20100414

Is Portsmouth Cup fairytale still eclipsed by Sunderland?


Portsmouth's advance to the FA Cup final, in this of all years, confirms that the most famous club football competition in the world still has the capacity to turn up fantastic stories.

If Pompey, relegated and in administration and with the future of their players in doubt, were to go on and beat Chelsea in the final next month, it would rank among the biggest shocks in Cup history.

But would it rival Sunderland's victory over Leeds in 1973 for the ultimate accolade, the greatest final upset of all time?

Lance Hardy, whose book about the against-the-odds triumph of Bob Stokoe's Second Division team was shortlisted at the 2010 Sports Book Awards, would doubtless say not.

In a recent interview, Hardy pointed out that Sunderland knocked out Manchester City and Arsenal on the way to the final, both of whom were in the top four of the First Division at the time.

Had Barnsley gone all the way in 2008, after eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea, their achievement might have been spoken of in the same breath.  But Barnsley went out in the semi-finals and Portsmouth beat Cardiff in the final.

“With the huge gulf between the top four and the rest nowadays, I don’t know if Sunderland’s achievement can be repeated,” he said.

Hardy, a writer and television producer, was himself only five when Ian Porterfield's goal and Jim Montgomery's stunning save from Peter Lorimer entered football folklore.  Colour television was in its infancy and the combination of an orange ball and Sunderland's red and white stripes captured the nation's imagination, never mind the fanatics on Wearside.  It was the first televised match Hardy remembers watching -- and it hooked him both on the Roker Men and football.

The book itself describes the final in painstaking detail. Hardy spoke to 'Stokoe's family, players from both teams, and virtually everyone down to the Roker Park janitor and tea lady' according to Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph. 

There is also strong stuff on the difficult relationship between Stokoe, the Sunderland manager, and his Leeds counterpart, Don Revie, between whom there was historical bad blood.

'Hardy brings out the deep enmity between the two managers – the slippery Revie against the utterly upright Bob Stokoe, who always claimed that Revie had tried to bribe him to throw a match 11 years earlier.' --- Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph. Read his review here.

Buy Stokoe, Sunderland and 73: The Story Of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time direct from this site or visit The Sports Bookshelf shop to browse more football titles.  Lance Hardy also helped darts star Bobby George with Bobby Dazzler: My Story.

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