On Monday 14th November 1955 a little warmth was allowed into the Cold War by the visit to Roker Park of the reigning Soviet champions, Moscow Dynamo. I was a mere eighteen months old at the time but the sole remnant of my once-extensive football programme collection is the one from that night. We’d finished fourth in the 1954-55 season and this must have helped us get the gig but Chairman Bill Murray had earlier established relations with them during their goodwill tour in late 1945 when they returned home undefeated after drawing 3-3 with Chelsea, obliterating Cardiff 10-1, gaining a 4-3 win over an Arsenal side at White Hart Lane that had six guest players including Stanley Matthews and finishing off with a 2-2 draw with Glasgow Rangers. You can see the very murky highlights of the Rangers match on YouTube. 271,000 fans witnessed those four matches and the myth of British footballing invincibility began to crumble.
This wasn’t our first floodlight game against European opposition that season as twelve days earlier we’d entertained First Vienna and had managed to let a 4-0 lead after thirty minutes slip to a 4-4 draw. In the previous two seasons we’d also played Racing Club de Paris (winning 2-0 and 5-1) and Borussia Dortmund (a 3-2 win for us). The 1955-1956 season also saw the first matches of the European Cup, which was soon dominated by Real Madrid.
Sunderland had limbered up for this match with a 4-4 draw at home to Burnley a couple of days before and on the night lined up in their usual 2-3-5 formation with Fraser in goal, Hedley and McDonald as full-backs, Anderson, Daniel and Aitken in the middle and a forward line of Bingham, Fleming, Purdon, Chisholm and Shackleton. Strange to say, we also had eight substitutes that night. Dynamo had in goal one of the greatest players of the century in Lev Yashin, known as the Black Spider or the Black Panther, who, amongst many other great achievements, is credited with saving one hundred and fifty penalties. In the programme there’s a photo of the team standing on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport shortly after arriving and they’re all in huge overcoats while many are also wearing fedoras or large caps.
As for the match, Shack had the ball in the net in the first-half as did Dynamo’s inside left Ilyin but they were both ruled offside and it was goalless at the break. After the restart Billy Bingham’s shot hit both a post and the crossbar before bouncing clear. Then Shack burst through and gave Chisholm a good chance but he tripped over Yashin and on picking himself up, stuck the ball in the net but again it was ruled offside. The only goal of the match came when Ilyin scored with a long-distance shot. You can buy footage of the match by visiting www.britishpathe. com Dynamo had also visited Molineux five days earlier and been beaten 2-1 by Wolves.
One of my favourite parts of the programme is the back page that features an advert for Double Maxim. There’s a drawing of a smiling young woman in what looks like a leopard-skin top brandishing an almost full schooner of Vaux’s finest. Other adverts included one for a range of quality pens from E.W. Dack of 6 Blandford Street, a full-pager for A. Hector Grabham Ltd. (caterers for all painting and decorating requirements) and one for United Bus Services, who were offering a luxury return coach service to London for 42 shillings and nine pence. That’s about £2.15 to you young uns.
The Dynamo match must have taken a lot out of us because on Saturday 19th November we travelled to Luton and were hammered 8-2. One interesting development of Dynamo’s tour was that a group of pupils at Loughborough Grammar School secretly formed a team called Loughborough Dynamo (soccer wasn’t allowed in their school) and they later became members of the Northern Premier League, Division One South.
It wasn’t Lev Yashin’s last visit to Roker Park as in July 1966 he played in a World Cup match there against Italy, which the U.S.S.R. won 1-0. My older brother was sixteen then and had been chosen to act as a photographer’s runner, which involved him crouching near the goal and racing round the track with full rolls of film. He told me that Lev spoke to him a couple of times – some memories.