It was Christmas Day 2004 and while Glenda Porterfield and her family enjoyed the festivities in New York there was a fairy tale in South Korea.
Ian Porterfield, forever feted for his triumphant goal for Sunderland in the 1973 FA Cup final, led Busan I’Cons to a no-less improbable victory, extra-time and penalties, in the South Korean equivalent.
Like Sunderland, they’d been everybody’s underdogs. “Winning the cup was the only way he’d have got away with missing a family Christmas,” said Glenda.
The man all Wearside knew simply as Porter was briefly mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Chelsea’s manager and employing Bob Stokoe as a scout at the time that Gretna played in the FA Cup at Rochdale.
Less than a month after that Christmas Day triumph, the three of us spent three hours together in an Edinburgh hotel, two of the trio on Diet Coke. They were truly lovely people.
Ian was a Fifer, played for Lochgelly Welfare – wasn’t it Lochgelly that was the home of the tawse? – joined Raith Rovers and was signed by Sunderland for £45,000.
Eighteen months after Wembley he was seriously injured in a late night car crash, rushed from Sunderland hospital to Newcastle for emergency surgery, had heard all the jokes about the last player to be transferred from Sunderland to Newcastle.
He’d kept the Wembley match ball, had had that iconic left boot dipped in gold – worth an estimated £95,000 at the time – though the real treasure came when he met Glenda, 12 years his junior, in her native Trinidad.
Named after Glenda Jackson – “my mother called all her children after movie stars” – she knew nothing of football, asked at her first game which side the linesmen were on.
In turn she’d tried in vain to teach her husband chess. Probably he wondered where the ball was. “I was a Fife miner’s son and she was an educated lassie from Trinidad,” he said.
Glenda supposed it a trade-off. “I still don’t understand football but I have a fantastic lifestyle and a wonderful husband,” she said.
She’d not quite mastered the Scots accent, either – “I love the Scottish people but every time I come here, it rains.”
After managing several Football League clubs, Ian led the national sides in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Oman and Trinidad and Tobago before his Korea move. In January 2005 he was approaching his 59th birthday and wondering what next.
“Bill Shankly was about my age when he went to Liverpool and built a great team,” he said.
All three of us kept in touch, even when he became national manager of Armenia, but within three years Ian Porterfield was dead. It was the most terrible sadness.