Part two of our chat with club legend Bobby Kerr really is a blockbuster – we talk about the 1973 cup final, hating Leeds, loving life on Wearside, and ‘stalking’ Eddie Gray.
RR: You’re one of only two men to captain Sunderland to FA Cup Final glory in the club’s long history, the other being Raich Carter. Did you ever meet Carter and if so what are your memories of him? As a Hendon lad myself I’m curious.
BK: He wasn’t around much when we won the Cup, he was a man who liked to keep his private life private. Although, I do have a photograph of me and him which was taken and used in the Sunday newspapers in 1973. Carter was a gentleman, an absolute gentleman. All you had to do was look at the way he dressed and looked. He was always in a suit. I got on well with him because I’ve always liked to dress smart too. To be honest, Alan Brown made me that way – under him you were always smart as a carrot, we were always ‘suited and booted’ as Brown used to say. All of the ’73 lads are the same even now, if we go anywhere we’ve always got a suit on.
Mind being a Hendon lad you must know the Blue House Pub? I used to live down Hendon back in the day just close to the Blue House in Canon Cockin street, the mural of Carter on the side of the pub is a hell of a piece of art.
RR: You were instrumental in Sunderland getting to the Cup final as you played every minute of every game. How did you manage to help pull off the biggest sporting upset of a generation?
BK: We just went on, we had a good set up with a good blend. We had a good solid defensive formation. Richie Pitt was a big part of the defence and Dave Watson. I mean, Dave Watson was superb and we had a goalkeeper in Jim Montgomery who was almost picking goals out of the back of the net with his saves. Right down the front we had Vic Halom who was a wall, you could pump the ball into him and it would stick. Hughesy (Billy Hughes), Dennis Tueart, myself – we had a good strong side from the backline through to the front-men.
Even behind the scenes there was a great setup, with Arthur Wright and Jack Jones. They didn’t get as much credit as the players on the field but they were just as important. We all used to socialise and have a drink, there was a good togetherness and that helped us to go on.
RR: The day after the Cup final the players and management celebrated in a London hotel, some of the celebrations were broadcast live on TV including an interview with you and Bob Stokoe, you both look delighted!
BK: Oh aye, we both had a glass of champagne in our hands. I think we were a bit pissed! I couldn’t stop laughing behind him! Great days.
RR: Had the celebrations lasted long into the night before as well?
BK: I think me and Monty went straight to bed, we didn’t end up going out in London. We had a couple of cans in our room then turned in for the night.
Me and Monty were always roommates and often used to take a couple of cans of lager to bed with us on the Friday night before away games. We’d have a curfew of about 9:30. Some of the lads used to sneak out but me and Monty used to go to bed. We’d lock the door and if anyone knocked on the door it was ‘f**k off!’. Sometimes the Brummie coach Arthur Cox would shout back ‘It’s Coxie!’ and me and Jim would have to shout our apologies!
The coaching team didn’t find out for a long time that me and Monty would have a few cans the night before a game. Someone found out eventually and jokingly asked us ‘why didn’t’ you tell us about the cans? You bastards.’ I think we responded by saying ‘well why should we f**king tell yeas!’
It was different back then, a couple of cans used to help us relax before the game with such an early bedtime. Some of the lads used to talk about sleeping tablets, I’d have never have touched them. Couple of cans, telly on and it was goodnight for me and Monty. We’d be up in the morning and ready to go.
We did the same thing the night before the Cup final, same roommates – same routine.
RR: On the day of the 1973 Cup final the commentator stated that ‘the noise from the fans was enough to stir even the most experienced’ – what are your memories from the win?
BK: To be honest, I think I was a bit overpowered by it all. I think the whole team were overawed too. I didn’t take much of it in. Now when I reflect, I think ‘f**king hell!’, you know? When you walked out there on to the Wembley pitch and heard the noise it was colossal. If I did that now I’d be shitting myself! I mean there was 100,000 in the crowd.
When I look back now at videos of the final and I watch myself, I’m bouncing the ball up and down and I’m chewing some gum! If you watch it back I’m chewing away as we’re walking out. I look back at myself and think ‘what the f**k are you doing?’ I must have been a bag of nerves! I suppose that was my way of trying to get rid of that nervous energy.
RR: You faced Leeds Captain Billy Bremner in the coin toss, you won and chose to make the teams switch ends – was there any reasoning behind that?
BK: Just trying to be f**king clever. I was, honestly. There wasn’t any wind, I just thought f**k it. Honestly, that’s the truth – I was just trying to be clever.
RR: Did it mean more to you to win the Cup against Leeds, given that it was a clash with Norman Hunter that caused one of your leg breaks?
BK: I don’t think I was like that but it must have been inside of me. I don’t remember thinking about it too much but deep down it must have driven me on, I must have thought ‘aye, f**king up yaes!’
To be honest, Sunderland and Leeds were always rivals, there was a bit of bad blood between the sides. You had Willie McPheat – well Bobby Collins of Leeds broke his leg. Norman Hunter with me. There was always something there, this thing about Sunderland and Leeds – a bit of tension. Even when I used to play in the youth teams it was there.
RR: Was it that tension the lead to the ‘RIP Leeds’ coffin being paraded around Roker Park following the 1973 Cup win?
BK: Oh aye! There’s was always anti-Leeds feeling, stuff like that used to happen quite often. It was always like a kicking match when we played Leeds and I think it was down to the history between McPheat and Collins and myself and Hunter. They were known as ‘Dirty Leeds’ back then, brilliant team – they won everything that was going. But, Christ did they like a battle.
RR: It’s often said that Don Revie and Bob Stokoe didn’t get on too well, how true is that?
BK: They never got on, they always had this problem with each other. I think that probably contributed to the tension between the two teams as well. It doesn’t seem as prominent now but back then it was a real fierce rivalry.
RR: Is it true that you dropped the FA Cup?
BK: Oh God! Aye, when we won we went up the staircase to receive the trophy. Obviously, I collected the cup, as I turned around to walk off I’ve fallen down the stairs, if you watch it you can hear the cup clunk! The f**king cup bounced off the floor! Watch the video back, the players that come after me make the same mistake, everybody is falling all over the place. One of the lads goes to shake hands with somebody then falls over. Aye, it’s worthwhile watching it back just for that, it was hilarious!
The journey back to Sunderland with Cup was phenomenal. I don’t think we realised what we’d done until the journey back. We were coming back on the bus from London and people were standing on the bridges waving at us, we were all thinking what the f**k’s this? Some of us were still playing cards, it just hadn’t sunk in what we’d achieved.
RR: A brilliant feat for 26-year-old Kerr to get the better of Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles at Wembley in an FA Cup Final.
BK: We thought more of them than they thought of us. Oh aye, Leeds underestimated us. If you look at the way Dick Malone handled Eddie Gray, God I almost felt sorry for Eddie. If he went for a shite, Dick went with him!
Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles and all their f**king posh names – smashing blokes don’t get me wrong. But when it came to football they were f**king c*nts.
RR: If you look at the interview footage before the game with John Motson and the Leeds players, one or two talk about scoring early and creating a real exhibition of football, you didn’t allow that to happen.
BK: Oh no, and that’s because they didn’t know we were going to clog Eddie Gray at every opportunity. I’d made my mind up. If he can’t get the f**king ball then they can’t score. If Gray can’t get the ball they’re f**ked and the best way to do it was to stand on him. Me and Dick didn’t let him out of our sights.
Some people say to me ‘Well you didn’t do that much in the Cup Final!’ I always respond with ‘Yeah you’re right because I was too busy f**king standing on Eddie Gray!’
If the ice cream man came across the pitch then I would have got one before him.
RR: Where were you on the pitch when Ian Porterfield scored and what are your memories of his goal? I guess you were marking Eddie Gray!
BK: Aye, I wouldn’t have been too far away from him!
RR: Personally, it rankles me that you helped shaped culture in Sunderland with your contribution to its football, yet you won’t have earned as much as some of the Sunderland players who’ve raked in hundreds of thousands to sit on the bench. What do you make of player wages and agents these days?
BK: I don’t blame players for making as much money as they do, but it’s stupid when they blow it all on daft things. Buying four cars and extravagant things – but that’s down to them I guess.
Christ, I wish I’d had a good agent! I still made enough money to live, in my day there wasn’t as much money flying around. It was more of a working-class game. Some of the miners were making the same amount of money as we were. They were good days.
Mind, I didn’t play well all the time. I wish I could have gotten the fan in the Clock Stand who shouted at me for years, he used to scream ‘Kerr, get yourself off and take Micky Henderson with you!’Every time I had a bad game, I’ll never forget it. Funny looking back.
RR: What was it like living in Sunderland after you’d brought the cup back?
BK: Oh, brilliant. It was brilliant to live in Sunderland anyway. As I mentioned earlier when I went to play for Blackpool myself and Dick Malone would travel back to Sunderland. A young Phil Brown used to come back with us too. We had some good times and laughs together at Bloomfield Road but it wasn’t the same as Sunderland. Brown was linked with the Sunderland job when Keane left I think.
RR: Why do you think it took until the 1975-76 season for Sunderland to get promoted to the First Division following the win in ’73?
BK: A lot of the lads left. Micky Horswill went, Dennis Tueart and Billy Hughes too. There was a few that left and they deserved to leave, Dave Watson’s another. They all went on to do good things elsewhere.
RR: Was there any interest in you?
BK: Oh aye, but I always said I didn’t want to leave. If you look back on how my career went then maybe it can be judged as mistake, but I was Sunderland through and through.
And that was that, three hours in the company of a man forever embedded in Wearside folklore. Bobby was open, gracious, funny and welcoming. I’d like to go on record thanking him for agreeing to speak to me.
On behalf of us all at Roker Report, I’d like to wish Bobby well in the future. A true Sunderland legend.