SAFC vs. Man City - FA Cup '73

Written by Brian Leng

It is doubtful whether Roker Park ever experienced such drama and emotion during its 99 year life than on that incredible night back in '73 when Sunderland produced one of the all-time great performances against Manchester City. The date was February 27th, 1973.

It was this game more than any other that demonstrated the fervour and passion that Sunderland Football Club generates in its supporters. Roker never roared louder than on that incredible February night 25 years ago.

The game also produced one of the finest goals ever seen at the famous old ground and for its scorer, centre-forward Vic Halom, the guarantee of a place in football folklore on Wearside for all time.

Halom, a £30,000 signing from Luton Town, only a couple of weeks before the game, now reveals that he was on the verge of signing for Everton when a chance encounter with Sunderland boss Bob Stokoe changed the entire course of his career in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

The former Roker striker, now living in Manchester explains: 'We were actually up in the north-east preparing to play Newcastle in the 4th round of the F.A. Cup when our manager, Harry Haslam, called me to one side to tell me that Luton had accepted a bid from Everton for my services and Harry Catterick, the Everton boss, had asked Luton to leave me out of the side for the Newcastle game so that I wouldn't be cup-tied. The night before the match we all travelled down to Ayresome Park to watch Middlesbrough play Blackpool and it was there that I bumped into Bob Stokoe.'

'I'd known Bob from my Charlton days and he began to tell me about his plans for Sunderland. He was rebuilding the side and had moved Dave Watson back to centre-half and was now looking for a centre-forward - would I be interested? You have to remember that at the time Sunderland were struggling near the bottom of the Second Division whereas Everton were a top six side in the top flight and had won the League Championship only a couple of seasons before. Nevertheless, I'd always rated Bob as a manager, even though he used to give me a torrid time as a youngster at The Valley, and he really impressed me with his plans so I agreed to meet him the following week.'

'The meeting actually took place at Elm Park, Reading the following Wednesday where Sunderland were involved in an F.A. Cup replay and I agreed terms and signed immediately after the match."

It was a game that Sunderland won comfortably by three goals to one to set up a glamour tie against cup favourites Manchester City and a couple of weeks after signing, Vic found himself leading the Sunderland attack in front of a crowd of over 54,000 at a packed Maine Road ground. City, having disposed of Liverpool in the previous round were red hot favourites to lift the trophy and, with players of the calibre of Rodney Marsh, Colin Bell and Francis Lee in their side, few people gave Bob Stokoe's side any hope of progressing to the next round.

On the day, however, they produced a magnificent performance to earn a 2-2 draw and take the sides back to Roker the following Tuesday. 'Actually, we were lucky not to beat City at the first attempt' recalls Vic. 'Having gone a goal down in the early stages, Micky Horswill got us back into the game with as cheeky an equaliser as you'll ever see and when Billy Hughes put us ahead midway through the second half we looked to be on our way.'

'But with about 15 minutes remaining City scored direct from a corner and in the closing stages they threw everything at us but Monty kept us in it with a string of brilliant saves. I remember on the coach home sitting next to Denis Tueart and saying, tongue in cheek, 'Just wait Denis, I'll show you the big time.' At the time no one could have imagined how prophetic those words would be.'

Back home cup fever was sweeping Wearside and tickets for the replay were sold out within hours of going on sale the following day. Many fans had queued overnight, a sight that was to become commonplace in the weeks ahead.

Outside of Sunderland few people gave Sunderland a chance in the replay and Malcolm Allison, City's flamboyant manager and member of ITV's so-called 'Panel of Experts' proudly announced to the nation 'Sunderland have no chance - we'll murder them in the replay'

Francis Lee even went so far as to say he would forfeit a week's wages if City failed to make it to the next round. How they would be made to eat their words. The replay was Sunderland's biggest game for years and a crowd of almost 52,000 fanatical fans packed the Roker terraces hoping to roar 'The lads' to victory. Sunderland kicked-off, attacking the Fulwell End and the game was only four minutes old when City's midfield hard-man, Mike Doyle, was booked for a terrible challenge on Hughes. Referee Ray Tinkler was clearly determined there would be no repetition of the incidents in the Maine Road match which culminated in City having Tony Towers sent off.

Undeterred, Sunderland stormed forward looking for the early breakthrough that would give them a real chance and after only 15 minutes it arrived - and what a goal it was. The flowing move which began on the left, ended with Kerr pushing the ball through to Halom who, from the right edge of the penalty area, unleashed a tremendous right foot shot which flew into the top corner of the net, clipping the inside of the post on its way. Not surprisingly, it's a moment that Vic remembers in detail to this day: 'I'd expected the ball to be played down the left and crossed, so I held back waiting to make a late run into the box but the play switched and when Bobby rolled it square to me I just hit it first time.Now, any professional footballer will tell you that you instinctively know when you've struck a ball correctly - you don't actually feel anything - and I caught this one perfectly and it fairly screamed into the top corner.'

'Funny thing was, as the ball was flying towards the goal I remember Joe Corrigan, the City 'keeper, shouting 'Leave it' to his defender. Poor Joe thought it was going wide!' The goal set Roker alight and a few minutes later Halom almost made it two, Corrigan saving brilliantly after Watson had headed a Malone free-kick into the path of the Sunderland striker. A brief spell of City pressure followed and Montgomery was called into action to prevent Bell and then Marsh from levelling the scores.

Then, in the 26th minute, Hughes, receiving a long throw-in from Kerr wide on the right, raced into the box and, having seen his first attempt blocked, picked up the rebound, rounded Donachie and drove a terrific right foot shot wide of Corrigan to put Sunderland two up. 'The second goal was a terrific finish by Billy,' recalls Vic, 'but I remember as he went past Donachie I'd taken up a position in front of goal and was expecting him to square it to me. When I saw him shaping to shoot I thought 'greedy sod' - until I saw the ball nestling in the back of the net!'

City were clearly stunned by the goal and, with the intensity of the Roker Roar now reaching new heights, the half-time whistle brought welcome respite for Malcolm Allison's shell-shocked troops. Not surprisingly, City began the second-half in earnest and their slower, more calculated build-up began to cause problems for the Sunderland defence and in the 53rd minute they claimed their reward. Doyle, sent clear by Towers, crossed from the left to Bell who headed back across the face of the goal for Lee to beat Montgomery from close range.

For the first time in the match Sunderland looked to be in trouble and Mellor, Bell and Marsh all went desperately close with Montgomery in the Sunderland goal performing heroics to keep them at bay. Then Lee looked to be a certain scorer as Bell crossed from the right and the City striker powered a shot goalwards from point blank range only to see the Sunderland 'keeper deflect the ball clear with his legs. Sunderland were now restricted to occasional breakaways but from one of these in the 78th minute they scored the goal that effectively won the match and sent Roker Park into ecstacy.

Again it was another flowing move, this time started by Porterfield, who released Malone down the right. The full-back played it inside to Halom who sent Tueart racing clear into the box to hit a fierce drive which Corrigan could only parry. As the ball rolled agonisingly across the face of the goal Hughes won the race at the far post to slide it home.

'We knew we were home and dry when the third goal went in,' recalls Vic, 'You could tell by the reaction of the City players, I think the atmosphere got to one or two of them - the noise was unbelievable.' It was said that the roar which greeted that goal could be heard for miles and it kept going right to the end as Sunderland's fanatical fans celebrated a famous victory.

For those people involved that night, players and supporters alike, it was an experience they would never forget. Legend has it that the following morning a member of the Roker Park groundstaff was setting about his daily routine when he spotted a lone figure standing on the Fulwell End terraces gazing up at the roof.

When approached the stranger introduced himself as a London based journalist who had been to the match the night before. 'I've been reporting on top class football all my life but I've never heard noise like that. It's a marvellous gimmick - where are the hidden amplifiers?' asked the journalist, still staring up at the roof.

'Amplifiers?' replied the groundsman, 'There's no bloody amplifiers here mate, what you heard last night was the Roker Roar!'