WHERE ARE THEY NOW? ALAN SUNDERLAND AND THAT FA CUP FINAL GOAL?!?!
BORN 1ST July 1953
WOLVES YOUTH 1969 -1971
WOLVES SENIOR TEAM 1971 – 1977 – 158 APPEARANCES – 30 GOALS
THE ARSENAL 1977 -1984 – 205 APPEARANCES – 55 GOALS
IPSWICH TOWN 1984 – 1986 – 58 APPEARANCES – 11 GOALS
DERRY CITY 1987 – 4 APPEARANCES – 2 GOALS
ENGLAND UNDER 23’S 1974 1 APPEARANCE
ENGLAND UNDER 23’S 1976 1 APPEARANCE
ENGLAND B 1978 – 1981 7 APPEARANCES – 1 GOAL
ENGLAND SENIOR 1980 1 APPEARANCE
Alan began his career as an apprentice with Wolves, playing as a midfielder. He won the 1974 League Cup Winners medal after a 2-1 against Man City and helped the Wanderers win the (then) Second Division title in 1977.
His total appearances amounted to just under 200 with the 30 goals already indicated above.
It was this impressive record that saw The Arsenal pay £220,000 for him in 1977 and it was our club, under Terry Neill, that saw him switch to the centre forward position – great vision as it turned out.
He became a first team regular and played in the FA Cup final, where we lost to Ipswich Town 1-0.
But just one season later, came one of the most exciting FA cup finals ever and Alan played a crucial role in our famous win over Manchester United.
The game was so one sided, it was described as a walk in the park and we were comfortably ahead with goals from Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton and just five minutes remained.
Up stepped McQueen and Mcllroy with two goals in three minutes, and from ecstasy, we were plunged into despair. I have never witnessed one end of a ground, from being all noise and jubilation, to see the complete reversal happening at the other end in those three minutes – it was incredible.
There could be no doubt that, if there had been more time left, we would have struggled to stay with them and the most we could hope for, after dominating the game, was extra time!!
From the kick-off, however, we went for it and the tireless Liam Brady took the ball forward and he released Graham Rix on the left wing. He crossed the ball, eluding two defenders and their keeper to find Alan Sunderland and he slid the ball into the far post for us Gooners to go completely berserk and telling each other that we “weren’t in the least bit worried at the outcome!!!”
Alan actually injured himself scoring the goal and limped around with a sprained ankle on the Wembley pitch during our lap of honour.
He says that after that win, the club had a congratulatory evening at a hotel near Marble Arch, where they were entertained by Mike and Bernie Winters and recalls “It was a great and late night.” Just like the cup final itself Alan!!!!
He still has the shirt he wore that day, along with his winners medal of course. The really sad thing is that Alan would consider selling that medal in order to make retirement a little easier – what a difference to today’s ultra-rich and overpaid players!?!?
With Malcom Macdonald injuries becoming more and more debilitating, it was the budding partnership of two years with partner Stapleton that saw Sunderland emerge as such an important striker and ensured his stay at our club for the next five years.
During this time, he was top goalscorer in the 1979-80 and 1981-82 seasons – while Stapleton left for Manchester United in yet another acrimonious transfer involving the two clubs.
Alan was also on the losing FA cup final side of 1980 and the Cup Winners Cup final.
With the arrival of Charlie Nicholas and Tony Woodcock, Alan saw his first team appearances start to dwindle and, following a string of injuries, he left the club in February 1984, initially on loan and then as a permanent transfer.
Following his retirement and like so many other retired footballers, he opened a pub in Ipswich and became involved in the insurance and letting business.
He was married and had three children and eventually moved to the island of Gozo just off Malta, where he lives alone today.
Alan admits to being a loner and loves the life he has now, but was upset when Terry Neill described him thus “a bit of a loner with acerbic wit”. Alan says, “I was annoyed when I read that, but he is right”.
He took all his coaching badges, wanting to get into that side of the game, but for personal reasons it never happened, just like Tony Adams, the drinking culture had got to him and he was given a drink driving ban – he has now got the drinking habit under control and was one of the reasons he left Ipswich and his pub for the sunshine of Gozo.
Having had a pacemaker fitted, Alan plays golf, tennis twice a week, rides a mountain bike and plays five-a-side once a week.
An example of his wit? “I don’t show them how it’s done, but I do tell them”!!! No sign of an acerbity there then, just plain, good old-fashioned truth.
With his military moustache and permed hair style, Alan was never mistaken for anyone else and he recently made a half time appearance at The Emirates alongside Liam Brady still sporting the moustache, but sporting much less hair and a different colour as well!!!
Thanks for the memories Alan, enjoy your retirement in sunny Gozo, “that goal” made millions of Gooners so happy, a really legendary goal that meant so much to all of us.