Tribute to Alan Sunderland and that amazing Cup Final goal



BORN 1ST July 1953



WOLVES YOUTH 1969 -1971






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.


Thanks to Wikipedia and The Daily Mail for help with stats and some facts.


  1. I watched the hour long highlights of this game, at the weekend. Loved it… that 3rd goal was brilliant, just when the mancs thought they were back in it!! 😉 Which lead me to a page where United fans had commented about that game… rather amusing!!
    The only thing about that game which did confuse me a little, was why the fans were singing ‘YNWA’…. was it the Mancs taking the mick as they beat Liverpool in the semi, or……..?

    1. Sue, hope you’re safe and well.

      I know Phil won’t mind me telling you this – if you get the chance to watch it again, look for the Gooner with a cigarette and no shirt on
      when the cameras pan towards celebrating the win.

      None other than Phil 😂😂😂

        1. Well I had to have a look on YouTube, Ken 😉 That was some hair do and check out the tash 😝 Good old Phil!

  2. Ken, brought back great memories of watching the Cup Final in Australia at 1:00am.
    Alan Sunderland, along with other players mentioned in the article: Frank Stapleton, Brian Talbot, Malcolm MacDonald, Graham Rix, Tony Woodcock, Charlie Nicholas, Tony Adams and Liam Brady as cases of “what would they bring in today’s transfer market?”

    1. ozziegunner, all great players and I have no idea what they would bring in today’s market – a pretty penny that’s for sure.

      I bet it was well worth waiting up for though and I think that it was one of the most satisfying fa cup wins, along with the Chelsea masterclass, that we had.

      Of course they were all brilliant at the time, but in retrospect those two are my favourites.

  3. Great article and a great player was Alan. It always annoys me when people refer to that final as “boring until the final 5 minutes” or the 5 minute final. It was boring to neutrals ( not us who were there ) because we played Utd off the pitch and was in control until those last 5 minutes when we had a silly 5 minutes and let them back in which they didn’t deserve.

    1. @Marty- I asked Ken if he would put up an article on Alan Sunderland because as you so rightly say, he was a very good, but underrated player for Arsenal.
      As for the final, we were in complete control until Terry Neil decided to bring on Steve Walford ad an extra defender to tighten us up when there was no need to. Next thing we were 2-2 and in danger of losing a game we dominated from the very first minute. And just how good was Chippy that day?

  4. Great article Ken, thank you.
    In 1978 aged 16 after the loss to Ipswich I trudged home walking past a playground where I and my friends would often play football. There they all were taking the mickey out of me with my little flag……. One year on and another trip to Wembley to see us beat Manure, I jubilantly walked past the same park chest puffed out……………. Guess what? no kids out

    1. Always the way Tony, always the way.

      When we lost to West Ham, I returned home to find my neighbours had tied claret, yellow and blue balloons around our house (with my wife in collusion I should add) nothing ever happened when we won the cup and I was hoping they might have painted it red and white!!!

      1. I missed the West Ham final Ken as I hadn’t collected enough vouchers from the programmes. I can remember going to all the old programme sellers from Finsbury Park to Highbury looking for the ones I was missing.
        I ended up watching the game from the comfort of my sofa…… Good job too!
        Keep em coming Ken, thoroughly enjoyable.

  5. Mike Winters wasn’t a part of the evening entertainment – he’d left for America in 1978.

  6. The Last Goal.

    Charlie George. Alan Sunderland.
    Micky Thomas Tony Adams.

    What goals. What memories,

    What smiles.

    What happiness!

  7. You could actually see it, when the ball left Graham Rix’ left foot, that it’s gonna be a goal. For me who far away in some primitive country up north saw this on the telly, when the ball in slow motion were flying into the goal area, you saw that it must be a goal, it must be, and that was fantastic. Though in chock after McQueen and McIlroy, you could see that Alan Sunderland were going to score. I have never felt that, before or later, so long before the ball reached the net, but that afternoon at the very much mist Wembley Stadium, you know that Asn’l should have a well deserved winning goal against Man United when the ball was in the air on it’s way to the right foot of Mr Sunderland. What a feeling. And you know immediately that this is a classic goal that will live forever, a goal that Asn’l fans will talk about for generations. And that is the best tribute to the man who did it. Thank’s to Alan – and thank’s to Ken. You did it! Both of you!

    1. Thank you kind sir, the problem is I haven’t got a cup winners medal or a shirt worn on that day – still – my memory on this game is as clear as Alan Sunderlands!!!!

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