League Cup final: Steve Cram on Sunderland's FA Cup win

By Steve CramBBC athletics commentator
Ian Porterfield and Dennis Tueart

Sunderland face Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. It is 41 years since the Black Cats last won a major trophy - BBC athletics commentator and Sunderland fan Steve Cram reflects on that FA Cup win over Leeds in 1973.

I was 12 when Sunderland beat the mighty Leeds United to win the 1973 FA Cup. As we celebrated for days afterwards, even getting our hands on the trophy itself, nobody told us that such a wonderful thing may never happen again in our lifetime.

Sunderland were massive underdogs to beat a great Leeds side on a special day for everyone associated with the club. Can we do it again against Manchester City on Sunday?

I was - and still am - a huge fan. I'd been to all of the early rounds at home but I didn't make it to the semi-final and it was decided that I was a bit young for a day out in London on my own.

My dad was a policeman and he was working on that day, so that was it. Decision made. Our next door neighbour went, he did at one point suggest that he might take me but it didn't materialise.

Cup final day

At home in those days we still had a black-and-white television, so I watched it two doors down at a friend's house. They were the talk of the street as they had recently got a colour television. It was the first match I'd seen in colour.

It was quite a scene, two or three families huddled around the set. I can remember it all.

Steve, Kevin, Maria and Bill Cram
Me, my dad Bill, mum Maria and brother Kevin with the FA Cup

It's hard to imagine now, but the FA Cup was the only live football on television. Every year it was a huge day and for your team to be in the final was a massive occasion. The TV coverage started in the morning, then you would have It's a Knockout between Sunderland and Leeds, then a Question of Sport, a whole bunch of programmes leading up to it. As a 12-year-old it was very special indeed.

Sunderland were in the second division and Leeds were probably the best team in Europe at that time, certainly the best in the UK, full of stars.

In the 12 years I had been alive Leeds had won the league once and been runners-up five times. They had Billy Bremner, Allan Clarke, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Johnny Giles. They were the FA Cup holders, these guys were superstars - very much the Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero of their day.

We had a team of very good players but they hadn't become a team of names at that point. People like Dave Watson, Dennis Tueart, Jimmy Montgomery. They weren't known too far beyond Sunderland.

I knew them all. I used to go on my own to home games, catching the bus from Jarrow bus station.

My dad used to be on duty at a lot of games at Roker Park, sometimes I could see him from the terraces. I quite often got a lift home in a police van - for all the right reasons.

Roker Park could hold 65,000 fans back then but there were plenty of occasions when there were 20,000 in there and you could shout to each other.

It was surreal seeing these players - who I was used to watch lining-up against Luton, Orient or Oxford - walking out at Wembley. I was really nervous, I remember that.

Sunderland celebrate
The 1973 FA Cup is Sunderland's only major honour since World War II

After the six hours of build-up that little house was full of energy by the time the game kicked-off. It was a fairly even first half without many chances and then it happened - we scored!

We never thought we would score from a corner. We weren't renowned for being good in the air but the ball just dropped for Ian Porterfield and he slammed it into the net. What a moment for the man, for us fans, for the whole town. Brilliant.

Lorimer makes it one each - No! Astonishing!

Leeds then laid siege to our goal for the whole of the second half, and the moment everyone remembers is Jimmy Montgomery's miraculous double save.

I thought it was a goal, most people did.

Montgomery's double save
David Coleman's match commentary: "Leeds are really pushing forward now. Cherry! Brilliant save - and Lorimer makes it one each - No! Astonishing!"

He saved a header from Trevor Cherry and then it was an incredible effort to turn Peter Lorimer's follow-up on to the crossbar.

When it dropped out you thought they would still bury the rebound but we somehow kept it out. In those days replays took quite a long time to appear on the TV so for a while we weren't too sure how he'd stopped it. It was a great save.

Monty is someone I've got to know well over the years. The club had a 70th birthday party for him recently, we had a nice dinner and quite a few members of that team were there. The funny thing is that the players said that in that same season away at Hull he made an even better save.

It was in the days before all games were on TV, so there is no footage of it but you ask all the players - that was the better save.

He was a brilliant goalkeeper. It's just a shame he was around in the era of Gordon Banks, Peter Bonetti, Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence or he would have won a lot of England caps. He is one of the all-time heroes at Sunderland and his save is one of the great FA Cup moments.

How I met the Cup

Steve (left) and Kevin Cram
Me and my brother Kevin with the FA Cup, 1973

About four or five days after the final the players were invited to a social club and brought the FA Cup with them. They had a good night out and the Cup was given to Jarrow police to look after overnight.

My dad Bill was on a night shift so he came home, got me and my brother Kevin out of bed, got us dressed in our best bib and tucker and took us down to the station to have our picture taken. It's still on my dad's mantelpiece to this day.

I also took the day off school for the victory parade, you had to queue up to get tickets for the end of it at the stadium.

You were allowed two each and I bought mine and came out of the exit at the turnstile. This bloke thought that I'd been pushed out of the queue so he put me back into it at the front, and I had just enough money to buy two more! I was very popular with my pals.

This year's team

We've done well in recent times against Manchester City. On paper we shouldn't beat them but in a one-off game we have a chance. They are the best team to watch at the moment and going forward they can be frightening. They have taken much better teams than us apart.

Steve Cram
"I used to play up front, I wasn't bad but my running took over. There was a guy in my year group from a school down the road called Chris Waddle. We all knew he was going to be a professional from the age of nine or 10, he was an amazing player."

But we will go there in confident mood. Gus Poyet has got us playing some good stuff, and we beat Chelsea and Manchester United on the way. We deserve to be there.

I was in Kenya for the second leg of the semi-final against Manchester United, with GB athletes at the training camp. I was jumping around celebrating at 2am like an idiot when we won the penalty shoot-out.

I was worried that the final was while I was away at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and I would miss it. But I am going, with my kids.

I've had a few days at Wembley with Sunderland - they've all ended in defeat. Let's hope it's fourth time lucky.

Supporting a team like Sunderland is often misery and false hope and these are the days to cherish every 10 or 15 years or so. It will be a massive day for Sunderland fans.

I'm not sure who would win if our side from 1973 played today's XI. There may well be three or four red cards. We had some tough-tackling players in the 70s that would make Lee Cattermole look tame.

What I do know is that if Gus Poyet gets his side to play with the same spirit and togetherness that Bob Stokoe was able to generate over 40 years ago, then we will have every chance of producing another famous Wembley upset.

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