Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stokoe Statue unveiled


Stokoe Statue unveiled

At last, the long awaited bronze statue of former Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe has been erected and unveiled at the South-East corner of the Stadium of Light. Stokoe managed the only F.A. Cup winning Sunderland team that I can relate to (the 1937 victory was well before my time) and he died in Hartlepool at the age of 73 on February 1st. 2004.

The eight foot bronze by sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn depicts the moment when Stokoe ran onto the Wembley pitch to hug goalkeeper Jim Montgomery after the final whistle sounded in the 1973 defeat of Leeds United. It even shows Bob's wrist watch set at 4.50 p.m. the end of the game.

I was 17 years old then, a teenager on the verge of manhood, yet I cried like a baby at 4.50. I had been to every game, home and away, during the amazing cup run, yet could not get a ticket for the final at the old Wembley Stadium. Tickets were allocated using a draw and raffle tickets! The tickets were issued during the home games preceding the cup final and were printed with a letter on them, a draw took place and those with the lucky letters were able to purchase Cup Final tickets. I remember queuing at the Fulwell End with George Arthur and Ian Goudie and one or two other mates from South Shields, and as we approached the banks of turnstyles a policeman separated the queues into the left or right doorway, I got separated from my pals and received a ticket with an "F" on it, they received tickets with "G". Needless to say "G" got lucky, "F" did not. So despite pleading for tickets and advertising in newspapers to find someone willing to sell, I was resigned to watching the game on the television at home.

Father was kind enough to allow me to drink a can of beer with him as we watched the game (he had first taken me to Roker Park in 1963 prior to the promotion season, and at 33 minutes past 3 o'clock the beer sprayed across the living room ceiling as Ian Porterfield smashed the ball past David Harvey. At the end of the game, we dried our eyes and went outside onto Westoe Road, South Shields to see if there were any other Sunderland fans celebrating this most unlikely of David v Goliath defeats. We met a few other misty eyed but overjoyed neighbours, but the incredible thing was the total lack of vehicular traffic. South Shields was at an absolute standstill that day, they may as well have closed the shops for the whole weekend.

A few weeks later we were able to meet Bob and some of the team, and touch the F.A. Cup as they visited pubs and clubs around the area to show off the trophy. We were photographed with Jim Montgomery, Dick Malone, and Ron Guthrie in a tiny upstairs lounge of the R.A.F. Association at Westoe. Somewhere, my father still has that photograph and the autographed mementoes from the evening.

Even if the season starts without a manager in place, Bob's statue will inspire both the players and the fans, Bob was full of humility, the former Newcastle United player who went on to manage both Carlisle and Sunderland was just an ordinary bloke doing a job he loved. He treat the players as though they were his own children, and this wonderful paternalism and family attitude was all that it took to inspire and motivate the players that season. The statue financed by a collective including the club, the City Council, and the fans, will also be seen as part of former chairman Bob Murray's legacy. It was a project that he very much wanted complete and in place before next season begins.

If you have any favourite memories of Bob Stokoe's time at the club, and the 1973 F.A. Cup Final, please feel free to leave a comment.

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Comments:
Enjoyed reading that Curly, I'm a mate of Bradlaw who hasn't escaped London. My memories of that day are sketchy as I was only 4. My main memory is of my dad being very happy, then playing football after the game in the back garden with my 8 year old brother. He was throwing the ball up in the air then trying replicate Porterfields goal. Being younger I was in goal of course (David Harvey).

I was a bit worried when I saw the initial model for the Stokoe statue, thought it looked a bit odd. Having seen those pictures of it finished & in place, I think it looks superb & can't wait to see it. A fitting tribute to Stokoe, that moment, that team, that day. Marvellous.
 
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