It’s close on 40 years since that night.
And still each passing year it tugs at the memory, reminds you that life is not fair. Even when it gives with one hand it can reach out with the other and rip your heart out. Leave you among the debris still courting a smile on the lips.
Like that night back in early February, 1973. A night where few braved the cold, long, mid-week trip down to Reading for an F.A Cup fourth round replay that promised little but a slim chance to have fate postponed until Maine Road a few weeks hence.
Still, some went. Because that’s what Sunderland fans do. Then and now.
And they were repaid with an unusually clincial display as Watson, Tueart and Kerr put the game neatly and early to bed.
Away wins are rare at the best of times for Sunderland fans but that one must have been especially sweet coming with a performance that promised a decent last half of the season under the new manager as well as a fun trip to play one of the real, big boys, Manchester City of Division 1.
Of course there would have been no silly thoughts of getting to the sixth round or further. Never mind actually winning the damn thing. Only the real nutters, the ones who liked to bet on 100-1 outsiders, bothered with such silliness.
Still, it must have been a sweet trip back. All the way as far as Chester-le-Street when the car crashed and they died.
Even now, 40 years later, I like to think they were wearing their scarves. I don’t know why, but it seems important.
One of the lads, Kevin Bottoms, lived on Boldon Drive, just round the corner from me. All of 19 years old.
We weren’t mates but we’d chatted a few times as we got off the number 40 bus back from home games. The other lad, Keith I think he was called, was a 16-year-old, from just down the hill in Boldon Colliery.
Some days, when my team has managed to self-distruct in the most unlikely of circumstances and I feel that heady boil of anger, impotence and loyalty, I drag my thoughts back to Kevin and Keith.
How they never got to see Halom’s goal, or stood on the terraces at Hillsborough and called for Stokoe, or walked up Wembley Way, by then assured we would plunge a spike into the heart of the footballing beast that was Leeds United.
Yet they were there in Reading that night. They did their bit to light the touchpaper of a most remarkable journey even if they never got to travel the entire, glorious route.
So amidst the wonderful recollections of 1973 spare a thought for Keith and Kevin. Pray that in those final seconds they didn’t see it coming. Because instead they were too intent on debating something about their team: perhaps whether Watson was a better centre half than forward.
If so, well, there are worse ways to die. God bless.
(Our Canadian Correspondent)