On the Grill: Micky Horswill chats with Ethan & picks his Sunderland 11

Recently I spoke to 1973 FA Cup winner Micky Horswill about his career at Sunderland. Mick, from Annfield Plain, was a boyhood Sunderland fan and “lived every Sunderland fan’s dream” playing over 70 games for the Wearsiders and scoring three goals. Still only a young lad in the cup winning team he broke onto the scene in 1971 under Alan Brown before leaving against his will in 1974 under Bob Stokoe.

WAW: What got you into the game?

Mick: “I didn’t really have an inspiration to get into the game, we just used to kick a ball about in the street, ever since I was about four or five. My hero growing up though was a bloke called Martin Harvey, he played alongside Charlie Hurley, and purely because of the way he tackled.”

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WAW: How did you sign into Sunderland’s youth system and what was it like in the early years?

Mick: “I played for the school team then signed for Sunderland when I was about 10, I was a lot younger than the others. We had great youth teams then, we got to the FA Youth Cup final twice. One of those finals, I broke my leg in training the week before and obviously couldn't play. I knew I was never the best player in the side but I was the only one that made it from my youth team, I only made it, mainly, because of my determination and attitude.”

WAW: What was it like when you broke into the team under Alan Brown?

Mick: “We were playing Preston on a Tuesday night and Alan Brown used to always take a couple of youth team lads to away games; I was putting out the boots and he asked to see me, I was absolutely petrified! I said “I need to know who’s playing” and his reply was “put your boots at number 4” and that was one of the best feelings ever.”

WAW: What was Alan Brown like as a manager?

Mick: “You either loved him or hated him – I loved him as he used to look after the young lads, coming up through the youth system. Some of the older lads didn’t like his training methods but, as a young lad, I needed discipline. He was years and years before his time, he was the first manager to play ‘shadow’ in training; Germany won the World Cup in 1974 by playing shadow everyday.”

WAW: After Alan left, Bob Stokoe, an avid Newcastle fan, was appointed, how did you get on with him?

Mick: “It was strange when he arrived, it was a Friday before a match and we were all just about to leave and Billy Elliott told us to stay around as the new boss was coming in. Stokoe walked in and I couldn’t believe it, at first I wanted to kick his head in! He came in and said, “You all know who I am and I’m taking over Sunderland”. There were eight Sunderland fans, myself included, and we all just sat there looking at him as he admitted that he was a Newcastle fan but he’d try his utter best at Roker Park. But Bob knew what player to bring in and that’s how we won the cup, for example Vic Halom was a target man and that’s what we needed.”

WAW: You mentioned Billy Elliott there, what was he like as a coach?

Mick: “Billy was a disciplinarian, he was a tough guy but he loved the club. He often fought with Stokoe, as they hated each other! Elliott loved to see the youth team lads coming through into the first team. He was the first person to come down hard on George Herd.”

WAW: How did it feel to go on the cup run in ’73?

Mick: “It was by far all of our best performances, it was my first proper season so I’d never played against the big teams. Man City at Maine Road was the first time I’d played against a ‘top’ team, walking out in the tunnel past Micky Summerbee made you want to step up. The best feeling was when we beat Arsenal, as we knew we were at Wembley; none of us, apart from Richie Pitt, had played at Wembley before so it was a massively exciting experience. It was a great feeling to walk out at Wembley in a cup final for the team you supported your whole life.”

WAW: What was the whole FA Cup final experience like?

Mick: “We were asked to release a record before the final, which we did in Manchester with the late comedian Bobby Knoxall, who was a brilliant and funny bloke. We went down there on a scrappy old bus and we all got mortal as none of us could sing! The best thing about the whole thing is that we all got on well. Before the final we were invited to RCA Records’ party in Park Lane and we all got a load of records, some I’ve never used! I shared a room with Joe Bolton, who wasn’t in the team, but was brought to keep me company. We would sneak a big bag of sweets into the room and watch TV.”

WAW: The actual final, did you feel nervous at any point?

Mick: “I didn’t until the national anthem, when we had to stand still and stare at the Leeds team, I was opposite Alan Clarke, the England centre forward, that got my nerves going. Apart from that, I couldn’t wait to play and it was a real team performance; Dave Watson was in a league of his own that day. We were that into the game, I didn’t even know that it’d rained until we were in the Dorchester afterwards and were watching Match of the Day.”

WAW: After Sunderland you went to Manchester City and then Plymouth what were your experiences?

Mick: “When I lived in Manchester, I shared a room with George Best and the Man United manager Wilf McGuiness used to phone me up and make sure George was behaving! Besty was a really intelligent bloke, he used to buy the Express, Mail and Mirror every day and do the crosswords in them and he used to always finish them. He had two sides to him, he’d come out and visit me in Hong Kong five or six times a year; I loved the guy, he was a brilliant bloke. I struggled at City though, I didn’t want to go in the first place, after that a new manager was appointed down Plymouth and Alan Brown had retired down in Cornwall and was helping the new boss out and he recommended me.”

WAW: You then went to Hull before moving out to Hong Kong and then reuniting with Stokoe at Carlisle.

Mick: “Yeah, I knew Wilf at Hull anyway, as I said before he used to phone me about Besty! I spent 4 years there and there were some great characters such as Billy Whitehurst who used to take over your house! Definitely someone you’d want on your side! In Hong Kong it was very, very hot; I thought it’d be easier but there were about 7 foreign players on each team. I met Bobby Moore out there and he was a lovely guy, although he drank more than Besty! I only played one game at Carlisle, against Blackburn and I never felt any pain in my leg until we were training one day and it just went, that was the end of my playing career.”

WAW: After football, what did you go into?

Mick: “I went into pubs and had about six or seven at one point, before selling kitchens for George Reynolds. I done the Legends Radio, which I loved doing, I got on well with Bernie but I couldn’t get along with Malcolm. Now I enjoy playing golf.”

WAW: If you had to pick a team of Sunderland players, which you played alongside, who’d be in it?

Mick: “It’d be the 1973 FA Cup final team but with Colin Todd in for myself and Joe Bolton instead of Ron Guthrie at left back. It’s a shame about the team, it was a special team, Richie Pitt obviously couldn’t play afterwards and Ron Guthrie was retiring; Stokoe wanted to split the team up all along, Denis and Dave were much better than the 2nd Division.”

Thank you to Micky for talking to me; and you can see his thoughts, as well as Vic Halom’s, every Friday in my new pre-match series where we discuss the week’s events and the upcoming fixture.

You can share your thoughts on Twitter with me @ethan_thoburn or @WeAreWearside 

Thanks for reading!

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