworth, Dorsett, Latchford R, Bowker Substitute: Childs
Sunderland: Forster, Robinson, McLaughlan, Huntley, Felton, Chambers, Fagan, Suggett, Moore, Brown, Hughes Substitute: Coleman