Martin O’Neill had just taken out his first mortgage when Sunderland last won the FA Cup. His two brothers flew over from Ireland to Nottingham, to watch history made on a television set, in 1973, the “crippling” repayments on a new home forgotten as O’Neill’s adopted side defeated Leeds.
That day felt as far away as ever tonight. Wearside was freezing cold, less than 20,000 braced the biting weather and once again a North-East club slipped out of a major cup competition.
There is still hope in the region for someone to stir the past memories of what the FA Cup can bring, but each season brings renewed disappointment. O’Neill did not hide his.
“This is a big club and we should not be spending 40 years without winning something,” he said. “People have put their hands in their pockets. It’s up to us, the team, myself. We have to show more consistency. We have not been able to run three, four or five games together.
“Forty years is far too long. We enjoyed a really good run last season.
“We had this opportunity tonight to play Everton again and we didn’t take it. It is disappointing, really disappointing. Other people play weakened sides but we tried to win tonight and were unable to do it.”
Some 279 fans had travelled from Bolton to the Stadium of Light. They will remember last night for a long time. Marvin Sordell, who, as his manager Dougie Freedman confirmed this month, is battling an obsession with Twitter, had scored one goal in the 11 months he had been at the Reebok Stadium before the first game against Sunderland. Now he has four, three against a Premier League side who did not look like one for long spells of both ties.
His first came from the penalty spot, after Jack Colback had slid into a tackle as Darren Pratley charged into the Sunderland penalty area. “Jack went to ground and you always run the risk,” added O’Neill. “It is rather dubious and Jack got the first touch. It is a big moment.”
Sunderland had dominated the opening 45 minutes but their opportunities were from long range, Craig Gardner and Adam Johnson shooting wide. The penalty however, changed everything. Sordell calmly stroked his shot down the middle of the home goal as Simon Mignolet dived to his left.
Nine minutes after the penalty, Sordell struck again. Chris Eagles was the creator this time, slipping a pass behind Colback. Tyrone Mears crossed into the area and after Matthew Kilgallon made a mess of his clearance, Sordell turned to fire in a second.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” said Freedman. “We tried to limit Sunderland. Towards the end we grew into the game with our passing. Over the 90 minutes I felt we deserved to win the match.
“We knew we had to hang in their the first 60 minutes of the game but I felt in the last 20-30 minutes we would have the energy to attack them and it worked for us. It’s difficult for Marvin. He is a young guy and there is a lot of pressure on him. I got back to basics with him to prove what he is, a goalscorer. Now we’re looking forward to Everton. It’s a winnable game for us.”
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Bardsley, Bramble, Kilgallon, Colback (Cattermole, 76); Gardner, Vaughan; Johnson (Larsson, 71), Sessègnon, McClean; Wickham (Campbell, 71).
Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Lonergan; Mears, Knight, Ricketts, Alonso; Vela (Holden, 74), Spearing; Afobe (Lee, 70), Pratlet, Eagles; Sordell (K Davies, 85).
Referee K Friend (Leicestershire).