Porterfield back to haunt Leeds

FA CUP FOURTH ROUND: Distinguished member of Wembley hall of fame meets old adversaries today. Guy Hodgson reports
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The Independent Online
Maybe when you have got 27 of the things, you can afford to be wanton with them. When Colin Todd was asked this week about FA Cup finals, he said he would gladly have sacrificed some of his England caps to have played in one. The Bolton Wanderers manager did not presume to put a value on the winning goal at Wembley.

Not that he would have to go far to get an estimate. The club president, Nat Lofthouse, scored twice in Bolton's 2-0 win over Manchester United in 1958, while Todd's newly apppointed coach, Ian Porterfield, got the most famous goal of his life against Leeds United in the final of 1973. FA Cup glory runs vigorously through the corridors of Burnden Park.

Porterfield, 50 next month, took on what most would assume is the nearest thing to mission impossible - helping keep Bolton in the Premiership - three weeks ago and, fate being what it is, almost the first thing he was confronted with was the FA Cup fourth-round draw against, of all teams, Leeds. Memories of 23 years ago came flooding back.

In 1973 he was part of a Sunderland team whose Cup run fired imaginations beyond those normally stirred by events on a football field. Among the Second Division's relegation candidates at Christmas, they were transformed by the appointment of Bob Stokoe as manager, sweeping past the then might of Manchester City and Arsenal on the way to Wembley.

There, every logical argument suggested the Wearside dream would end. The opponents in the final were a Leeds team whose image was the antithesis of romance. They were hugely skilled but had a frowning hardness that had all but killed affection outside West Yorkshire.

For six years running they had finished in the top three in the First Division and were champions the following season. Every Leeds player at Wembley was an international but that could not insure them against the whim of Cup fortune.

Porterfield, whose right foot was largely for standing on, used it to volley the winner while at the other end Jim Montgomery invited comparisons with Gordon Banks' breathtaking save against Pele three years previously by keeping out a shot from Peter Lorimer. The country, inured to the charms of a brilliant Leeds side, rejoiced.

Alan Hoby, in the Sunday Express, wrote: "It was not so much the Cup final of the century as a shattering CRASH which could be heard throughout the world of football. Soccer has never known - or seen - anything like it. It was the Sunderland miracle... the Roker explosion that destroyed Leeds, the overwhelming favourites, in the biggest Wembley upset of them all."

Even at the time Porterfield kept a grip on his excitement, describing the goal thus: "I just turned and whacked it. I knew as soon as I connected that no keeper could stop it. Although, come to think of it, Jimmy Montgomery probably would have done. What a game he had."

Now the owner of what, for a fleeting moment, was the most famous right foot in football is reticent to talk about memories. "I don't want to take attention away from Colin and the players at Bolton," he said. "It was a long, long time ago. I hit it right, I hit it sweet and it went in. These things happen in football.

"I was one of the lucky ones who achieved something many people dream of. It was nice for me, it was nice for the family but it was nice for a lot of others too. Particularly Bob Stokoe, who did such a terrific job with us, but most of all the people of Sunderland. It was no more special for me than for others."

Porterfield arrived at Bolton after a managerial journey that took him to Rotherham, Shef- field United, Aberdeen, Reading and Chelsea. The last appointment ended with his dismissal in 1993, which probably ranks as the worst point of his career, but one he confronts without rancour.

"You have your bad moments," he said with a low voice that still carries a strong Scottish accent. "Football's always been about ups and downs but I've always been a positive person. For every winner there has to be a loser. I roll my sleeves up and work hard to put things right."

Nowhere more so than at his next job after Stamford Bridge, in Zambia where he coached a national side which had lost 18 players in a plane crash to within a match of making the World Cup of 1994. A draw against Morocco in Casablanca would have earned them a place in the United States, but they lost.

Porterfield then coached a club side in Saudi Arabia but was available when Bolton dismissed Roy McFarland as joint manager early in the New Year. "I've known Colin since we played together at Sunderland," he said.

"I knew from coming here as a player and a manager that this has always been a beautiful place in terms of the welcome you receive. Right from Nat Lofthouse down. Whether you win, lose or draw you're well received. There's good continuity, everyone seems settled here. Nice environment, lovely people. That's why I didn't have to think too hard about coming here."

Porterfield has a five-month contract that will be reviewed by club, manager and coach in the summer although results since his arrival have shown an improvement. Bradford City were beaten 3-0 in the third round of the Cup and in the Premiership there has been a 1-0 win over Wimbledon and a creditable 2-1 defeat at Newcastle.

Burnden Park has been receiving letters from Tyneside since then, saying that Bolton are among the best sides to visit St James' Park this season, although Bolton are fed up with getting plaudits and no wins. A truly dreadful performance that yields three points would probably be preferable to Porterfield.

"The morale has been very good," he said. "The lads were disappointed that the results weren't going for them but they're in good spirits. They're chirpy and up for the games. They certainly don't give the impression of a team going out expecting to get beaten.

"We've got 14 League games to turn the corner and so far it has been encouraging. We were unfortunate to lose at Newcastle but we came away with great credit. We were playing a side who most people believe will win the Premiership and we competed very well. That can only help the players' confidence."

A win today would hardly cause an outbreak of self-introspection, either. "In the last few years the Bolton public have come to expect good runs," Porterfield said. "They got to the Coca-Cola Cup final last year and reached the play-offs at Wembley, so the fans are used to big games. And this is a big game for us. Leeds are just 40 miles up the road from here."

The outcome of today's match is possibly the hardest to predict in the fourth round. Anyone searching for an omen would be interested to know, however, that Stokoe arrived at Burnden Park this week and spent an afternoon talking to his former charge. "He is a lovely man," Porterfield said, "and he takes time to see how his players are getting on." Significant? Porterfield dismissed the notion with a snort. "What happened 20 years ago will have no bearing at all on Saturday."

It is nice for the people of Bolton to hope, though. They would probably give away a couple of Colin Todd's caps for another trip to Wembley, too.

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