The Mackems lost out to Norwich in ’85.

by Susan Jardine

As we all know this weekend sees the first major piece of silverwear decided with the League Cup trophy heading for either the North West or the North East.

Yes, Sunday 2 March is the day of the league cup final, and a second appearance in the final for Sunderland, as they take on Manchester City.

Of course Sunderland first reached the final in 1985, when on Sunday 24 March they faced Norwich City. It was a year that saw the Miners strike end just weeks before, while Phil Collins and Phil Bailey were number one in the pop charts with Easy Lover.

Let me take you back to that day and to two moments that effectively decided the outcome. Firstly David Corner was dispossessed by John Deehan in trying to shepherd the ball out of play and the ball fell to Asa Hartford whose shot deflected in off Gordon Chisholm to give the Canaries the lead on 46 minutes.

With it all to do Sunderland fought back and were awarded a penalty by referee Neil Midgeley when Dennis van Wijk handled the ball in the penalty area. A golden chance for Sunderland to equalise as upstepped Clive Walker. As Sunderland fans held their breath Walker took aim and missed the target.

That effectively ended the contest, as Norwich boosted by their let off saw the match out to lift the first major trophy in their history. An open top bus parade followed on their return to East Anglia, for Sunderland they could only reflect on what might have been.

But 29 years on the Black Cats have a chance to put the record straight. Standing in their way however are Manchester City. The League cup represents leg 1 of a quadruple set of honours the Blues are chasing. They are a team who have been in free scoring form at the Etihad, and have already notched up over 100 goals this season. If you say it like that on paper it would appear to be a no contest. However football doesn’t always follow the form book, and certainly a few finals have thrown up surprises over the years.

Remember 1969 when Swindon shocked Arsenal, 1991 when Sheffield Wednesday upset Manchester United in the final or what about 2011 when Birmingham beat Arsenal

Manchester City fans will know all about being the victims of an upset as the last FA Cup final showed, when they were favourites to beat Wigan Athletic. As we all know it did not turn out that way as Ben Watson scored a dramatic last gasp winner that left Manchester City with very little time to respond. Looking at the performances Manchester City appeared to be a little flat, while Wigan refused to let them settle and grabbed their chance of glory.

City though ultimately exacted a graphic revenge on Wigan en route to the league cup final when they put five past the Latics in the third round.

It would be extremely foolhardy though to underestimate the Black Cats, who during their campaign have seen off Chelsea and Manchester United on penalties. Manchester City by contrast had a rather more straightforward semi final against West Ham, which to West Ham fans may well have been the sporting version of the Hammer House of Horror. But again that should not be taken as a form guide, because the resolve Sunderland showed in seeing off Chelsea and Manchester United in turn says plenty about their strength of character on the pitch.

And I am sure Manchester City fans will remember what happened when these two teams met at the Stadium of Light earlier this season when a Phil Bardsley goal was enough to condemn City to defeat.

Of course Sunderland fans should take heart from the 1973 FA Cup final against Leeds. As we all remember Leeds were heavy favourites and Sunderland were in the old division two at the time. A combination of Ian Porterfield and outstanding display in goal from Jimmy Montgomery helped Sunderland to victory against the West Yorkshire side.

Spookily enough a West Yorkshireman will be the referee on Sunday, and it is Martin Atkinson.

Sunday has the potential to be a magical day for Sunderland. And guess what was riding high in the pop charts on the day Sunderland claimed the FA Cup. It was See My Baby Jive by Wizzard.

So which team will leave their fans spellbound on Sunday? The answer will be revealed in ninety or maybe even 120 minutes of football.