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SAFC Fans Museum
By Sobs

Unless you’ve been hiding, you’ll have probably heard of the Fans Museum, currently at the Central Library on Fawcett Street, Sunderland. What you shouldn’t do is dismiss this as just another collection of old shirts, because it’s so much more. Let’s see what museum director Michael Ganley has to say...

The Fans Museum has a wide collection of historical items from Sunderland AFC. The primary aim is to use this history and make it accessible for all, as football in Sunderland is one of the biggest parts of its history, and is something people from Sunderland, and the surrounding area, can relate to. The historical items will act as a tool to engage and inspire people of all ages, and anyone with more than a passing interest in the club.

What we want is to work with local organisations, and our aim will be to use the museum’s items to engage within the local community as this will help support and enhance their learning around football, sport, and local history.

One of our aims will be to create teaching resources and tools which will help engage hard-to-reach members of the public. We will access colleges, care homes, hospitals, and other like-minded venues to provide talks, workshops, educational sessions, local history, and reminiscing events. We are also looking to offer an Ofsted programme to all schools in the borough.

The museum aims in the future to have a facility to house the hub of the business. Having this five-month display in the City Centre Library will allow us to showcase a small amount of our collection, whilst building up interest in the community. The data we are collecting from our visitors shows there is a huge wave of support among fans, not just of Sunderland but of many clubs, for a permanent place to be found.

During this time we will also be doing some very important work behind the scenes. Having been self- sufficient for two years, we are now a registered CIC (Community Interest Company). This means we are actively working on bringing in funding, sponsorship, donations, and so forth from every source possible, as unfortunately there are always overheads that need to be covered.

We are looking for support from funding groups, and also companies who want to increase their Social Corporate Responsibilities, and we would love to partner as many companies as possible. It would therefore be great if local businesses sat up and realised what we are doing, and the difference we are trying to make in the area. Some have already agreed to sponsor us, which is fantastic, and we hope more will follow suit. We are the Fans Museum, and the more they help us the more we can do for them in return.

During our first three weeks of opening over 2,000 people visited the museum, which is amazing. We are here to make memories, for the young and old, and if anyone takes the time to look at all the photos we have been putting on social media they’ll see that’s exactly what we are doing. So many people are leaving with huge smiles on their faces, old stories are being retold, and most importantly people are interacting with one another.

We are the only museum in the world that do what we do, we don’t lock everything behind glass, we encourage fans to wear shirts, hold medals and boots, and basically have a good time.

Away from the museum hub, we recently had a meeting with The Alexandria Ward at Sunderland Royal Hospital, which deals with all aspects of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, so naturally we are delighted to be able to help with health care in our community.

We will also be part of the celebrations at St Peters Church which is 1300 years old this year, and we are also doing our bit to help Sunderland push for the City of Culture 2021.

So all in all there are some very exciting times ahead.

So, if you want to try on Quinny or Hooolio’s match-worn shirt, handle the boot that Borini scored with at Wembley, or hold Monty’s European Cup winner’s medal, the Fans Museum is the place to go. SAFC Museum, City Library, 28-30 Fawcett Street, Sunderland SR1 1RE

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Jordan Henderson can't wait to play for his country at the Stadium of Light tonight having been a ball boy the last time England played on Wearside. “It means a lot to the people here that England will be playing in the North East,” said Henderson. “The people here are very passionate about their football. The atmosphere in the last game here against Turkey was very good, and we got a good result too. I was ball boy for the game, but I can’t remember much about it. The atmosphere was brilliant, though – I can remember that. Hopefully it will be the same again.”

Regarding his fitness, he added: “I’m still improving. I feel I’ve trained well this week, and I feel good. Hopefully, I will get more minutes to get my match sharpness back. I’m hoping to be on the plane for the first game of the Euros. I feel ready and if I do get the chance to play, I just want to make sure I do everything I’ve done before.”

England coach Roy Hodgson had this to say: “We’re very happy to play England games around the country,” said Hodgson. "But the English FA owns Wembley, and therefore it’s the home of the FA and its team. We’ve very happy to take the team to Manchester and now Sunderland, and it’s great we have had the opportunity to do that. I’m very grateful to the FA, who really quite easily could have said ‘no’, but they’ve actually accepted the idea. I thought the Manchester side of things went well, and I’m sure it will be the same in Sunderland. You can’t get three better preparation games and three better send-offs than we’ll get at Manchester, Sunderland and Wembley.”

Henderson could also captain England at the Stadium of Light tonight! Hodgson said: “You will find out. Jordan is here (at his Press conference), because he is a Sunderland boy. He goes back to the last game played at the Stadium of Light (when he was a ball boy). He is coming back from injury. He has a lot of experience of England level with a lot of caps. It could well be Jordan who leads the team out, but it could be someone else as well.”

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When you're a Sunderland fan, you have to find ways to entertain yourself when you're at the football. Watching the match certainly won't do it. The interesting thing about being inside a football stadium is that you're sitting there watching a game of football, but so are 40,000 others. 40,000 individual people with personalities, lives, opinions, and their own mental behavioural traits. Sometimes the most entertaining moments of being inside a football stadium can actually come from the crowd itself.

We asked the fans what their most memorable non-football related memory was from following Sunderland, and the responses were weird, wonderful, and in some cases a little bit frightening. Here are some of the best ones:

Under the reign of Dutch manager Dick Advocaat, the ever-boisterous and playful Sunderland fans protest to a steward after their inflatable penis is confiscated. The chant 'We want our Dick back' would reappear for the rest of the season's fixtures, with hundreds of air-filled phalluses to compensate for that one fallen warrior.

I don't think I could do a better job of describing this incident than the opening paragraph of a Guardian article from 3/11/2003:

'The Sunderland defender Darren Williams faces a police investigation after a ball he kicked into the crowd left a young woman with concussion and needing hospital treatment.'

We spoke to Darren, who assured us that he bought the girl a meal and a bouquet of flowers for her troubles, but unfortunately couldn't do anything about her nose. It is rumoured that the girl legally changed her name to 'Steve Bruce' and now manages in the Championship.

While the myth behind this legend still remains as such; unconfirmed, the facts are very much there to see. On the last day of the 1996/97 season, Sunderland were relegated after a 1-0 defeat to Wimbledon. After the game, in a state of alcohol-seasoned recklessness, one particularly brave Sunderland fan jumped on the back of a Police motorbike and rode off into the sunset. Some say he was collared at the end of the road and given a good kicking by the Polis, others say he took off into the sky like the end of Grease. Either way, what a story.

Sunderland were on their way out of the Capital One Cup in 2014, but the team's spirits appeared to be lifted by a sole pitch invader, who ran the length of the field before knee sliding with his arms outstretched in a gesture of joy, glory, and amazement that he managed to break Chelsea's last line of defence so easily. Hero.

This one has been written into Sunderland folklore. The infamous Wigan mud skiing involved some alcohol, a grassy bank and a lot of rainfall. Was ensued was two hours of relentless sliding down a filthy slope in Greater Manchester. The game wasn't particularly memorable, but everyone who took part that night probably left with the mud stains as a permanent reminders.

Those who sit in the East or South Stand at the Stadium of Light may or may not have heard the chants directed at one of our ball boys. The reason being that the unfortunate lad is actually a dead ringer for ex-Sunderland player, turncoat, Judas, and terrible footballer, Jack Colback. While the chants are far from complimentary, the lad is a good sport and has enjoyed many laughs with fans. Classy, which is less than can be said for his Doppelgänger.

While our friendly fixture against Juventus, to commemorate the opening of the Stadium of Light, was by no means memorable, one particular moment stands out. When the ball was skied into the concourse and no replacement was thrown on, a man wearing a Spider Man costume emerged from the entrance to the concourse. Dashing between rows and leaping over seats, the web-slinger milked the attention before throwing the ball back onto the pitch, to the joy of the crowd. He had his moment and he took it. No complaints here.

When you see a young lad at the match who's had a bit too much to drink and is starting to get a bit agitated, the best course of action is usually just to steer clear. Loose cannons and that. But when a young Sunderland fan saw a daft lad being ejected for foul behaviour, he took it upon himself to serve justice in a plastic cup, by throwing a full mug of Bovril in the deviant's face. Reconstructive surgery and three skin grafts later, and that misbehaving youth grew up to be David Vaughan.

Speaking of hot gravy scolding your face, poor former Mag David Ginola will never look at a mince pie the same way again, after what he went through one evening at Roker Park. The Frenchman turned his back on the Fulwell End for only a second, and was punished with a hot mince pie to the back of his neck. Ginola quickly tried to scrape the piping-hot mixture of congealed beef and pastry from his shirt and hair, but the damage had been done. PIED.

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SAFC fan James Smallwood has set up a facebook page and an online petition to encourage the club to replace the weathered pink seats at the SOL with new red ones. Fair enough fella, they look old and tired and can't cost that much to replace when you consider what we spent on Danny Graham. James explained: “I don’t want give the club any bad publicity over this, but I just think with the ground being 20 years old next year it could do with freshening up. If they were to bring new seats in it could really brighten the stadium and improve it. At the minute, it looks a bit tired compared to what it looked like when it first opened. With the new TV deal we’ll be getting money from, I doubt it would take much of that to get new seats in. I even saw when my nephew was playing as Sunderland on Fifa that the seats are faded on there, so people obviously notice it. We’ve got the sixth biggest ground in the country and millions watching on TV and it should have a higher standard of maintenance, especially with us hosting England games and concerts like we are this summer. If they replace them it will really smarten the place up and I’m sure those people who work at the club would say the same thing if they could.”

To view James’s petition go to or to see the Facebook page search for “Stadium of Light Pink Seat Campaign”.

In other news, Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford helped England Under-21s beat 4-0 Paraguay Under-23s 4-0 on Wednesday. Watmore was instrumental in two of the goals and Pickford kept his second clean sheet of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe will feature in Sam Allardyce's team for Soccer Aid 2016 when England take on the Rest of the World on Sunday 6 June.

Elsewhere, Niall Quinn has spoken out about his struggle with depression at the launch of Catch A Falling Star, a new consultancy company which helps sportsmen and women who are battling with their demons. Quinn said: “You end up in a spiral to a pit that’s very tough to get out of. It’s often been referred to as a death within your life. Almost half of ex-professional footballers from the Premier League visit bankruptcy and 33 per cent end up divorced within three years of retirement,” says Quinn. “There are so many ex-players who inevitably become a pale shadows of their former selves. Sports stars don’t want to tackle retirement issues early. The fact of the matter is they should have prepared far better and far earlier for the end of their career. Our group wants to be that provision. I had a tough first three years,” he added. “The first year was a real bad year after I quit. I had not prepared properly. It felt dark. I did not want to see anyone. I did not want anyone to make eye contact with me. It was tough getting out of bed sometimes. Everything suffered. The relationship with my family and friends. But I got my mojo back, I got the drive back and now I love meaningful diverse challenges,” he said. "Some are not as fortunate."

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Since the away fans have been moved at the Stadium of Light, the atmosphere has been a bit weird. If you sit near the South Stand, you can appreciate how much effort those mad-heads put in to try and make it more like an away game and you can rarely hear the away fans from over there. If you sit around the half-way line you can hear both sets of fans well enough, but can’t help but notice there’s no interaction between the two. They clearly can’t hear each other and it’s all a bit odd.

So naturally, where I sit most of the time, in the North Stand, all you hear is the away fans. The ground logistics make it like this and I’ve tried to get my mates away from the North Stand many times - as it’s clear all of the old Fulwell End goers that sit there have clearly grown up, mellowed out and it takes a derby game, or something very special, to get them up and at it, in all honesty.

But my mates won’t have it so I sit there and sulk. Sulk at the crapness on the field and sulk at having to listen to the shit craic from the away fans. Here's a summary of it all at the SOL this season...

I’ve forgot what they sound like, to be fair. Steven Fletcher scored after about 5 seconds in the first of our three consecutive home wins against the Mags which knocked the wind out of them, barring a ten minute rendition of DA-BOO-SHE in a seemingly over-pronounced Geordie accent. They didn’t even score in the next two so have had nowt to shout about. So shout they haven’t.

Aston Villa
A solid contender for the most annoying set of fans in the world, they sing random sentences and put “My Lord” on the end of it in the tune of Kum Ba Yah, including commenting on our empty seats. Without an ounce of irony I may add. I hate the empty seat craic; I hate it when our own fans sing that shit garden shed song. It was funny when we first moved into the Stadium and it works if you go to a tiny ground, but it’s evolved into a pointless load of nonsense. But back to Villa, and the absolute worst thing they sing is “we shall not be moved”. Be moved from where? What you on about, lads? If it was done sarcastically this season and in isolation it would be funny. But they sing it every year, often when it’s a league clash between two sides sitting midtable. Mental.

Arsenal/Spurs/Chelsea/West Ham
Not worthy of their own category, in truth, as they all have identical patta. Attending a London derby and listening to them go on at each other would be akin to sharing a prison cell with Jason Cundy and Andy Goldstein and hearing them try and out-cockney-banter each other. Or just listening to one of their shows on TalkSPORT come to think of it. You can set your watch by it too, they’ll sing a song and then instantly follow it with a “shhhhhhhh” before the incredibly creative “is this a library?” Whenever they win a free kick they call us “dirty northern bastards” and as our fans start to leave, after another inevitable defeat, they’ll predictably ask us if there’s a fire drill. Great banter lads, great banter. Feel free to think of some new stuff, eh?

When I was about twelve I listened to the lads play at Filbert Street on the radio once (that’s how we did it, kids). I was really impressed with the way they all tried to put the keeper off - as he did his run up they’d go “ooooooh” before a huge collective “bull shit - AAGGHHH” as he kicked it. Of course I was impressed by it, it was the early 90s and I was twelve. Remarkably this still goes on with Leicester fans. If you ever see a child Leicester fan, tell them to tell their dar it’s 2016 and to stop doing it now.

They sing You’ll Never Walk Alone or The Fields of Athenry every fifteen minutes or so. As long as they’re not losing or they sing nowt.

Everton/Man City
The fact I can’t think of anything that really annoys me about these two probably speaks volumes. They aren’t great, mind; you often wonder just how bored they are with football as fan bases. Everton fans are desperate for a takeover but they should just look at Man City fans to see how it changes you. You’ve changed Man City fans, you’ve changed.

Crystal Palace
That “Oh-oh-oh-ohohohoooo” thing sounds great when you hear it on the continent. When you hear Palace fans sing it by embedding sentences such as “we support the Palace” and “that’s the way we like it” it’s about as intimidating as a Connor Wickham tackle. Palace fans are also the most vocal when it comes to pointing out that they think Sunderland is a dump. Always the ones located in shitholes themselves who do that. Singing “that’s the way we like it”, man, ha’way. I’m genuinely embarrassed for Palace fans.

The pin-up clubs for how recruitment and footballing philosophy should be done, apparently. It’s resulted in a bit of annoying football snobbery in the away ends of these clubs. At least Swansea sort of worked into this position over a few years; Southampton were as average at football as the rest of us Premier League also-rans before they struck gold with Pochettino, a couple months later and they joined those Jack lads in shouting “hoooof” every time one of our players passed the ball more than five yards. Cringe. I don’t like Swansea singing Wise Men Say, either. Knobs.

I honestly can’t remember what they were like last season. Probably a watered down version of the big London clubs.

Stoke have a reputation for making a racket at The Britannia and I think it’s mainly justified. I like that they sing Delilah by Tom Jones cos it’s unique and random, and it does distinguish them somewhat. But their general support on the road, both in the numbers they bring and atmosphere they create, is crap. Well, it is up here anyway, maybe cos we always beat them.

It’s hard to dislike Norwich; they’re possibly the most inoffensive club that regularly grace the Premier League. They’re the quietest away fans out of the lot probably, keeping in theme with that. Although maybe that’s Watford? I’ve genuinely no idea about Watford.

West Brom
They used to be great fans on the road, West Brom. I remember them bringing thousands to Roker Park and doing the whole Boing Boing thing. I’m not sure if it’s complacency or what, but they don’t impress whatsoever these days at the Stadium. That’s perhaps Tony Pulis’s fault.

See Watford.

Man Utd
Man Utd fans on the road are canny good actually, love them or hate them.

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With very little going on at SAFC, the media's main focus is on transfer gossip and it seems that Big Sam is tracking Polish international, Kamil Grosicki, Lyon’s Algerian winger Rachid Ghezzal as well as West Brom’s out-of-contract midfielder James Morrison. Wide man Grosicki has netted eight goals in 36 games for Poland and he also scored 9 last season in France, with Stade Rennais. He had this to say about a prospective move to the UK: “To play in the English league is the dream of every footballer. To be there, you have to play well, have great managers, happiness. If I went there, I could tell that something was achieved in football.”

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Autograph Hunting
By Ian Mole

In the days before iPhones, Photobombing and selfies with players, fans would hang around outside football stadiums autograph hunting. ALS's Ian Mole looks back on the good old days when he used to loiter outside Roker Park with his autograph book and Bic biro...

Somebody once told me that he saw our Scottish winger George Mulhall have a couple of pints in the Park Inn and then jump on the bus to Roker Park before playing in a match, and this is indicative of how back in the Sixties Sunderland's players were very approachable and mixed freely with us fans.

In 1964, when I was ten, me and my mate Bryan plucked up the courage to go round to Charlie Hurley’s house near the Barnes and ask him for his autograph. I seem to recall that Charlie had been sent off in the match before our visit and this made us even more nervous about pestering him.

The door of the modest semi was opened by his beehive-haired wife and Bryan said, “Is Mr Hurley in?” Next thing Charlie himself was filling the doorway looking like he’d just finished off a cow-pie and had a quick shave with a blowlamp.

He took our autograph books, disappeared behind the door and a few seconds later came back, thrust them in our hands and shut the door again with nary a word.

After having the nerve to knock on Charlie's door we were so buoyed up that we wondered whose house we could visit next. We couldn’t top Charlie and we didn’t know where any of the others lived, except occasional forward Willie McPheat, who was living near the General Hospital on Chester Road, but when we went round he was out, or hiding. Anyway, I must have intercepted him at a later date, mind you; his signature looked more like ‘Roger Wood’ to me.

In the same period our local off-licence on Durham Road, just next to where the Royal Infirmary used to be, was called Shack's. The owner, though I didn’t often see him there, was none other than football great Len Shackleton, the Crown Prince of Soccer, one of the most gifted and outspoken English footballers of the mid Twentieth Century.

I was in there around 1963 with my dad when he asked Shack if he would give me his autograph and I clearly remember the smile on his face as he obliged. I was quite surprised to rediscover recently the autograph book containing that signature and the others. Before I got this book it was the property of my big brother Graham and he'd obtained a number of autographs before he gave it to me as a Christmas present in the dim mists of time.

Alarmingly the first signature is of Dave Hollins, the Newcastle goalie who once in a fit of fashion consciousness sported black tassels on the arms of his green jersey. The page is more than balanced out by the entries of two Sunderland stalwarts of the Sixties, winger Harry Hooper and inside forward George Herd. George’s signature looks rather like he did; short and stocky.

Things reached an early peak with the signature of Jimmy Montgomery and I remember getting that one myself outside the players’ entrance at Roker Park around 1963. The very young Monty was with his girlfriend and she beamed with pleasure as she watched him sign.

A number of other regulars of our promotion-winning side of 1964 are there including Cec (Irwin) and Len (Ashurst) our seemingly perennial full backs, the aforementioned George Mulhall, Jimmy McNab and of course Charlie Hurley. There’s one semi-complete entry, that of winger Allan Gauden (‘Sunderland Reserves’ as I’ve labeled him) which looks like ‘All G_______’. I remember his taxi showed up at the crucial moment.

Along with a lot of other kids I’d hang around after matches in the hope of getting a few signatures and sometimes we’d race like lemmings if we saw other kids chasing after some unidentified figure only to discover it was a player we weren’t interested in for some reason and we'd turn away moaning. Most players would be happy to stop and sign but they had their limits, while others wanted to get away as fast as they could.

I’d sometimes go to reserve games and the cat and mouse stuff was easier for us there with the young hopefuls only too happy to bask in some recognition. The only trouble was that we’d occasionally tag onto an existing queue without knowing who was signing. This was no doubt the case with the entry of the young Billy Hughes, which I’ve labeled ‘Hartlepools Reserves’.

I haven’t tried to get a footballer’s autograph at a match for over forty years since I got Monty’s at Orient's ground Brisbane Road five days before we won the Cup. Having often seen the team emerge from the coach together before away games and enter the stadium behind a barrier, I doubt if young fans get much opportunity to get their books, arms or whatever signed these days. At any rate I can’t picture any of the current well-paid squad doing stints behind the counter of an off-licence in the near future and a pint in the Park Inn or whatever it's called now is a definite no-no.

I did encounter Charlie Hurley again at his book-signing session in London in 2008 and he had a little trouble understanding my name before signing the title page and giving me a very firm handshake and a smile. Incidentally his autograph hadn’t changed in forty-four years. That's what you need from a centre-half, consistency.

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January was probably Sunderland's best January window this decade. In terms of the quality added, it was probably one of the strongest they've had this millennium. It has been one of Big Sam's greatest strengths, bringing the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha and Chris Samba to prominence in the British game.

Sam will, no doubt, have already lined up a list of targets from the leagues across Europe and beyond to strengthen this summer. Still, I hope he is also casting a glance at what's been happening in the leagues below.

Leicester's staggering success has shown the importance of exploiting the European market, with N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez the two stars of the season. But the rise to prominence of Jamie Vardy, Danny Drinkwater and the outstanding Kasper Schmeichel has shown that there is also untapped potential in the Football League. Too many Premier League clubs ignore the talent beneath, not seeing the potential value for money that exists there.

With that in mind, I've picked out seven of the best players I've stumbled across as a journalist covering Cardiff City (and Swansea in the cups). All would be a gamble, but all could be a big hit without the right coaching and some proper exposure at the top level.


David Marshall: Cardiff City
Sunderland fans may remember this Scot from his inspirational season the year Gus Poyet's great escape doomed the Bluebirds to relegation. Marshall was picked in the Team of the Season by Sky Sports, even if he did let four past him at the Stadium of Light. He is so good at Championship level it's almost laughable. An outstanding shot stopper, but also someone who takes complete control of his box. Like the very best of keepers, he possessed that intangible but priceless quality, spreading calm across the pitch, the dugout and the all through the terraces. If Everton don't pounce, Sunderland should.

David Button: Brentford
Probably the most underrated goalkeeper in the Football League. He made the most saves in the Championship by some distance last season, and is way out in front again this campaign. Brentford have been one of the big success stories of the last few years, and Button is one of the main reasons they have been able to punch above their weight. Vito Mannone's future beyond the summer looks uncertain from the outside. If he does go, then Jordan Pickford should be given a real run. Having someone like Button to challenge and offer a rotation option would make Sunderland a formidable outfit.


Cyrus Christie: Derby County
Right-back was a major problem area for me last season. Billy Jones is an honest but pretty limited player, and DeAndre Yedlin just doesn't look up to it. He is a willing runner but his positioning is poor and his distribution not a great deal better. Christie could be a sound long-term investment. There would be question marks over his defending at the top level, but the improvements in PVA's game since Big Sam took charge should allay those fears. Going forward, he has pace to burn and a cracking delivery. He should be snapped up by someone before he shines for Keane and O'Neill at Euro 2016.

Andrew Robertson: Hull City
At the start of last season, Big Sam made one of the signings in the season in bringing left-back Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich Town. With a good run of games, Andrew Robertson could have a similar impact. He could help PVA move further upfield where he seems a more natural fit. If Hull don't win the Play Off Final we should snap him up.


Bruno Manga: Cardiff City
Looks a class above every time he takes to the field. His play is not without mistakes, but I often wonder whether that is more due to a lack of concentration below the top level. He easily has the ability to step up to Premier League football, and would make a welcome addition to the Sunderland ranks, whatever league they end up in. Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul will most likely start next season as first choice, but given the latter's injury woes, some top quality back up should be a priority.


Alan Judge: Brentford
Before having his leg broken in a horror challenge, this man had been the star of the show: one of the Championship's top scorers, its leading assist maker, and creator of a seriously high numbers of crosses and chances. He will not have much of a pre-season, so it will be a bit of a punt for someone to go for him. But with brilliant dribbling and great vision, he would add a totally different dimension to Sunderland's attacking play. With him alongside the likes of Kharzi and the direct running of Duncan Watmore, this team could become quite a handful.

Kemar Roofe: Oxford United
This lad, as the kids would put it, is an absolute baller. Released by West Brom not so long ago, he has absolutely ripped League Two apart this season. That might not be particularly impressive in itself, but the way he demolished Swansea City in the FA Cup certainly was. He has an exhilarating eye for goal, able to score from pretty much anywhere from within 35 yards He is going to fly up the football pyramid soon.


Nakhi Wells: Huddersfield Town
As anyone who was watched the lads this season will know, they are not short on industry or heart. What they really are missing, however, is pace. They need it in the wide areas and they certainly need it up front. Jermain Defoe could do with some support, too, and so 17-goal man Nakhi Wells is worth considering. He remains extremely raw, but has scored goals at every level so far and would be another one to consider should Sunderland drop. Andre Gray has helped Burnley bounce back from relegation in some style, and Wells could do the same.

Moussa Dembele: Fulham
This young Frenchman has got absolutely everything in his locker. Tottenham wanted to sign him on deadline day, but if they can finally land Saido Berahino in the summer, they might let this 19-year-old starlet by. That presents someone with an immense opportunity. He is a powerful dribbler, skilful with his back to goal and deadly in front of it. It would take a significant investment to land him, but over the next decade he will most likely repay it in spades.

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here's some letters...

Dear ALS

If Sunderland fans want a good hearted laugh about the rivalry with Newcastle they should take a look at the book Hovering Giants written by M Sebastian Thelwell, who I think is the same guy who got kicked off Newcastle websites some time back for making fun of the Mags.

In the story there is more than passing similarity between Doon United and the Mags and you can guess who neighbours Wonder Boys might resemble. It ends hilariously. It can currently be downloaded for free at:

Your readers might like to know this.
Ian Smith
Avid Sunderland fan for life

Dear ALS

I've been meaning to email you for a while. I've been watching Sunderland for 30 years, through thick and thin and a lot more besides that. The atmosphere at the Chelsea game was one of the loudest, most emotional times during those 30 years.

After watching Liverpool's European nights on TV this season and even the latter part of Hibs celebration's on Saturday I think it's time we gave 'wise men say' a fuller rendition at the SOL. I mean it's fine with the chorus and the Sunderland chant after but I reckon even the 1st verse would give us an extra lift. We have a crowd capable of lifting our players to another level, why don't we have a song that really gives us an identity., if the link I've just sent works it shows the less excitable Hibs fans at the Scottish FA cup final in full voice with every man, woman and child singing. Sounds fantastic I think you'll agree.

Let's get WMS sung in all its glory next season.

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Murphy's law...
the art of points scoring

In a debate about North East football, Newcastle fans cannot resist making a spiteful comparison of the two relative cities, despite the dumbfounding irrelevance of such an argument.

It's been over a week since the Premier League season came to a satisfying close, but the final standings has prompted an interesting twist in the century-old rivalry between Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United. While Sunderland retained their Premier League status for another season, performing their celebrated annual 'great escape' routine, Newcastle couldn't find the points to avoid the dreaded drop at a time when everything was on the line — the TV money, a manager they desperately wanted to stay, and of course, their rivalry with Sunderland.

The gloating from Sunderland fans has been relentless, with fly-over airplane messages, bridge banners, and an endless stream of social media posts being deployed in an effort to really rub Newcastle's face in it. They would do the same if they were in our position, after all, and that's the way it should be.

This sort of points scoring and banter is what keeps the rivalry alive. Sunderland may have damned Newcastle to the Championship, but Newcastle have more than hurt Sunderland over the years, and they've made it known as well. There is no grace in winning when it comes to a local rivalry, and every victory over one-another should be celebrated to no end. This is what makes winning all-the-more important. Losing is unbearable.

The most amusing yet unsurprising element of it all though, is how quickly a football argument can turn into an argument about economics and politics. While Sunderland fans brag about their football team's achievements at the expense of Newcastle, both the relegation and the six derby victories in a row, Newcastle fans will instead attempt to undermine Sunderland as a city; both the people and the facilities. The location of an airport, the length of a bridge, the average income of an inhabitant. Perhaps my head is still dizzy from the high I've been on for the last ten days or so, but I fail to see how the two debates are related.

It isn't a new phenomenon, of course, as Newcastle fans have enjoyed this line of argument for years. A recent Twitter parody account (@haveanairport) was created to ridicule the Newcastle fans who consider this a relevant means of points scoring. The statements made by this joker were so convincing, and so characteristic of Newcastle fans, that The Evening Chronicle got in touch with the account to feature it in their newspaper. Newcastle's own publication and primary media outlet could not tell the difference between a Newcastle fan and a parody of a Newcastle fan.

There is no denying that Newcastle is a more established city than Sunderland, and I think the majority of Sunderland fans would be happy to admit this. Newcastle has a great city centre filled with all sorts of shops, bars, restaurants, things to do, and things to see. I like going to Newcastle and I don't see the problem admitting this. It's certainly no haven, but it's at least the most vibrant area locally.

On the other hand, the city of Sunderland hasn't been as lucky in terms of development, investment, and thorough planning. The muddied history of this city is no secret, and we took a hell of a blow when our most successful and prominent industries were stripped from us by an evil woman and her abhorrent government in the 1980s. Sunderland, as an area, has been shit on time and time again.

Only now is Sunderland city centre starting to recover, and that is solely down to the hard work of honest people who want to see the area thrive again. After all, there's no reason why it shouldn't; Sunderland is a beautiful place with a gorgeous coastline, lovely countryside, and some of the greatest people you will ever meet. While the North may still be bastardised by the Southern-based government, we all know that we'd still rather be up here than down there, and that's something that the people of Newcastle, and Newcastle fans, should also be able to relate to.

Newcastle supporters may point and laugh at the city of Sunderland — with its smaller shopping centre, lack of cathedral, fewer Nandos restaurants and fewer reasons to draw investment to the area — but in doing so they are missing the point entirely. Sunderland AFC continues to succeed as a football club in spite of its disadvantageous location. Any further attention drawn to the location, and its lack of merits, only heaps further praise on the football club, the football team, and the famous Sunderland support.

Newcastle fans can spend next season enjoying their city's great airport, longer bridge, major train station, trendy quayside cocktail bars, busy music venues, and whatever else they take such geographical pride in. So can Sunderland fans; we are both free to enjoy Newcastle city centre. But only Sunderland fans can enjoy Premier League football next season, and that's the only thing that's relevant in a football argument.

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Sunderland AFC have appointed Martin Bain as the club’s new chief executive officer. Sunderland AFC chairman, Ellis Short, said: “I am delighted to welcome Martin to Sunderland.  With his commercial experience, commitment to working closely with local communities and impressive track record of building winning teams on and off the pitch, I know that we have someone that can take us forward. Martin will strive to transform our financial performances, which we acknowledge must improve significantly, into a stable and successful model, to give us a club that we and our fans can be proud of. In doing so, he will receive the full support of everyone at Sunderland AFC.”

Martin Bain said: “It is a great honour and privilege to become CEO at a club with Sunderland’s rich history and heritage. I have been fortunate to be a part of a team that has brought great success to two clubs with passionate supporter bases and I am excited by the opportunity to do the same at Sunderland. Sunderland fans are recognised as some of the most loyal and passionate in football. The backing they gave the team in the two recent vital home games played an integral part in the victories. Such tremendous support deserves a successful club and that is what we will aim to give them. I am looking forward to working closely with the chairman and everyone involved with the club, and will endeavour to do everything possible to help the club to realise its potential.”

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Lamine Kone has been chatting about his whirlwind five months on Wearside and how much he loves the lads. Kone said: “It shows that we’ve adapted well to the Premier League, but it’s not just us, it’s all the people around us as well who welcomed us from the start. They helped us. I’m really happy with how these four months have gone. To be honest, I didn’t know that I would adapt so quickly. The first game against Man City, I played well and after that, I just hit the ground running. It’s gone by so fast. I don’t think it could have gone any better for me. To stay in the Premier League, is a nice way to finish.”

In other news, Spurs are apparently keen to sell DeAndre Yedlin, so Sam Allardyce is working out his budgets and preparing a bid. Fair enough...

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Having just checked out the BBC's Jimmy Hill tribute (unmissable if you needed something to send you to sleep angry) and "highlights" of the Kelvin Davis testimonial (google it and weep), it's struck me it's about time to stop farting around and reflect on a season when every little thing did turn out all right - again.

Just like the previous two seasons however, I did worry. Not just about a thing, but about a lot. The first eight games gave us few reasons to be cheerful, with the possible exception of the performances of Jeremain Lens. Then it was Dick out, Big Sam in, and three wins in five games which lifted us out of trouble and fed expectation that we would stay above the drop line, before a tough run of games and some insipid shows left our gaffer scratching his head almost as much as the fans.

With the New Year came new hope. Okay, we lost as many as we won in January and February - but we ground out wins against teams on our level, not something we've done in the last couple of seasons. Pundits recalled our finishes of the previous two campaigns and started backing us, no doubt sowing seeds of doubt among those in better positions but lacking in experience or form.

Four draws in a row didn't do much to help, with late goals in successive games at Southampton and Newcastle having us all looking at the table and dreaming of the four points which didn't slip away. The general consensus was we needed to win three of our last six games, maybe four. Could we do it? 

You bet. Sam got his selection and tactics just right at Norwich, who could have put seven points between us with a win in front of their own fans. With resolute defending, spirited attacking and a long overdue bit of help from Andre Marriner, we got the three points which had pretty much everyone believing.

Things were going our way but work was still to be done, largely thanks to Yohan Cabaye doing his former paymasters a big favour. However, on the penultimate weekend, the pendulum swung our way in three second half minutes against Chelsea, while the Mags toiled to beat one of our rivals for the tag of worst Premier League team ever.

Everton were timely opponents, unquestionably talented enough to hurt us but hardly committed to the cause. The empty seats and lack of noise from the away section, normally good noisy travellers, told the story as their under-fire gaffer again watched over a dismal display. One of the softest goals of the year opened the door for us, before Lamine Kone bulldozed it down, meaning my hopes of a repeat of the mood at the West Brom home game two seasons ago were exceeded. The appearance of Wearside's entry in the forthcoming Britain's Shittest Streaker competition was the only thing that didn't go to plan. What was he playing at trying to get his trackies off while still wearing his trainers? Schoolboy error.

Almost forgot, from the sublime to the ridiculous - Kevin Friend's performance in our game at Watford. Thankfully it didn't matter, didn't even cost us a million or two in prize money, although it didn't do much for the blood pressure. No Friend of ours, for sure.

The ramifications for our nearest and dearest obviously played a key part in the festival mood at the Everton game and while sending them down is the cherry atop the proverbial cake, it won't sink in with me until the fixtures come out in a few weeks. Boro's promotion means the Mags won't even have the consolation prize of a trip to Teesside (such as it is) as they ponder games against Burton and Rotherham...Rotherham at home. Oh, and you might not see many Mackems in Milan but you might just be finding a few Geordies in Millwall soon enough. Good luck with that one lads, as much fun as stepping on a plug that trip...

So let's throw things forward. Do we need to make many signings? I don't think so, a few decent additions should make a difference and we all know it's quality, not quantity, that matters now the fitness levels have been upped.

A right-back has to be a priority and Lille's Sebastien Corchia would be a decent buy. Solid enough in defence and very capable going forward, he wouldn't break the bank. The width of Montpellier's Ryad Boudebouz would also be welcome - he has always been too good for the teams he plays for and is an assist machine, another who's a decent age too. Maybe he might be able to sell Wearside to his Algerian international team-mate Riyad Mahrez. I can dream eh? It's no secret I'm a big fan of Nathan Redmond - Norwich might have made a better fist of their survival battle if he'd played more. And Jermain Defoe could do with a bit of help too. Alexandre Lacazette would be nice (dreaming again), or maybe the lad who did for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup. You can't knock a JD and Coke after all...

To be honest though, tying down the loanees is almost as big a deal for us. I'd like to see DeAndre Yedlin return, although he needs a few lessons in throw-ins. I'm sure making sure Yann M'Vila sticks around is high up on Sam's to-do list as well and he might just fancy his chances as I can't see the lad fancying a return to Russia. Bound to be interest in him from elsewhere though.

Outs? The most obvious contender is Jeremain Lens, an Advocaat signing who was arguably our brightest star in the early part of the season, when things were very, very dark. I'm not sure whether his relationship with BSA can be fully rebuilt and I wouldn't back him to stick around.

When the action resumes we just have to hope for an un-Sunderland thing - a decent start. Playing catch-up is so Sunderland and with that in mind few would back against it happening again, even if we'll unquestionably be better prepared for next season than we were this one. 

I genuinely don't see us struggling next season though, which makes getting over the line this time so satisfying. It would have been sad to see those who tried so hard in the last few months disappear to other Premier League also-rans for next to nothing, while we rebuild in the second tier. Thankfully, not a proposition we have to consider.

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The football season’s over, in case you hadn’t noticed. Well, almost – despite the best efforts of Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd. to prolong the league season, there’s only the small matter of the FA Cup final left. Mind, that reinforces the view that any company that includes the word “solutions” in their name is not to be trusted, just like any transport company that uses the word “logistics.”

Anyway, I digress. With one season over, the first thing I do is get away for a few days to wash the previous season out of what’s left of my hair, so to speak. Not that it had ended badly – so far from it that several people have described the atmosphere at the last two home games as up there with the best they’ve experienced, and one rugby-supporting mate chose the Chelsea as his first football game. It won’t be his last. It was more to allow for a fresh start and to have a couple of football-free days and avoid the ceaseless gossip that goes with it– so the tent was pitched near Aviemore (described by a Scottish mate as their equivalent to Blackpool, but with better views) and I avoided the midges amid stunning scenery. Of course, I had to pop into town to watch Liverpool make an arse of their cup final, and while standing in a crowded bar, eyes glued to the telly, someone approached a said the magic word. “Sunderland?” There’s not escape, I tell you.

Of course, the first thing a decent manager does at the end of a season is start work on the next one, and the big question is always “which players come in and which go out?” Sam will be looking to strengthen in a few areas and offload players who don’t float his boat. Who’s out there, and would be willing to come to Sunderland? The performances in the last few games can only have helped our cause in this one, as the way we played, and the noise and passion from the crowd must have had a few “available” players thinking that they’d like to be part of something like that. Reports suggest that Sam might still be after Ayew of Swansea (fair enough) and his team-mate Gomis (Hmm). End of season reports from Swans’ fans are far from positive about the Frenchman, and a return of a goal every four games is hardly the stuff of legends. Of course, there will be a whole host of players from Europe that we’ve never heard of on Sam’s radar, but if they arrive with the impact of Khazri, Kone, and Kirchoff, we’ll be laughing. Priority has to be another centre half and at least one full-back. Yedlin might well come back, but on-loan players having a good season is always a double-edged sword, as the parent club will want them to repeat the trick for them.

Perhaps, though, we should look closer to home. Up the road, Steven Taylor is out of contract, is therefore available for nothing more than his wages, and would make a welcome addition to either the catering team in the Montgomery suite, or as a sunbed technician at the Academy.

Going out? Vergini managed to get relegated with Getafe, so the clause in his season-long loan that said “must sign permanently” doesn’t count, and he’s back on Wearside, although Real Betis are said to want him – or rather their manager, Gus Poyet does. Oh, and don’t forget the others out on loan – Giaccherini is actually wanted by his current club, but what of Buckley, Bridcutt, Fletcher, Graham, Mavrias, and Gomez? Graham and Gomez will probably end up staying at Blackburn, Fletcher is out of contract and we’ll not get any money for his eventual arrival somewhere in Scotland. Oh, and don’t forget Big Ralphy Coates. For some reason his loan couldn’t be turned into a permanent deal so he’s staying out for another year. Barmy. And what about Adam Matthews? Aye, I’d forgotten about him as well. He brought rave reviews from Celtic when he arrived in the summer, played once and then vanished from sight, resurfacing at Bristol City – which suggests he’s not performing at the level that merits a return to our team.

No doubt the various sports writers will be justifying their wages over the summer by thinking up names and touting them as possible targets, but in the meantime the next big thing is Thomas Hauser’s new tattoo, which he promised to have done in the event of us staying up. I expect it to be a much classier affair than that boasted by a particularly daft mag – “Rafa ‘the gaffa’ Bentitez”. Words fail me - the man failed, so it’s the equivalent of me getting “Alan Brown, he took us down” permanently inscribed on my person. Perhaps “Ricky ‘not Micky’ Sbragia” would be appropriate, as he actually kept us up.

As things stand, there’s a whole week before I get to visit the SoL again, to watch a Defoe-less England take on the might of the Socceroos and Bloody Tim Cahill. When are the fixtures out?

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Last Sunday I was at a party in Watford. There were thousands there, all singing about Yann’s passing and Vito’s flammability, asking Sam to dance and mocking those who wouldn’t be at the party next year.

It was a release of all the anxiety that had built up from the dreadful American preseason until Kone’s thunderbolt goal against Everton. A relief that Newcastle had taken our place on the journeys we don’t like to think about.

We mocked Newcastle for their signings that hadn’t worked out, for their board who lacked experience, for the shame of one of their most popular players ending up in a court room and for failing to win at Villa Park.

And the pleasure, the songs, the plane, the tweets and the video clips all mocked our neighbours knowing that, but for three points, we were describing our own club, not theirs.

We have dodged a bullet and they took it full in the chest.

As Newcastle work out how they’ll rebuild and what the costs will be, we seem to be sitting back, relieved that it all worked out OK. The question is what do we need to learn to make sure we never return to the firing line?

On the pitch it feels like lessons are already being learned, for the first time since Bould, Schwarz and Phillips we have a spine in Kone, Kirchoff and Defoe and this summer we have to hope that players will be signed to fit around them, support them and, in case of injury (or old age) to replace them.

For a decade or more other clubs have used science and technology to get the best from their players – evidence to help them improve and keep fit. We hadn’t, despite the fact we’ve a training complex the envy of many around the world. The fitness levels since January are so notably higher it has allowed our players to absorb huge pressure from opposition teams and hold on for those almost mythical clean sheets. I can’t imagine any of our players are expecting a gentle preseason under Allardyce. In fact, I’m sure they already know what will be involved. Planning will have been done, schedules distributed and lessons learned from other clubs, coaches and sports. As a club, we’ve learned a lot by (finally) bringing in a manager – not just a coach or figurehead.

But it’s away from the pitches of the academy that the club seems to remain static. No replacement for a failed Chief Executive, no clues that our commercial teams are coming up with new ideas to make money, no evidence that the pool of sponsors and business involvement is growing.

All businesses need a plan – short, medium and long term. What is ours? How can we be expected to sign up to it if we’ve no idea what it is? Is it to stay up? To play in Europe? Mike Ashley’s is to win something. While we laugh at that, at least he said it. At least his employees know what their long term plan is. Attracting major sponsors, local business interest, partners from around the world will be difficult if you can’t explain what they’re signing up to.

We make losses year after year. We shouldn’t next year because of the fabled TV money but that shouldn’t be seen as a fix all. Other clubs will make more than the TV money from other routes. We don’t. An occasional concert aside, how are we going to make the big money?

I visited Old Trafford on Tuesday and wandered around the club shop – we’re so far behind. There’s a place for 1973 DVDs and mugs with ‘WIFE’ or ‘SON’ written on them (perhaps) but when you compare us with Manchester United, who have a range dealing exclusively with golf kit that is wider and more impressive than our complete clothing range you realise that we’re missing out. Stuck about ten years behind other clubs.

My day job involves booking conferencing in sports grounds nationwide, from rooms of 10 to rooms of 750. Newcastle do it better than Sunderland. Sale rugby club do it better than Sunderland. Hell, Wycombe Wanderers do it better than we do. I’d be interested in how much business and repeat business the club gets away from a match day. Based on my experience I can’t imagine it’s a lot.

Some will point to the reduction in ticket prices as a positive. And it is. But it wasn’t a decision taken by the club. It was a decision forced on football generally by the Liverpool fans walking out and the realisation by all club boards how serious the issue had become. The lower prices are welcome but will they lead to capacity crowds? These days people want premier league service away from the pitch. I wonder how much the club appreciate the value of the fans and their importance to the success of the business. We bring money to the turnstiles, to the bars, to the shops and yet we are rewarded with worn out seats, poor catering choices and facilities that look and feel dated. The fan zone feels like a gesture rather than any real move forward. Even at £18 a ticket, those that aren’t die hard football fans will feel alienated.

Sam has helped us dodge a bullet but almost everything else at the club needs reviewing. We need a leader off the pitch who we can get on board with. One who explains where we’re going as a club, inspires us to go with them and has the business skills and tools to take us there. Niall Quinn inspired us but was not a businessman, he worked with Peter Walker who took us forwards more than anyone else in that role. We need both characters in the club and visible in the community. Since they left we’ve bounced from one problem to the next, bluffing our way through season after season, failing to manage one PR disaster after the next - Di Canio and the miners, Johnson, Alvarez, Farnan.

On the pitch we’ve now a spine we can rely on, a manager who explains what he wants and gives his all to get it, a training facility that is up there with the best and, hopefully signings this summer to help us climb to midtable and then beyond. Off the pitch we have a fan base who have proved that, while they’ll put up with a lot, if looked after properly, will put their support, love and money into the club home and away. But that’s no longer enough for a premier league club. We need someone or some people who can pull the whole lot together, attract businesses, sponsors in the UK and beyond, develop the facilities, support the manager, help lead the commercial side and lead us to wherever we’re going football and businesswise. Our most important signing this summer needs to be the person (or people) who bring these things to the board room. Without them we will struggle to move away from the firing range and I’ll keep going to parties celebrating 17th place.

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The Charlie Hurley Statue Fund
By Mark Metcalf

The Charlie Hurley Statue Fund is now officially up and running and plans are being developed for a series of fund-raising events when next season kicks off in mid August. 

Tracey Hawkins has been elected at secretary, Martin O’Neill the chair and Mark Metcalf the treasurer. The address for the fund is Home Sweet Alabama on Fawcett Street, Sunderland. The campaign has the full support of Charlie Hurley and is in communication with the club on working together. 

A bank account has taken more time than had originally been anticipated but should be finally established shortly.  A number of fund raising socials are being planned over the summer. Anyone who would like to discuss ideas they may have for fund raising should contact Tracey on 07736 464023 and, or 

Martin O’Neill on 07723 814983 and or Mark Metcalf on 07952 801783 & 


The next meeting is set to take place on Friday 17 June at 6.30pm at St Mary Church, 27 Bridge Street, Sunderland SR1 1TQ

But why should there be a statue of Charlie Hurley? 
Well, Charlie Hurley was considered by Sunderland supporters in his heyday in the 1960s to be “The Greatest centre half the world has ever seen” and in 1979 he was voted as the Sunderland “PLAYER OF THE CENTURY.” Even today he is still known as “the King.” 

For Charlie himself the adoration was never one way. For every time a supporter has extolled his virtues Charlie can be heard praising the loyal, unstinting support he always benefited from. Small wonder that of all the heroes the Sunderland fans have had none have surpassed Charlie in their affections. 

However, most Sunderland fans today will never have seen Charlie Hurley play. So in order to give an understanding of just how good Charlie was then we have pleasure in making available one of the chapters from Mark Metcalf’s 2008 authorised biography, titled CHARLIE HURLEY “The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen.” It is about the 1960/61 season, when Sunderland almost derailed Spurs’s bid for ‘The Double’ and Charlie became known as the King.

Charlie Hurley, who had become a father for the first time when his daughter Tracy was born on June 7th, started the 1960–61 season in good form as Sunderland opened their third year in Division Two with a 2-1 victory over Swansea Town, their first opening day victory for six years. Argus commented that “none did better than Hurley for his ice-cool control and mastery in the air” and, remarking on a feature of the defender ’ s play for which he was to become famous during his time at Sunderland, stating “there is nothing quite so emphatic as the headed clearance by Hurley which sends the ball practically to the half-way line.”

Younger readers may be unaware of how difficult such a feat was at the time. The ball used was rock hard and when it got wet it became a very heavy object indeed. A leather ‘ food ’ , Dubbin, best described as thick yellow axle-grease, was often applied to the ball to “soften it up”. In fact it was waterproof and did nothing of the sort.

There are many former footballers who suffered in later life after repeatedly heading those footballs, including former Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe. The classic 1960s West Bromwich Albion centre forward Jeff Astle ’ s death was ascribed to this after the coroner found that the repeated minor trauma of heading the ball had been the cause of death by industrial injury. Astle scored the winning goal in the 1968 FA Cup Final and was top scorer with twenty-five goals in Division One in 1969–70. Duels between him and Hurley were fierce competitive battles with no quarter given.

Some of today ’ s footballers would certainly regard the balls of the 1960s as unsuitable and they would definitely destroy a manicured hairdo or two. To head such a ball the distances Hurley managed demonstrated perfect timing, balance and power, not to mention an awareness of players around you and a determination to get to the ball first. Hurley was a master at all this. Of course it helped to be over six feet tall and fourteen stone, but this should not obscure his talent in this respect.

Football boots, of course, were very different. A new pair of leather boots had to be “ broken in ” and studs, which had to be rounded and no longer than half an inch [1.25cm], had to be hammered into the soles of the boots, which were heavier than today ’ s and offered much greater ankle protection. Players often had several pairs of boots with different length studs as only later did moulded and screw-in studs appear. Club apprentices were given the job of keeping the boots of senior players clean and dry in between games.

Strips, numbered one to eleven, could be guaranteed to collect the rain and mud along the way. Many was the time when spectators were unable to tell who had passed the ball as the player ’ s number was covered with mud. On particularly dark and dismal winter days it was often a problem to make out which team was which. The shirts were also advert free and remained that way until the 1974–75 season when England signed a commercial deal with Admiral that saw the players wear shirts with the manufacturer ’ s logo on them.

Then, in 1979, Liverpool become the first side to run out with a sponsor ’ s name on their shirts, in this case Hitachi.

When two away draws were followed by a 4-0 home win over Stoke City, in which Anderson was outstanding before a very disappointing attendance of 19,007, it seemed that Sunderland might finally be coming to terms with life in Division Two.

That proved to be wrong and, starting in mid-September, the side from Roker Park lost five consecutive matches. They included one against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park where Brian Clough scored the only goal which, according to Argus, “was all he did do in the game, for once again he came under the spell of Charlie Hurley.” The attendance on the day was 20,000 less than the same fixture in the previous season. Sunderland were left with just nine points from thirteen games – another long troubled season stretched ahead of them.

Since the start of the 1956–57 season Sunderland had played 181 League games, winning only 52 and drawing 45, a total of just 153 points. It was the worst record in the Football League.

Hurley was in the Ireland team on September 28th when they hosted their first match against Wales. With an eight-match unbeaten home record to defend, Ireland were favourites, but they reckoned without two men who were instrumental in Spurs ’ success that season, wingers Terry Medwin and Cliff Jones.

Goalkeeper Phil Kelly, making his debut for Ireland, was sent one way and then another by Jones and although Fagan managed to equalise, Jones scored a second and West Ham ’ s Phil Woosnam a third, before a late penalty by Fagan gave Ireland a little consolation. Most reporters afterwards agreed that Hurley was Ireland ’ s best performer as press speculation about a move nearer London continued to mount.

It was Lawther who rescued Sunderland by scoring in five consecutive League matches, six in all games as he scored the team ’ s first when Sunderland went down 4-3 away to Brentford in their first ever League Cup match. The 1-1 draw with Rotherham almost produced Hurley ’ s first goal for Sunderland when, down to just nine men due to injuries, he raced forty yards to meet Hooper ’ s corner and force a magnificent save from Roy Ironside in the Rotherham goal.

Outside right Harry Hooper had been signed from Birmingham City the previous September. Exceptionally quick with a strong shot, he made 80 first team appearances for Sunderland, scoring 19 times.

Hurley played his twelfth match for Ireland when Norway ’ s largely amateur team provided little opposition in a game won 3-1 by the home side. Fagan scored again while Peter Fitzgerald grabbed two.

With the PFA continuing to mount a vigorous campaign for improved pay and an end to the retain-and- transfer system, Alan Hardaker, the Football League secretary, had been putting forward proposals to try and break the deadlock. By suggesting that the future should include retaining the maximum wage he could not expect to obtain PFA approval even if the clubs had agreed that they would pay the additional bonuses and signing-on fees he was proposing.

Players wanted the freedom to earn as much as an employer was prepared to pay, although writing many years later, Jimmy Hill believed that, despite a series of meetings which had approved strike action, the players would probably have settled for a maximum wage of £30 a week and some reasonable adjustments to the retain-and-transfer system. But many of the clubs were determined not to budge.

Charlie Hurley ’ s first goal for Sunderland should have come when Ipswich were beaten 2-0 at Roker Park at the start of December because, reported Argus, Ipswich goalkeeper Roy Bailey “admitted that Hurley ’ s header from a corner from Jack Overfield had crossed the line but the referee didn ’ t see it.”

The Suffolk team were lying third behind Sheffield United and Liverpool but two goals from Willie McPheat, who had only just got into the team after signing for Sunderland the previous year, put Sunderland ’ s fortunes on the up. So Hurley ’ s opening goal for Sunderland would have to wait – but not for long.

The decision to send Hurley up for corners was revolutionary when Sunderland tried it towards the end of 1960. Since Herbert Chapman ’ s decision to make the centre half a stopper they had remained firmly on the halfway line at set pieces no matter how good they were in the air.

It was this tactic which helped make Hurley so popular with Sunderland fans. After a while no corner at Roker Park would be complete without the cry of “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” as the crowd roared the big man to get up into the opponents ’ box to cause as many problems as possible.

“I was always good in the air. It was Stan Anderson ’ s idea. So I went up for a corner and although I didn ’ t

score it caused a lot of problems. The fact that I attacked the ball meant I got an awful lot of goals because we had some good crossers of the ball and Harry Hooper, George Mulhall and Nicky ‘the nicker ’ Sharkey got on the end of some of my knock-downs.”

Anderson ’ s foresight changed the face of English football forever – now every team sends at least one of their centre backs forward for set pieces. Anderson says: “I thought that it was a natural thing for Charlie to do. He was a big fella, brilliant in the air. What else were we supposed to do with him? It was logic. It meant when he came up the other side had to say ‘Whoa, we ’ d better mark him, look at the size of him ’ . Normally the centre half marked the centre forward but when you had Charlie up there standing at the far post the centre half didn ’ t fancy going out there. The number of goals that Charlie scored, and the number of knock-downs that he allowed others to score was a very decent return.

“He was a magnificent header of the ball. It doesn ’ t take rocket science to think what I thought. Brownie never said a word against it. In fact Brownie rarely spoke to me, except when he played hell with all of us. I said to Charlie at his seventieth birthday party that Brownie thought the world of him and to be fair Charlie was his best buy ever, so he should have.”

Charlie Hurley ’ s first goal for Sunderland was a belated Christmas present, delayed by just a day. It came on Boxing Day 1960 in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United watched by 46,099 spectators. It was the first goal by a Sunderland centre half since Ray Daniel had scored at home to Sheffield Wednesday back on February 16th 1957. Daniel ’ s goal came from the penalty spot.

There was only a five-day wait for the next Hurley goal as he scored in the 7-1 win over Luton Town at Roker Park on December 31st.

Luton manager Sam Bartram, once a great goalkeeper who thus knew a thing or two about playing behind a centre half, wondered afterwards: “If John Charles is worth £60,000, how much is he worth? He ’ s the greatest in the business. I wish we had Hurley.”

The genial Irishman remembers: “I used to get more knackered going up for corners than playing back in defence. If we had ten or twelve corners in a game I had to get up and then get back. But the crowd wouldn ’ t have it any other way because if I stayed back you ’ d hear ‘Charlie, Charlie ’ and up I went... it was the number one thing that the fans loved.”

It was in the report of the Luton match that Charlie Hurley earned the nickname “King” for the first time. It was written by Vince Wilson in the Sunday Pictorial on New Year ’ s Day 1961. And it stuck.

The FA Cup draw had brought a home tie against Arsenal and there was genuine excitement among supporters for the first time in many years. Roker Park was packed with 58,765, including four Arsenal fans from West Hartlepool who were mocked as “traitors” by Argus in the following Monday ’ s Echo. He could not understand how anyone from the north-east could support a Cockney team. Clearly this was well before television got its hands on impressionable youngsters to ensure that today, wherever they live, they must support fashionable and successful teams even if they are never likely to see them play live.

Arsenal proved to be the better team for the first thirty minutes with David Herd putting them ahead after just five minutes. But with Anderson at his very best, Sunderland equalised and then won the match with his second goal of the game. Ashurst made a last-ditch tackle to prevent an equaliser from George Eastham, who had signed for the Gunners after his refusal to play for Newcastle.

Recalls Hurley: “Stan Anderson was brilliant against Arsenal. He was one of the greatest wing players that I ever saw. People say he lacked a bit defensively, but you can ’ t have it all. He had flair, and tremendous vision; one sad thing was that he wasn ’ t there when we got promotion.”

Monday ’ s Echo brought the news that Sunderland had drawn Liverpool away in the fourth round, along with new peace proposals from Alan Hardaker to try and prevent a players ’ strike. This time he suggested increasing minimum wages to £12 a week for lower league players, £14 for those in Division Two and £15 for Division One. These were actually below the then increasing average wage in some areas of the country. He also proposed, however, to end the maximum wage system after the following season but not to end the retain-and-transfer system.

Jimmy Hill felt that this might be good enough for the better-off players to abandon the PFA ’ s campaign; it meant one of the two major demands had been met and the opportunity of earning considerably more was within the grasp of players from Divisions One and Two. However, they stood overwhelmingly with their less fortunate colleagues and at a players ’ meeting in Manchester 344 players invited the press to witness them voting for strike action.

On Wednesday January 18th 1961, the PFA and the Football League finally appeared to have resolved their differences when it was agreed that any player whose contract had come to an end and who had not been transferred by August 31st would be able to depend on “the management committee of the Football League to deal with the matter.” The players took this to mean that the committee would help the player to get a move. They were delighted; it meant the end of the maximum wage and the retain-and-transfer system.

In fact the clubs dug in their heels and while the players were now free to negotiate wages it was left to the PFA to mount a successful legal challenge, using George Eastham ’ s case, before the transfer system was completely overhauled. Nevertheless it marked the beginning of the end for the clubs in their fight to keep players ’ wages and conditions under their strict control and Hurley has no doubts who to thank:

“All the players who played during my era and those since should always say a prayer for Jimmy Hill before they go to sleep. He went in to get a maximum wage scrapped and he managed to do so. If I ever saw Jimmy I would walk up to him and say ‘I ’ d have stayed on £20 a week for all my career if it hadn ’ t been for you ’ . The clubs might have moved it up a bit but not by much. Mind, some players today are getting paid far too much: if Sky pulls out tomorrow the clubs will be bankrupt and fans will be regarded as sacrosanct once again.”

The Liverpool Echo was looking forward to Sunderland and Charlie Hurley ’ s appearance at Anfield. Before the cup tie Sunderland enjoyed two impressive performances, beating Lincoln 2-1 away, where Lawther was one of the scorers, and winning 4-1 at home to Portsmouth, when Lawther scored twice to make it fourteen league goals in fourteen league games.

A cup tie special train at a cost of 35 shillings [£1.75] took some of the mass support to Liverpool. Those travelling could be sure of the chance to enjoy a good drink afterwards as the return did not leave Lime Street until 11.30pm. How football fans would enjoy such departure times these days!

The Liverpool Echo reporter was in no doubt who was likely to be Sunderland ’ s key player, reporting that “the king-pin and king-sized centre half Hurley is one of the keys to their success. Liverpool have no comparable personality.”

Argus had warned that Sunderland would have to be at their very best to beat not only a decent Liverpool side but also the Liverpool Spion Kop, which “there is nothing to compare with anywhere in the country”. This area of the ground behind one of the goals was named in honour of the battle between the Boer and British Armies in January 1900 along the Tugela River, Natal, in South Africa.

Liverpool were not then the force they were to later become. Like Sunderland, they were in the Second Division, having slid out of the top flight after a long spell, but they were to go up as champions the following year so a victory at Anfield was no mean feat. And that ’ s what Sunderland achieved with goals from Harry Hooper and Lawther sending them into the fifth round. Off the field, and not for the last time, the travelling Sunderland fans humbled the famous Kop.

Sunderland ’ s young team had finally come of age and one player particularly pleased at the result was Liverpool-born Len Ashurst, who had been released by his home-town club at nineteen after being on their books for three years. “I enjoyed the FA Cup match, but I always enjoyed playing at Anfield as my parents and relatives were all Liverpudlians but also because they gave me a free transfer, which I think was a mistake,” he remembers.

As Hurley recalls: “We were two-nil up in twenty minutes. We had to defend the Kop in the second half and the longer it went on the more they lobbed the ball in. It was like manna from heaven. It was easy. To play in front of the Kop and get a standing ovation, which we got after that game, is something to remember because the Kop were great fans. They were very fair. If you played well they clapped you off the park. It was a fabulous day. I was chosen as ‘Man of the Match ’ for that game, I was given a lighter. I gave it to my dad and he lost it – that was my dad – or perhaps he flogged it!

“Yes, my dad was a character. But what I got from him was a determination to win. Even today if I play tennis or snooker or darts I want to win. You never hear of the player who comes second, no matter how many times he does it. One good win is worth much more. I came second to Bobby Moore in the 1964

Player of the Year awards and no one remembers. I think I was a born winner and I got that from my father. I ’ ll give you an example. I used to be a very good athlete as a kid and Ford works used to have an annual garden fete, with athletics for under-fives, under-tens and under-fifteens. You got seven shillings and sixpence [37p] for winning, five bob [25p] for second and two and six [13p] for third. It was a lot of money. One year it was raining and there could only be one race and the older ones were naturally put at the back.

“Halfway up the field were the little five-year-olds. On your marks, get set go and with me wearing spikes I was off like a shot. I was nearly there but this little five-year-old beat me – he was nearly at the tape to start with. I go to my dad with the money still puffing and panting and he said ‘fancy letting a five-year-old beat you ’ . I never forget that. It instilled into me that you ’ ve got to win. Winners are not necessarily nice people when they ’ re actually competing, but you put on a different hat. You just feel different, quite frightening.

“Now my mother had a massive heart, all my brothers and sisters are still very close; I think we got the strength from my dad but the feeling and affection from my mother. I have never got pleasure from seeing people getting hurt during life. My father used to say ‘Always be honest, boy, then you don ’ t have to have a good memory ’ . When I look back it wasn ’ t a bad principle to be brought up with.”

Two weeks after the Anfield match more than 53,000 packed Roker Park to see Sunderland defeat Middlesbrough 2-0, Brian Clough again missing out. Some Sunderland supporters thought he was not as good as reported or as good as he thought he was!

Sunderland drew Norwich City away in the next round of the FA Cup and not for the first time a player and team were motivated by mind games from the opposition. Charlie Hurley recalls: “I will always remember Norwich because I remember reading the headlines the day before the match. I don ’ t know if it was a wind-up or not but it said ‘Hurley, the weakness ’ so I couldn ’ t fathom that one out. It put my back up anyway. We took a bit of a battering and then we had a good spell in the first half where we could have got something. Then we got one corner with about ten minutes to go, which Harry Hooper took.

“He was the type of guy who ’ d say ‘Which way do you want the lace Charlie? ’ He always curled the corner away from the ’ keeper, beautiful for someone good in the air. One corner, and bop and in the back of the net, halfway up the iron stanchion. Before I could even get off the floor there was a mass of players on my back. I was carrying six when I went over to shake hands with Harry Hooper.

“Then we took a pounding for ten minutes, and won 1-0. Those types of games will always stick in your mind. An awful lot of Sunderland fans from those days who I talk to pick that game out. It was packed at Norwich that day; in those days fans and players were one, there were no prima donnas. OK, we were earning a lot more than the fans even in those days but our players loved the fans.”

Stan Anderson rates Hurley ’ s performance at Norwich as the best he saw from him in a Sunderland shirt. “He was brilliant. It is a shame that TV in those days wasn ’ t as good as it is now because if they ’ d looked at that goal from all the angles that they do now – it was such a bullet-like header from twelve to fifteen yards out. I remember it coming over my head and just turning to look and I ’ ve never seen anything like it in my life.

“He must have hit it flush on the head and if it had hit the crossbar it would probably have broken it. It just absolutely flashed into the net. The goal won us the match. I bet we were under the cosh for eighty-five per cent of the time but Norwich never looked like scoring. I remember one of the Norwich players asking ‘How the bloody hell have we lost this match? ’”

The goal arrived with eleven minutes remaining and Argus described it as: “From a Hooper corner-kick Hurley beat Keenan with a magnificently placed header which was a goal all the way.”

“Hurley could be the rage of the Continent in a classy side like Real Madrid,” wrote Charlie Summerbell in the Daily Mirror the following week. Madrid were, of course, the best side in the world at the time having won the first five European Cups between 1956 and 1960.

When the sixth round draw was made it meant Tottenham Hotspur, the best team in England and looking to become the first since Aston Villa in 1896–97 to record the ‘double ’ of League and FA Cup in the same season, would be making the long journey to Roker. It was swiftly announced that the tie would be a 63,000 all-ticket affair and even though Spurs returned around 10,000 from their allocation of 15,750 on the Thursday before the game they were soon sold. The atmosphere was electric. Younger readers should

think of Manchester City in the FA Cup at Roker in 1973 and Newcastle at home at the Stadium of Light in 2001, when Sunderland came from two down to grab a draw.

Sunderland won both matches between the draw and the tie, maintaining good form for the biggest game of their lives for some of the players involved. The 4-2 defeat of Leeds United included a hat-trick from Johnny Goodchild, playing his only game of the season and the last of his 44 games for Sunderland.

The Spurs side included Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay, the Scot having been signed by Bill Nicholson from Hearts six months after Nicholson had taken over as manager in October 1958. It was the away team who took the lead on nine minutes when Welshman Cliff Jones headed past an unsighted Peter Wakeham. It stayed that way until ten minutes into the second half, when Hurley went forward for another corner.

He remembers: “I dived and got a header in. Bill Brown pushed it out and Willie McPheat drove it home. I ’ ve got a big picture at home of the crowd of 63,000.”

Dave Hillam, a long-time Sunderland fan, did not have a ticket, “so for want of anything better to do I ended up on Tunstall Hill with some mates and we heard an incredible noise from the ground. It transfixed us. I can still remember hearing a great roar coming over the river and us all standing there listening to it.”

According to Argus “there was no Roker Park precedent for the scenes which followed” as supporters invaded the pitch in celebration of the equaliser, holding up the match for two minutes.

It was suggested that this intervention assisted a shaky Spurs team, giving them time to regroup among the mayhem. That is certainly how Danny Blanchflower recalled events in the Sunday Express when a week after Sunderland ’ s Wembley victory against Leeds United in 1973 he wrote: “Hundreds of fans jumped over the fence and on to the field. They were like a mad religious sect waving their hands to the glory of the equaliser. ‘Let them come, ’ I said, ‘let them get it all out of their system. The worst is over. This is the climax ... keep your heads. Let ’ s start going for their goal. We don ’ t want them near ours. Not with that crowd.”

Blanchflower claimed that Spurs then “pressed the game for a spell and then it faded into a midfield struggle.”

Yet this is not what journalists reported. For example, Alan Hoby, also in the Sunday Express, wrote: “Spurs shocked and shaken by the tremendous fervour of the Roker fans could never click back into their classic pattern. Indeed for five minutes the Division One leaders were forced to kick anywhere ... conceding three corners as they somehow survived the blitz.”

Hurley remembers “Danny Blanchflower kicking the ball over to Stan Anderson. Now Danny never ever hit a ball more than twenty yards, but the crowd that day was going berserk, the panic button was being pressed. But we just couldn ’ t get the goal although in the last minute John Dillon was very, very unlucky not to pinch the winner.”

Argus reported that “Mackay was forced to boot the ball away and the famous Lilywhites so riled Hurley by their tactics used against him that he came near to losing his temper.”

In the days following the game Blanchflower said that “nothing I have ever heard equalled the intensity of that wild roar at Roker Park last week when Sunderland drew level with Tottenham.”

The Irishman retained his affection for Sunderland fans the rest of his life, writing in his Sunday Express post-1973 FA Cup final piece that seeing them at Wembley “had pleased me. It brought back old times for me. In some ways this was better than the last time. They had won the Cup. They had beaten the best team of their day and that did not bother me at all this time.”

Spurs had been lucky but four days later they showed no mercy as they thumped Sunderland 5-0 in front of a White Hart Lane crowd of nearly 65,000 which contained a large number from the north-east, including some supporters who travelled by boat!

“The sea-going supporters are the crews of at least six North-East colliers, which will be moored in the Thames today” reported the Newcastle Journal.

Argus felt that the scoreline was a little harsh: “It was still a great game to watch and not nearly so one- sided as the scoreline indicates. But Spurs did everything a little better and a little quicker and that was the basic difference between the sides.”

He was probably being a little generous. My dad, Noble Metcalf, was one of the Sunderland supporters

who travelled that day, and he told me years later: “They hammered us, but they were a great team, especially Danny Blanchflower.”

They were only weeks away from establishing their own legacy and one wonders what might have happened if the pre-Munich Manchester United side had not been so tragically destroyed. Spurs against Manchester United in 1960–61 would have been some game.

Hurley recalls that “Jimmy McNab missed the return match. He was a good defender. I used to call Jimmy ‘Mac the knife ’ as he knocked guys over, but he rarely got booked. He ’ d knock the guy over, pick him up, say nothing and walk away, always smile. Don ’ t forget referees have got their own problems. If you don ’ t give them too much trouble then you could get away with three or four challenges.

“Lennie ‘the Lion ’ Ashurst and Mac were the two best defenders I played with. They were rock solid. In the Second Division they got known as the flank to be wary of. The blend Alan Brown got was very good and don ’ t forget a good number came through the youth side, including Cec Irwin who was a solid, no nonsense defender. Lovely lad also.

“Underdogs against the very best rarely get a second chance and we didn ’ t at Tottenham. For about twenty minutes we played really well, as good as them. Ian Lawther had two good chances. Even if he ’ d got one of them it wouldn ’ t have helped. They had a fantastic side, and once they went one up we showed our inexperience and ended up losing by five.

“But it was an experience. There were thirty thousand locked out. Word had gone out that this young Sunderland side were going to cause an upset. For twenty minutes we did, but that ’ s not what counts.”

Stan Anderson says: “I didn ’ t think we were going to win the cup: we weren ’ t good enough. You need luck as well. If we were going to win it we had to beat Tottenham at Roker Park. We could have done it but John Dillon fluffed it in the last few minutes. He still cries about it even now. He ’ s a lovely lad is John. He comes for the players ’ reunion dinners and we rib him, saying ‘You were through against Tottenham ’ and he throws his hands up and moans ‘Oh no! ’”

The cup defeat did not seem to affect the team too much. There was a 0-0 draw at Rotherham and a 2-1 victory against visitors Brighton and Hove Albion. This put Sunderland on forty points from thirty-three games. They were still some way behind Ipswich Town and Sheffield United but they were in sensational form and had gained seventeen points from ten games.

But promotion was not to be. In the very next match at Eastville, Hurley was injured early. Although he limped through the game it would probably have been better had he gone off as it meant he would miss the following games, and Sunderland lost by 1-0 to Bristol Rovers anyway.

The defeat knocked the stuffing out of the still young Sunderland side. Hurley missed the next seven games, in which Sunderland lost four times. Still, sixth was a lot better than the previous two seasons. These days it would get you into the play-offs and offer a back-door route to promotion but they were not introduced until 1987.

One of the defeats occurred in Sunderland ’ s final away game of the season when Ipswich Town scored four goals without reply. The following week the East Anglian club were crowned Division Two Champions with fifty-nine points, pipping Sheffield United by a point. With thirty-nine league goals Ray Crawford had knocked Middlesbrough ’ s goalscoring machine Brian Clough off his perch as top scorer in Division Two for the first time in four seasons.

With no previous experience of top-flight football, the Portman Road side were expected to struggle the following season. In fact they went on to confound everybody by winning the First Division title under the guidance of manager Alf Ramsey. Ramsey had been appointed in 1955 when the club were in the Third Division South and led them to promotion two seasons later. Ramsey himself had won back-to-back Second and First Division titles as a player with Tottenham Hotspur in 1950 and 1951.

Since then only one team has repeated the feat, Brian Clough ’ s Nottingham Forest capturing the First Division title in 1978 only a year after winning promotion. It is unlikely to be repeated.

Spurs went on to beat Leicester City in the final, thus adding the FA Cup to the First Division title they won by finishing eight points clear of Sheffield Wednesday. The then famous ‘double ’ had been achieved only twice previously when Preston North End won both competitions in the first ever season of league football, 1888–89, and then Aston Villa in 1896–97.

There was no beach for Charlie Hurley that summer. Ireland had been drawn with Scotland and Czechoslovakia in World Cup qualifying group eight with the winners going forward to play in Chile the following summer. The Scotland games took place over a four-day period at the end of the season, the first at Hampden Park and the return at Dalymount Park.

It was very much unlucky thirteen for Hurley in Glasgow. Ireland awarded a first cap to Andy McEvoy of Blackburn Rovers, but at right half, not in his usual position of inside forward, and Ireland were behind in the fourteenth minute when Hurley made a poor clearance and Rangers forward, and later Sunderland teammate, Ralph Brand was on hand to score an easy goal. When he scored his second just before half- time it looked all over but Haverty did pull a goal back before David Herd added two for the home side to make it 4-1.

Four days later Herd was missing, his place taken by Alex Young of Everton. Mick Meagan made his debut for Ireland at left half.

The 36,000 crowd were treated to a magnificent display, sadly not from their own team. Jim Baxter, Paddy Crerand, who had made his debut in the first match, and Celtic ’ s Billy McNeill, later to become the first skipper of a British team to lift the European Cup, ran the show. After four minutes Young scored the first, twelve minutes later Brand got the second and Young got his second and Scotland ’ s third two minutes before the referee ’ s final whistle brought a chastened Ireland ’ s misery to an end.

Had the game taken place under today ’ s rules there is little doubt that one player at least on the Scotland side would have been playing in the green of Ireland. Paddy Crerand had been brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, traditionally home to thousands of immigrants from Ireland and often referred to throughout the ’ 50s, ’ 60s and ’ 70s as the most dangerous place in Britain as street gangs were rife. Crerand, in his own words was “totally Irish, my parents were Irish, all my pals were Irish. We kept ourselves to ourselves because everyone from outside of it hated you.

“I remember when I left school in 1955 there were adverts in the papers, ‘No Irish or RC [Roman Catholics] may apply. ’ It was only later on that they allowed people to play for the country of their parents; the first player ever to play for Ireland not born there was my United teammate Shay Brennan. If that law was there in 1961 I would have played for Ireland. I stopped playing for Scotland because of the bigotry. It also didn ’ t help that I played in England but to be fair I never looked at myself as Scottish anyway.” 2

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Chit Chat

John O’Shea reckons that there can be no repeat of previous seasons in 2016/17 and a battle against the drop is not acceptable. “There’s no point in saying it again,” said the club captain. “We’ve got to do it. The proof will be in the pudding. We have to start the season better. We added to the quality of the squad in January and hopefully the manager will get the chance to do that again. That will increase the competition and I’ve said throughout my whole career, that the quality only gets better with more competition. The January boys came in and settled in so quickly and had such an impact. I’ll be hoping - and I’m sure the manager will be - that he can make an impact early on and get things done quickly. It was an amazing feeling again of how we’ve done it with a game to spare,” added O’Shea. “But the key thing was the unity we showed within the group, when the pressure was on. We responded well with only one defeat in the last 11 games. There were some great performances, but that’s what we usually do, leaving it late. The key thing now is the start of next season, from the minute we come back for pre-season.”

O’Shea also bigged up the fans, which seems to be the standard line these days, but it’s still nice. “When we’ve beaten Newcastle, we’ve had that similar atmosphere, but we want it from the start of the season. That’s up to us to give it to the fans and make sure we don’t have two or three points after eight or nine games.”

In other news, DeAndre Yedlin has been chatting about his future, now that his season long loan at SAFC is over. “It’s definitely a door I would not close. I would not mind going back,” said Yedlin. “I had a great time there. I’m keeping all doors open, I don’t want to shut any right now. Any opportunity that is offered to me is a big opportunity. When you’re dealing with the Premier League, it’s still unbelievable to think that I’m playing in the Premier League. I’ll just keep my head down and perform at Copa America. Obviously if I can have a good tournament here it’ll impress a lot more people.”

Jermain Defoe has admitted that he’s gutted to not make the England’s squad for Euro 2016. Defoe said: “Obviously I’ve not been involved with England for quite a while and I’ve always thought that getting into an England squad before a tournament is based on merit. As a forward if you score goals then you’ve got a chance of going. Towards the end of the season I started thinking about it but before I wasn’t. I was so focused on trying to help Sunderland stay in the Premier League. It’s only when you see things in the papers and people start talking about it - just mentioning my name about maybe getting into the squad - then I started thinking about it. So obviously, when you’re not in the squad, it’s a disappointment.”

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season over…
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Not a lot going on today with all the players off on holiday, now that the season is over. However, Big Sam is preparing bids and sorting g out contracts and reckons that Jeremain Lens needs to decide if he wants to stay at Sunderland, or move on. Allardyce said: “It depends what Lens wants to do – stay or fight or move on. He’ll decide that when we have a conversation.”

In other new, Fabio Borini has been called up into Italy boss Antonio Conte’s latest squad, however, no Juventus or Milan are in this squad, with the Coppa Italia final played this Saturday, so a number of fringe players are being given a chance.

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford is off with England’s under-21 side travel to the Toulon Tournament. “Unfortunately I have to share a room with Duncan Watmore again. He’s a nightmare,” joked Pickford. “No, he's a great lad really and we'll play three or four times in eight days so the games are in quick succession and it’s a good experience. It was a really good tournament last year when I went with the under-20s, so it’s a good chance to get a few more games under my belt and hopefully a few more clean sheets.”

In other news, Sam Allarydce was delighted with the young lads who made their debuts against Watford. “Hopefully they all have a bright future ahead of them and they all make the grade,” said Allardyce. “To bring so many players from the academy to the first-team squad is a pleasure. Recently it has been more about players coming through and moving on to play for other teams in lower divisions, but we want to try and develop them and get them into our first-team if we possibly can. Hopefully this will be the case and one or two of these lads can hold down a place next season. Both the players and their families will have been absolutely thrilled when they woke up on Monday morning because they’ve experience playing in the greatest league in the world. They grasped that moment and were determined, and this will have given them the drive to want to do better and better.”

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post watford craic…

Sunderland drew 2-2 away at Watford in a game that we really should have won, if not for two incorrectly disallowed goals. Referee Kevin Friend really has it out for us. Nevertheless, goals from Lens and Rodwell gave our travelling fans a grand day out to cap off the season.

Sam Allardyce had this to say afterwards: “There were a few decisions that didn’t go our way today. The fans came down and they sang all the way through and were entertained; they got to see some of our younger players, who I think stood up to the test today and played very well indeed. We created a huge amount of chances and we got in front twice. The killer for us was Duncan [Watmore]’s goal – that would have made it 2-0 and I think it should have been allowed, however it wasn’t to be. Eleven games, one defeat; no defeats in the last six games and 12 points from those games. Watford played a full strength side and we only had a couple of players that have been involved in our last seven games. What we’ve seen today from the young players stands us in good stead for the future. We have to make sure we go into next season, build on this and don’t start the way we have done the last few years. We need a good start and to look much better, that’s what we need to concentrate on.” He added: “For now, that was a brilliant send-off for the fans - we matched Watford in every department and what we saw was very pleasing, they could enjoy their day.

Tommy Robson was delighted to get a run out in the 2-2 draw at Watford and had this to say afterwards about the development. Robson said: “It’s definitely helped to see Duncan and Jordan getting into the first-team. A couple of years ago, no-one was getting a chance, but now there’s a lot more of us training with them. A lot of players are making their debuts in the Premier League at 22-23, so I’ve still got a lot of years ahead of me. For a relegation battle, you need experience, but I’m hoping that next season is not going to be the same. I don’t think it will be. The way we’ve ended the season, I think with a couple more signings, we can be a really good team next year. I’ve been training with the first-team for a while and I’m learning a lot from Robbie and Brace,” added Robson. “Hopefully I can keep improving and we’ll see where I end up. I’m going to enjoy the next two weeks and then work hard before I come back at the start of the season. We’ll see what happens. I just want to be ready for the start of the season and then it’s up to the manager. I got told on Saturday morning and there was a mix of excitement and nerves. It wasn’t a nice feeling! (When I got out there) I just cut everything out and I felt fine. I enjoyed it and words can’t describe how I’m feeling. It’s a dream. I thought we deserved to win the game. I think we had two goals which weren’t offside and I don’t think it was a penalty.”

And here's our post Watford Blog

Well, the last few days have been a pretty good time to be a Sunderland fan. I’d be lying if I said it was a shame the mags went down, as I would if I said it wasn’t extra sweet that our thumping win over Everton did for them. That we did it in style by playing good football and scoring a fair few goals was a bonus which gives hope for a brighter immediate future….

….as did the impressive debuts of Tom Robson and Rees Greenwood, and from the bench by George Honeyman – all Academy products, like keeper for the day Pickford. Sam wants us to grow our own, and those four, plus Watmore (who we took as a cutting so to speak) look like they could be a big part of our future.

The away end was, as usual, sold out, and the travelling fans in fine voice and party mood throughout the game – as they had been before the game as they thronged Watford’s streets. As meaningless end-of-season games go, this was an entertaining affair, with shots aplenty, a dodgy penalty, and two perfectly good goals ruled out for offside. Typically, all of those contentious decisions went against us, and with a different set of officials we’d have been 4-1 up. Still, mustn’t grumble too loudly or we’ll sound ungracious - and we wouldn’t want that. Another positive was the performance of Lens, who has failed to impress over most of the season so far (that’s about all of it, actually) but at Vicarage Road looked like he was interested – as did Jack Rodwell, another who needs to up his game on a regular basis.

But that’s for the close season, and that’s where we are now. With Sam’s regime firmly in place, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t hit the ground running next season, and if we do that mid-table obscurity should be a doddle.

Meanwhile, Big Sam Allardyce is already turning his head towards the future and has urged Ellis Short to sort out our youth recruitment and development. Sam said: “The under-21 players are a driving necessity for me. The club has to build for the future a bit more than it has done. The recruitment at the academy level for me would be something I would talk to Ellis (Short, Sunderland’s chairman) about. I’m not directly involved, but I’d say, ‘However long you’re going to be in charge of this club, when I’ve gone, do that, start that process. We’re going to do this now, solve the problem, but don’t – down the line – continue living year-in, year-out, not having a long-term basis for the club.’

“And that has to be recruitment at youth level and finding players who are going to be big enough physically, mentally, technically, to play for Sunderland. Lots of players have been developed by this club but don’t play for the club. They play at all the clubs in the lower divisions, but are never quite good enough to play for Sunderland. And I think we have to try to eradicate that and find more players for our team through our academy. The supporters love it, we all love it, but that is a long-term prospect, it’s not my responsibility. The club should look at investing more in that as well as obviously investing in next year as well.”

Sam has also heaped praise on John O'Shea and reckons that the Irish defender would make a great manager some day. He isn't the first gaffer to make the same observation. He said: “John is going to make a fantastic coach or manager. He’s a dedicated professional and he’s been very good in terms of the frustration he’s seen and shown. At the time, he was a bit unfortunate to lose his place but obviously, when I look at the partnership that Younes and Lamine (Kone) have put together, I’m sure John understands and goes, ‘I can probably understand why the manager is not picking me’. It’s the same with Wes Brown, even worse because Wes has even struggled to get a place on the bench. He’s a terrific player and a terrific guy and he’s been sat there frustrated more than John because he’s not even managed to get on the bench."

Allardyce also confirmed that O'Shea would be staying past this summer window, but doesn't expect the same for Wes Brown: "At that late stage in your career, it’s about playing football before you finally retire" Allardyce explained. "Not about sitting on the bench or in the stand." When asked about O'Shea, Allardyce replied: "Oh, he'll definitely be staying."

Speaking of old Sheasy, old Paddy McGuiness on wiz, the veteran captain once again is insistent that Sunderland fans get to see their side in cup finals, not relegation battles. O'Shea admitted: “We got to a League Cup final [in 2014] and the fans enjoyed that run. We just came up short against (Manchester) City in the final. If we can do those sort of things again and be much higher up in the table, comfortable, that’s obviously what we are craving. If we can get that bit of success somehow, that is key for everybody. We have to make sure we give not just the fans, but the whole Sunderland family, not just a celebration for the last two games, but the whole season. The club changed the manager a bit earlier than normal this year, and he has had a huge impact. His experience and his know-how of getting the balance of the squad right, finding quality in the transfer window, getting the backing from the owner (were vital). The training improved, everything, players had to perform to stay in the team. That’s when you get better performances. But there’s also the impact it has knowing the club is a Premier League club again next season, for the staff at the training ground, at the academy, at Black Cats House (where the club is administered), all of those things. We need to make sure we put that all together now and start next season much better.”

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