Corona Lockdown: How Sunderland’s Wembley Disasters Are Keeping Leeds Fans Entertained – by Rob Atkinson


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Mackems not enjoying Wembley – yet again


I’ve never had much time for
Sunderland, despite the fact that the Wearside club have never featured among the top echelons of rivalry with my beloved Leeds United. And really, how could they – when their sole claim to fame since the war amounts to one distinctly fluky Wembley success against Don Revie‘s overwhelming FA Cup Final favourites in 1973?

The thing is, though, that while Leeds United have generally had bigger fish to fry, the barren nature of Sunderland’s last three quarters of a century has meant that they’ve had to harp on and on about Stokoe, Porterfield, Montgomery et al ever since that freak cup final, which found Leeds well short of their normal imperious form, while Sunderland rode their luck into a page of history. It was a major shock, alright – bigger than Southampton‘s success against the Pride of Devon in 1976, and much bigger than the Crazy Gang beating the Culture Club in 1988. And, naturally, the Leeds hating media waste no opportunity to rub our collective nose in what was really a day of humiliation for a club of United’s historic standing. But them’s the breaks, and we’ve had to live with that embarrasment ever since, just as Sunderland’s needy fan base have found it a straw to clutch at for nigh on 47 years.

There are compensations, though, and Netflix came up with a beauty just this week, screening the second series of Sunderland Till I Die, which features the Mackems in familiar self-destruct mode, contriving to lose not one, but two Wembley finals as the 2018/19 season reached its climax. That’s funny enough, but the fact that this serial disaster of a club gave their fans some false hope in both matches, contriving to take the lead before capitulating, raised the comedic levels to sublime. And the nature of the Wembley occasions is also rather funny, a Checkatrade Final (whatever that is) against Portsmouth, followed by the League One play-off against Charlton Athletic, managed by our old alumnus Lee Bowyer. In both games the Mackems were ahead, prompting feverish celebrations among their hopeful but dim support – and in both games, Sunderland lost at the last gasp, on penalties against Pompey and in the very last minute of injury time against Charlton. Just as the so-called Roker Roar dissolved into tears, so Leeds United fans with long enough memories had tears of mirth rolling down cheeks that ached with laughter. It was a double dose of Schadenfreude at the time, making up in some small degree for our own less than successful climax to last season – and now Netflix have produced a comedy epic out of the ashes of Mackem hopes, almost as if they wished to entertain us Whites all over again.

This double HA9 disaster was actually made up of the two most recent helpings of Wembley Karma for Sunderland, who have contrived to lose every single Wembley appearance since 1973, including another play off defeat to Charlton in 1998, on penalties, which is always a gratifyingly painful way to get beat for any club that you don’t particularly like. Towards the end of the Netflix Laughter Show, a tearful Mackem lady is showing sobbing “Why isn’t it ever us?” in response to their latest Wembley surrender. I’ll tell you why, love. It’s payback for 1973 and that git Stokoe prancing across the Wembley pitch to hug that git Montgomery. Lovely stuff, thank you Netflix and I shall look forward to the next series of this laughter-strewn classic.

As I said earlier, it’s not a full blown rivalry, and I wouldn’t want anyone to get me wrong on this. My negative feelings about Sunderland have more to do with their intrinsic lack of charm, than any real feeling of competitive dislike. The fact that they’ve been paying in installments of misery for the joy they felt on that long ago Wembley day simply makes me feel justified in celebrating their decades of unhappiness – it’s as if they’ve suffered all that pain and angst just for us. Which is most kind of them, when you think about it. And revelling in their last two disastrous seasons has certainly provided me with plenty of chuckles and entertainment during this annoying hiatus in the current campaign. In fact, it’s put me in such a good mood that I think I’ll nip off downstairs and watch Manchester United 1, Manchester City 6, and give my chorlte muscles another brisk workout.

Marching On Together

6 responses to “Corona Lockdown: How Sunderland’s Wembley Disasters Are Keeping Leeds Fans Entertained – by Rob Atkinson

  1. ‘Nice one, Rob! ‘Keep ‘em coming, in these times of self isolation and social distancing it’s good to have a collective (virtual) chortle!

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  2. Steve Clark

    The 1973 Cup Final is still a dreadful memory. However, a bit of payback was acheived a year later when Leeds were Champions in 1974. At the end of the season Sunderland came to Elland Road to be the opposition in Billy Bremners testimonial match.Before this game the League Championship was presented to Leeds. It must have been a good revenge for Leeds that Sunderland had to be present while their celebrations for becoming champions were taking place. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

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  3. You’re right about them still going on about “73” mind. I find that if you mention Mel Sterland or Michael Bridges that normally shuts them up. To this day I don’t know how we lost that cup final after laying siege to their goal throughout the 2nd half. I’m sure that cross eyed keeper didn’t mean to make those saves. I may have mentioned this before but what rankled with me was that spiteful nasty little stunt instigated by Dennis Tuart I believe when they carried a white coffin around Roker Park emblazoned with the words Leeds Died in 73. Now most clubs even the pokey pointless clubs upon winning something will celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. But instead of enjoying the moment they had to get their little snipe in. Horrible club and most unpleasant people,I’ve seen many a Leeds game there and their crowd spend most of their time singing about how much they hate the Toon before they all walk out at half time.

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  4. Incidentally as well as watching Leeds games from the 70s and 80s I’ve been watching old England games from the same period. Hey you don’t realise how underrated Kevin Keegan and Mick Channon were. How England didn’t win anything in the 70s is another great mystery,possibly the goalkeepers. I can recommend England v Argentina in 1980 Keegan v Maradonna. Also Mr H,s Hotpot is a good vlog,cos I like Fred Dibnah.

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  5. CloughIsKing

    Great article, it’s made me see the light. What a bitter wank stain I’ve been supporting Blunderland all this time. Shithouses that haven’t been relevant since the bloody thirties. They can get fucked, I’m going to start following Newcastle.

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