SUNDERLAND'S famous FA Cup winning side of 1973 – which beat reigning champions Leeds United in the Wembley final – have been awarded the freedom of the city.

And as well as the starting XI, the honour, reserved for those who have served the city in an ‘exceptional capacity’, will also be extended to the overlooked heroes who helped steer the side through the contest.

Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, told a virtual meeting on Wednesday: “The achievement counts as one of the biggest shocks in the history of the FA Cup.

“With the exception of achieving promotion by winning the league at the second tier of English football, this triumph remains the last significant trophy that Sunderland AFC has won.

“To be able to formally recognise the achievement of the players who brought the cup back to Sunderland in 1973 would be an honour for so many people.

“The enduring pride and respect the people of Sunderland hold for the team is a testament to everything they have done and continue to do for this city.”

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Miller was speaking at Wednesday’s online meeting of the full city council, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Original plans only intended to extend the honour to the core team who clinched victory.

But following campaigning by opposition Conservative councillor Michael Dixon it was agreed to also include seven other squad players who featured in competition ties on the road to Wembley.

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Dixon said: “It was a magical rollercoaster for those of us who were there and it all began in January at Nottingham when we drew with Notts County.

“Recognition hasn’t been brilliant over the years, but this is an opportunity to, if not put it right, show our appreciation for what these lads did.”

The proposals failed to gain universal support however, with the council’s Liberal Democrat group attempting to derail the plans after baulking at the estimated £35,000 cost and claiming the side had already been honoured when the club as a whole was given the freedom of the city off the back of the FA Cup victory in 1974.

The proposal was eventually approved with 54 votes in favour, seven against and a single abstention.

The starting XI who played in the 1973 FA Cup Final due to be honoured are Richard Philip ‘Dick’ Malone, Ronald George ‘Ron’ Guthrie, Michael Frederick ‘Micky’ Horswill, David Vernon ‘Dave’ Watson, Richard Ernest ‘Ritchie’ Pitt, Robert ‘Bobby’ Kerr, Dennis Tueart, Victor Lewis ‘Vic’ Halom and the late David Young William ‘Billy’ Hughes and John Ian Porterfield.

Squad players also in line for the honour are Brian Chambers – the side’s single substitute on cup final day itself – Jackie Ashhurst, Joe Bolton, John Latham, Mick McGiven, John Tones and Keith Coleman.

Manager Bob Stokoe received the freedom of the city in 1974, along with the club as a whole.