Sunderland squad challenged to emulate 1973 side

First published in Sunderland AFC News Durham Times: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

MARTIN O'NEILL has challenged his Sunderland side to follow in the footsteps of the FA Cup winning team of 1973 as they look to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in eight years.

The 1973 FA Cup final win over Leeds United was arguably the club's biggest success, but over the years several teams have struggled to emulate Bob Stokoe's side.

Players like Ian Porterfield, Dick Malone and Jim Montgomery are etched in the club's history for their part in the triumph over Leeds and O'Neill has challenged the current crop to join them in the history books.

Everton lie between the Black Cats and a semi-final at Wembley today and having grown up supporting the Wearsiders, O'Neill believes it is about time the club enjoyed another moment like that of 1973.

"Over the last ten to 12 years the FA Cup may have lost some of his magic. I'm hoping it might get that back over the next sixty or seventy years. I'm hoping it will become the most important cup competition.

"This club has lived on the 1973 FA Cup final against Leeds United, Jim Montgomery's double save, Porterfield scoring the goal, and that's really, absolutely fantastic.

"But you would like to think at some stage or another this club in the next 100 years will be able to share a few more moments than that.

"For a club of this size to have not won a trophy since 1973 is a great shame. To have only been in one final since then, you wouldn't have believed it at the time. It might be a fairly lengthy time before we are contesting that, but a club of this size should be doing better."

Sunderland last reached the semi-final stage in 2004 when they were beaten to a place in the final by Championship side Millwall at Old Trafford and O'Neill believes the fact this year's semi-finals will be held at Wembley is a big enough incentive for his players.

He said: "Getting to Wembley would be absolutely fantastic. For a club like us to go down there would be a great day out.

"It would be an achievement. You dare not think about getting to Wembley yet, that is the point. We've 6,000 going to the game and that is really fantastic. It has given everyone a lift, including the players. We'll give it everything we've got, we have to.

"The lesson of history is that these opportunities don't come around very often. You think that at the age of 21 or 22, you lose a quarter-final, that's all right, it'll be around next year. Then you're 29 and it hasn't happened for you, honestly.

"Even in our great days under Brian Clough the FA Cup, which was massive in those days, alluded us. We lost a quarter-final against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, it was the fifth round the following year against Arsenal and Birtles missed a sitter, and he didn't miss too many for us in those days, and then Frank Stapleton scored, I could go through many harrowing moments.

"Newcastle United in 1974, you thought it was bad enough to lose that but you'll have plenty of time again, I was 22 at the time, then it just goes.

"I'm not sure if the players worry or know enough about the history of their own club but then you'd be surprised at how much some of the younger players know.

"I've worked with Craig Bellamy and he would be able to tell you probably about six of the starting line up about some team that's playing fifth or sixth in the Polish league, seriously it was incredibly.

I'm not expecting everyone to be like that but it was illuminating for me. It was nice to see, he knows his football inside out, really inside out. I'm going to use him as my chief scout!"

Sunderland's record at Goodison Park has been nothing short of woeful in recent years, but the Black Cats boss is keen to ignore such statistics.

He said: "The FA Cup has fantastic history and great tradition, I can feel the occasional turn in that direction now which is good.

"We have just about as tough a draw as you are likely to pick up with Everton away. There are some major teams left in it. We would love to get to Wembley but we would love to be in the hat.

"I don't like to look at records like that and it's something I pass on to the players too. It's just a talking point for people, it isn't something we worry about in training. Come Monday it will still be talked about whether we win or lose, that's just something we have to deal with and concentrate on getting a result."

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