If Notts County, Leyton Orient or Crawley Town win the FA Cup this year, it will no longer be possible to claim that Sunderland's 1-0 defeat of Leeds United in 1973 was the greatest Cup final upset of all time.
But it will still remain an extraordinary feat: Leeds, the holders, were in their swaggering pomp under Don Revie, fielding 11 senior internationals; Sunderland, languishing in the nether regions of the old Second Division, didn't have an international to their name, had been 250-1 outsiders at the start of their campaign, and in Bob Stokoe had a manager who only took over at Roker Park six months previously.
Lance Hardy's research was impeccable as he traced and interviewed all the key figures in the match – with the exception of those no longer with us, a sad roll call which includes both managers and the goalscorer, Ian Porterfield.
Apart from the goal, the two things most of those who saw the match remember are a wondrous double save by the Sunderland keeper, Jim Montgomery, and Stokoe's ecstatic capering at the final whistle, but Hardy slips in a wealth of other nuggety facts – he points out, for instance, the two captains were the shortest in Cup final history, Billy Bremner, at 5ft 5in, half an inch taller than Bobby Kerr – without slowing the pace.
In those days the FA Cup was an infinitely bigger deal than it is now, the major TV event of most years, and the city of Sunderland was gripped by near-hysteria before and after the match; 750,000 people turned out to welcome the team home, while the 1971 census put the population at 217,079.
Times have changed, but this book is an engrossing reminder for all fans, not just Mackems, of the way it was.
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