Richie Pitt

Pitt's 'special' Wembley memories

by Stuart Vose

We catch up with one of the heroes of '73.

Amidst the nerves of a Wembley final, 1973 FA Cup winner Richie Pitt had family matters on his mind, too.

Pitt’s three-month-old daughter was ill in hospital when her father lined up against the mighty Leeds United on that famous day 40 years ago.

Having been reassured all was fine, Pitt played a key role in helping to shut out a Leeds side who were heavy favourites going into the game.

And a encounter with royalty stands out in the recollections of a day which Pitt says he remembers “every second” of.

“The Duke of Kent came along the line before kick-off to meet us, and he must have read about my daughter in the papers because he stopped to ask me how she was,” he explained.

“She was only young at the time but I knew everything was okay before the game.

“We’d been in and had messages, and my wife came down on the Friday so I’d spoken to her about it.

“Everything was fine. She brought photographs and my daughter’s cot in the hospital had been all decked out in red and white for the game.”

The rest was history as the game passed by in a flash, with Ian Porterfield hammering home the winning goal before Jimmy Montgomery astounded Leeds with arguably the best save in Wembley history.

And even lifting the famous trophy didn’t bring the enormity of the achievement home to Pitt, who only truly realised what his side had done when kicking around an empty Wembley following the departure of the 100,000 strong crowd.

“I was on the pitch with Mick McGivern afterwards when the whole stadium was empty, and it was only then that it hit me that we’d won the cup.

“I stood there and said to Mick, ‘I think we’ve done something special’, and he replied, ‘you have, and it will live with you for the rest of your life.’

“Seven games later, I was finished.”

Pitt’s footballing career was cruelly ended by a knee injury with 145 senior appearances to his name.

Forced onto the sidelines at the age of just 24, Pitt would surely have made many more appearances in the red and white stripes had he been able to continue in the game.

But the Ryhope lad is sanguine regarding the injury and simply considers himself lucky to have achieved all he did.

“A lot of footballers play for 15 years and don’t get anywhere near a cup final.

“I only played for four years at the most and was lucky enough to win an FA Cup with my home-town team.

“I’ve been a Sunderland fan since I was six and I will be until the day I die.

“To win the FA Cup for my team with that set of supporters was incredible. Professionally, it was the best day of my life."

After retiring, Pitt became a teacher and is now head of year at a school in Seaham.

“I’ve been teaching for 34 years now. A lot of the children don’t know what I was, what position I played in or what I looked like then with all the fuzzy hair!

“But it’s nice that there’s still a level of interest there.”