Metres from the away turnstiles at Sunderland's Stadium of Light, Bob Stokoe stands forever immortalised as he was when the final whistle blew on May 5th 1973: clad in trilby hat and tracksuit bottoms, arms outstretched and coat-tails flapping as he raced to congratulate goalkeeper Jim Montgomery, his grin widening with every step across the Wembley turf. “I should pack it all in," he said after his second division team had beaten Leeds 1-0 to lift the FA Cup. "There’ll never be another moment like this."
Born on the banks of the Tyne at Mickley in Northumberland, 1973 wasn't Stokoe's only Wembley success. Eighteen years earlier he played at centre-half - given the job of stopping a deep-lying centre-forward by the name of Don Revie - in the Newcastle United side that defeated Manchester City 3-1 to lift the FA Cup. Stokoe made over 250 appearances for the Magpies before moving to Bury in February 1960, helping his new club to the Third Division title as Newcastle were relegated from the First.
After managing Bury, Charlton, Rochdale, Carlisle and Blackpool, Stokoe returned to the north-east to take charge at Sunderland, who were fourth-bottom of the Second Division and on a run of only four wins in eighteen games. "Once you’ve had that funny feeling that football gives up here," he later said, "nowhere else seems to matter."
Sunderland improved to sixth and won the FA Cup at the end of his first season, their first major honour in almost forty years. A Second Division title came in 1976, but the following season, winless after nine games and with fans chanting for Brian Clough, Stokoe resigned, blaming ill-health. He returned to Roker Park as caretaker-manager in Spring 1987, too late to prevent Sunderland being relegated to the Third Division, and retired from management immediately afterwards. Remaining in football, he scouted for a Chelsea side managed by Ian Porterfield, scorer of the winning goal against Leeds. "I have had lots of offers, like working in sports shops or becoming a publican," Stokoe once recalled, "but football is the only thing that matters to me."
When he died in 2004, Stokoe's funeral was attended by fans of both Newcastle United and Sunderland. A fitting epitaph to a north-east football legend.