The memories came flooding back as soon as the draw was made – Peterborough at home in a Cup game.
Some of them good ones to be fair, though in the end it all goes back to Ken Stokes, who deserves his place alongside Jimmy Hill in our own Hall of Shame.
But that was still to come when we lined up against Posh. Things were in one of those rare but wonderful uplifts that we get as Sunderland supporters if we have patience and faith.
In many ways it began on New Year’s Eve that 66-67 season when a tiny Scottish lad, name of Bobby Kerr, slapped in the winner on his home debut in the last minute against Man City.
He then went on a scoring streak which he never replicated – two broken legs seemed to doom him, though Bobby had a heart much bigger than his stature would suggest. He would yet have his moment.
But as 1967 got underway he was our new wee hero and alongside the leaping salmon that was Neil Martin and a young John O Hare we started scoring goals. In the third round a clinical second half display saw off the challenge of lowly Brentford 5-2.
By the time we played Peterborough in the next round we were rampant. Two from Bobby and a hat-trick for Martin caused most damage in the 7-1 demolition – watched by 44,000 (Cup games were not the irritant they seem nowadays).
Then, of course, who else but Leeds in the next round. “Dirty” Leeds, whose fate always seemed to collide with our own. There was a hatred between the teams, going back to the deliberate crippling of Willie McFeat and the following battles of the promotion year where we squared off toe-to-toe in every possible sense.
But where we had faltered back in Division One they had soared – their brand of diving, swarming, time-wasting, dirty football – admittedly laced with some skill – intimidating the entire division.
More than 55,000 were packed into Roker for the tie – 5,000 more than had been there the previous Saturday when, again thanks to a pair of goals from Kerr, we had savaged Newcastle 3-0 thus completing a rare double.
In fact as we lined up against Bremner and company we hadn’t lost a game since Bobby had fired in that goal at New Year. It was a nasty game, gale force winds spoiling any chance of a skillful contest. But it was full-blooded enough – Jim Baxter and Bremner both would have been sent off, brought back and sent off again these days for their combined attacks on each other.
But it was a seemingly innocuous challenge by Norman Hunter – if Norman-bites-your-legs could ever tackle in such a way – which crippled Kerr. Had him limping to the sidelines and then to the dug-out. A broken leg. He’d never again score with such abandon.
The replay saw the largest ever crowd at Elland Road, close to 60,000, watch another battle ending, even after extra time, 1-1.
So it was on to Hull for the second replay. A night on infamy in its own way similar to one against Everton that would take place 11 years later.
With time running down it was again tied at 1-1 when Jimmy Greenhoff ran towards the box in the 89th minute. He was yards outside when he went down. Well..maybe I’m biased..let’s read what Leeds own Peter Lorimer wrote years later in his autobiography about manager Don Revie and that night –
“Don said out of the blue: ‘If anybody gets anywhere near the box, get down.’ Jimmy Greenhoff, who was quick when he was in full flight, set off on one of his jinking runs and was fully five yards outside the penalty area when he was brought down. By the time he had stumbled, fallen and rolled over a couple of times he was inside the box, and the referee, Ken Stokes, pointed to the spot so quickly that with Giles scoring the winner from the spot it was almost embarrassing … This was at a time when there was a lot of talk about referees being got at. I am not saying that Stokes was, but the issue begged close examination. Firstly, why did Revie issue that ‘dive’ instruction and, secondly, why did Stokes award a penalty that so clearly was not? Lots of things were happening in football that simply did not add up, and this was just another of those … Mulhall is to this day quite irate about the situation. The Sunderland old boys are 100 per cent sure that this was not a straight game. As players, you never know … I remember thinking in the dressing room after that game, ‘That was a funny statement of Don’s.’ Maybe he thought that Ken had not so far given a penalty and might do so at the next debatable incident, maybe there were other factors.”
It was that same Peter Lorimer who, six years later would be standing on the six yard line with an empty net gaping, behind which stood thousands of Sunderland fans, many of whom, like me, would have been there that night in Hull.
Sometimes there is a God. And sometimes there was just Monty. And afterwards Bobby Kerr, not the goalscorer he once was, but no longer limping, walked up those steps to finally claim, among other things, justice.
(Our Canadian Correspondent)