The Sunderland AFC squad of 1973 which won the FA Cup has been officially awarded the Freedom of the City of Sunderland, at a ceremony held at the Beacon of Light.
The ceremony took place on Thursday evening and saw Bob Stokoe’s cup final squad of SAFC legends individually presented with the Freedom of the City by Sunderland City Council.
The special event reunited many of the successful players now based in several corners of the globe, in what club historian Rob Mason described as “the largest reunion of the Cup-winning team since the trophy was won.”
Those to be presented with individual Freedom awards were captain Bobby Kerr, along with Dick Malone, Ron Guthrie, Micky Horswill, Dave Watson, Richie Pitt, Vic Halom, Dennis Tueart and David Young.
Winning goalscorer Ian Porterfield, who passed away in 2007, along with Billy Hughes, who we lost in 2019, were granted Freedom as a posthumous award – collected on their behalf by Ian’s daughter Joanne and Billy’s widow Linda.
A quintet of players who featured in earlier rounds of the competition in 1973 – Jackie Ashurst, Brian Chambers, John Lathan, Mick McGiven and John Tones – all received a joint Freedom.
Jimmy Montgomery – awarded Freedom of the City in 2016 – was also present at the ceremony to witness his former teammates collect their awards.
Pitt, who was born on the Plains Farm estate, said: “It’s a very special night. The cup win changed all of our lives – I still have Sunderland fans chat to me now and it meant so much to them, which a lot of us know as local lads. To achieve this with my home city is something we absolutely cherish.”
Malone, who regularly plays a part in welcoming supporters at the Stadium of Light on matchdays, added: “One vivid memory I have of the day itself was how everyone in London was supporting Sunderland – there were red and white scarves everywhere. The FA Cup final used to be the most significant day in the football calendar – we were underdogs on the day, but we always believed we’d win.”
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Graeme Miller, said: “After Jimmy Montgomery was granted Freedom of the City six years ago, it was long overdue for the rest of these club legends. It was something that was planned two years ago but for the intervention of Covid, so it’s great to finally recognise the squad’s achievement with an award of the highest regard. The cup triumph will always mean so much to the City of Sunderland and its communities, especially to beat a side like Leeds United in the final.”