Would Victory For Sunderland Over City Be A Bigger Upset Than ’73 Triumph Over Leeds?

Sunderland pulled off the greatest ever FA Cup Final shock when they beat Leeds United 1-0 in 1973. They have a chance to do the same in the League Cup Final at the weekend if they overcome Manchester City.

But would a triumph over the riches of Manchester City be a greater achievement for Sunderland than victory over Leeds in ’73…? Below BOBBY writers Rob Shepherd and Karl Hofer give the case for and against.

NO – says Rob Shepherd

It will take the spirit of ’73 for Sunderland to beat Manchester City in the Capital One Cup at Wembley on Sunday – but if Gus Poyet’s team do overcome City it won’t quite compare to Sunderland’s seismic success over Leeds back in 1973.

Even if the financial gap between Sunderland and City is bigger now than it was between The Rokerites (as the Blacks Cats were then) and Leeds 41 years ago – despite the fact the Wearsiders were in the second tier – it should not be underestimated how the chasm of class was perceived to be back then.

Don Revie’s side were at their swaggering peak even if on reflection they never accumulated as much silverware as they ought to have done.

City are evolving into a phenomenal force but as yet don’t have the all round strength and yes sometimes cynicism that Leeds had back then with players such as Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer and Allan Clarke.

Despite a swashbuckling run to the final, including victory over Arsenal in the semis, second division Sunderland were given absolutely no chance.

But Bob Stokoes’s team produced a wonderfully defiant display characterised by an astonishing double save from Sunderland keeper Jim Mongomery to keep Leeds out.

And then the late Ian Porterfield, who went on to manage Chelsea, popped up to snatch a winner.

Memorably at the final whistle Manager Stokoe, clad in trench coat and donning a trilby hat, evaded a steward before dancing across the Wembley turf to embrace his heroes.

Bob Stokoe hugs goalkeeper Jim Montgomery after winning FA Cup Final 1973
Bob Stokoe hugs goalkeeper Jim Montgomery after winning FA Cup Final 1973

In context the win remains the greatest giant killing in an English cup final.

Of course last season Wigan, who would get relegated from the premier League days later, pulled off an unlikely win to hoist the FA Cup by beating City 1-0.

In that sense it shows City for all their financial power and pool of talent don’t have the aura that Leeds had back then.

That said, City’s attacking power may mean they overhaul the record score line for a league cup final (since becoming a one-off rather than two legged affair) which was achieved last season by Swansea when they beat Bradford 5-0.

A six-nil for City would not be a surprise but a win for relegation haunted Sunderland would not be a shock quite as high on the Richter scale as it was when the club beat the Mighty Leeds back in 1973.


YES – says Karl Hofer

The romance of Sunderland’s shock victory over Leeds in ’73 is the reason why we love cup football in this country. Don Revie’s Leeds side had matured in the conflicts of the First Division and European competition. They were no flamboyant Fancy-Dans who ‘didn’t like it up them’ and therefore could be rattled into submission. No, Leeds had the players for a battle all right, so a win would have to come through football and a fair bit of luck – which famously it did.

But times have changed. Back in ’73 Leeds may have had a side with ten internationals, but they were ten internationals from the British Isles. The side Sunderland face on Sunday is one where every player, including the ones sitting on the bench, are internationals, recruited as they were from around the globe at great expense.

That fact alone puts the task facing Sunderland into context.

OK, unlike the final of ’73 both teams are in the top flight, but the gap between City and Sunderland – or City and mostly anyone for that matter – is just gigantic.

Football, now more than ever, is dominated by money. City’s squad has an estimated value of £400m compared to the £90m value given to the Black Cats. An unusually busy season for arrivals at Sunderland (due in no small part to previous manager Paulo Di Canio) saw 21 new faces arrive at The Stadium of Light for nearly £30m – which is £4m less than City paid for Fernandinho alone.

So in economic terms the Sunderland squad is £310m worse than Manchester City’s squad. Even allowing for inflation you can’t say the same is true of the ’73 finalists.

Nasri, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero,
Alvaro Negredo, left, celebrates scoring with Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri. The three of them cost as much as the entire Sunderland squad.

It is that financial advantage which has boosted City’s firepower to the point that Pellegrini’s men are set to beat all goal scoring records for a single season.

Manchester City are also most people’s tip to go on and win the league, although Chelsea and Arsenal will have something to say about that of course. Back in the 72-73 season Leeds finished third in the table behind Liverpool and Arsenal but were beaten ten times in the league, something that will not happen to Manuel Pellegrini’s team this year, regardless of where they finish.

I expect a real battle on Sunday. The recent Arsenal game apart, when the players were no doubt concerned about missing the final through injury or suspension, Gus Poyet has added real steel to this Sunderland side. But lifting the trophy against this talent-laden tide of Sky Blue is surely beyond them, and few people outside Wearside will be bothering the bookies to say otherwise no matter how big a price Poyet’s men are given.

If the Black Cats do pull off the unthinkable on Sunday then rest assured their lineup will be nostalgically recalled in 40 years time by Sunderland fans with even greater reverence than Ian Porterfield’s teammates are nowadays – and that is despite the fact this is the League Cup and not the more heralded FA Cup.


League Cup Final – Sunderland v Manchester City, Sunday March 2nd, 2pm


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