Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bob Stokoe of Mickley (c.NZ075621)

Mickley, Northumberland, is not a very large village. It is known, historically, as the birthplace of the famous engraver, Thomas Bewick (at nearby Cherryburn Farm); but should, perhaps, be even better known for spawning one of the most celebrated football figures the region has ever produced: Bob Stokoe.

The man is a Sunderland legend, of course, having managed the Wearsiders to that most unexpected FA Cup Final victory over the then mighty Leeds United in 1973. But he is closely linked with Newcastle United, too, having won the cup with the black ‘n’ whites as a player in 1955. In between these two momentous occasions he managed a string of lower league clubs with a varying degree of success.

Robert Stokoe was born at Mickley on 21st September 1930 into a typical North-East mining community – in fact he was the son of a miner. He joined Newcastle United in 1947 as an apprentice, scored on his debut in 1950, and went on to play 288 matches for the club – mainly at centre-half, and punctuated by that 3-1 Cup Final win over Man City in 1955. He left for Bury in 1960, joining initially as player-manager, then concentrating on management.

He remained at Bury for five years – famously refusing a bribe, he claimed, from Leeds manager Don Revie to ‘throw’ a match. He then managed Charlton, Rochdale, Carlisle and Blackpool, before quietly taking charge at Sunderland in 1972. Then a second tier club, they shocked the football world by beating the imperious Leeds United 1-0 in the ’73 Cup Final – and a stunned nation watched Stokoe dash across the Wembley turf on the final whistle adorned in raincoat and trilby to embrace match hero, ‘keeper Jim Montgomery.

After he left Sunderland in 1976, he moved in and out of various posts over the following decade – and, astonishingly, was never sacked at any of the twelve clubs he managed. He retired in 1987 – ironically overseeing Sunderland’s only ever relegation to the third tier of English football.

He died in Hartlepool in 2004, aged 73.

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