In the run up to our Checkatrade Trophy Final, we have invited our crack (not crap) team of ALS writers to recount their favourite Magic Wembley Moments, or should that be tragic? Here's Gary Burrell's take on the 1992 FA Cup Final against Liverpool…
1992 FA CUP FINAL
May 9, 1992
Att: 79, 544
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Liverpool FC (Thomas 47’, Rush 68’)
Malcolm Crosby’s Rokerites had seen off Port Vale, Oxford, West Ham, Chelsea and Norwich on the Road to Wembley, with John Byrne scoring in every round. Now the mighty Liverpool stood between Second Division Sunderland and FA Cup glory.
I was 15 years old and had been to every game on that Cup run, travelling to Away games in London and Oxford with the SAFC Travel Club, but as this was the pinnacle of my time as a football fan, I wanted to soak up the atmosphere and spend the full day in London. So along with my mate, I boarded the back of a National Express Coach just before midnight from Jarra Bus Station, and we set off on a six-and-a-half-hour journey to Victoria Station.
The journey itself was terrifying. We were completely out of our depth to be alongside South Tyneside’s most drunken men. I’m not sure my lungs will recover from the passive smoking, nor my nostrils after one Gentleman ‘had an accident’, turning his white Geordie Jeans into something resembling ‘Chocolate Souffle’ on the Dulux Colour Chart.
Mentally scarred, shaken but undeterred we arrived in the Big Smoke, escaped the hungover lunatics and ventured off to the Tube Station. After approximately 15 minutes of staring at coloured lines, laughing at the word Cockfosters, and playing ‘Where’s Wembley?’, we took a little map of the Underground to McDonald’s in order to plan our Pre-Match Build Up.
Now this was in the days before Smart Phones, Social Media and Internet Forums, and being the clueless, unorganised lads we were, we just had to ‘wing it’ and find where all the Sunderland fans would be.
Two more McDonald’s and a walk past Buckingham Palace later, we decided to head to Wembley around midday. I had been to the famous Empire Stadium once before, when my Dad who lived in the Capital, took me along to watch Chelsea v Middlesbrough in the Zenith Data Systems Cup Final. (Dorigo free kick, 1-0….no need to rush off to Google it), but as a Sunderland-obsessed teenager this was an incomparable spectacle.
Off the Tube Station and onto Wembley Way.
The sight of the old Twin Towers was enough to make your hairs stand on end, and even though there were hours remaining before kick-off, replica Hummel shirts were on view everywhere you looked.
Now, this bit I vividly remember, but tried to shoehorn from my mind at the time. This is where the magic was not quite as I wished for…
The skies were grey. There were occasional showers. The noise was underwhelming. This wasn’t the raucous, blisteringly-hot day that Cup Final Grandstand had delivered throughout my childhood.
A lad next to me on the walk to the Stadium mentioned the same thing to his Dad and I was instantly reassured. Not just that I wasn’t the only ‘glass half-empty’ fan in attendance, but by the words he received in reply. “Exactly the same as 1973 man. Sunderland of the Second Division against the best team in the country, and the weather is identical too. It’s meant to be!”
I had no idea what the weather was like at 12pm on 5th May 1973, but I believed this Mackem stranger and by the time I walked through the turnstile I was again full of optimism.
My ticket was right near the tunnel behind the goal, and the view was perfect. My view of the tunnel that is. The opposite end of the pitch on the other hand…well, it just seemed miles away. “I’ve paid fifteen quid for this!”
The build-up to kick off was when I really started to get excited. First, the players having their walk around the hallowed turf, then the warm-ups, singing along to Abide with Me (courtesy of the lyrics being printed in the £5 Match Programme. A fiver!) and then the moment itself arrived when Malcolm Crosby and Ronnie Moran led the two sides out onto the pitch. I could have burst with excitement and nervous energy. The noise, the flags, the Hawayawayawayawayaaaa’s. This was it.
The majority of SAFC’s starting XI that lined up for the National Anthem picked itself. Paul Hardyman being the only unlucky one to miss out.
In the first half Sunderland were attacking the end opposite to where I was positioned, so I never really appreciated how clear-cut John Byrne’s chance was to make history. Other than that, I can just remember us holding our own in a scrappy game devoid of quality and goalmouth action. To leave the field after 45 minutes on level terms though was a great achievement and we gave the Lads a rapturous applause as they walked towards us and back down the Tunnel.
The second half had barely begun when on the far, far, far right of the pitch Steve McManaman slipped the ball infield to Michael Thomas, who let fly with a shot towards Tony Norman’s goal. I recall my head whipping to the left and a slight delay between half of the Stadium rising to their feet and an almighty roar from the Scousers.
And that was the end of our dream.
McManaman and Jan Molby pulled the strings and we chased shadows for 45 minutes. When Ian Rush added the second goal with a third of the contest still to play, I feared humiliation. Credit to Sunderland for remaining resilient and retaining their dignity.
I stayed for the Trophy presentation and remained in the ground for as long as possible after the final whistle. Partly to savour every moment, partly due to the fact the coach back home didn’t leave Park Lane until midnight and we had nowt else planned.
Downbeat but not distraught, I wandered the streets of London, venturing from one McDonald’s to the next until wearily stepping onto the (not so) fun bus a good half hour or so before departure.
By the time we were ready to go, I had a moment to reflect not only the Wembley experience, but the incredible time I had throughout the whole Cup run. That was until shitty arse came and sat next to me again, tab hanging out of his mouth, can in hand and a pair of Union Jack shorts over the same pair of jeans he adorned the previous night.
Oh for Fuc...