Born on this day in 1956 is former Arsenal, Sunderland and Watford defender Wilf Rostron, who made almost 500 Football League appearances in his lengthy career.
Wilf was born in Sunderland and played for Sunderland schoolboys, until signing for Arsenal when he was just 16. His debut came against the Mags in 1975, but struggled to play consistently for the Gunners.
After five years down south, he returned home in a £40,000 transfer back to Sunderland in ‘77. He was a hard working, progressive winger who could play on both flanks, His standout performance for the Lads came when he scored a hat-trick in our 6-2 demolition of Sheffield United.
We were third before the match, and needed to win by four goals to go top of the league. Rostron’s hat-trick (which included two late penalties) instilled hope in the Roker Park faithful, with the post-match scenes described as “crazy from fans and players alike”.
We didn’t end up getting promoted that season, as Stoke scored a dramatic late winner on the final day of the season with results out of our hands, but that day felt like a real turning point in the season and it was thanks to Rostron - and Barry Siddall who saved a penalty on the day.
As we missed out on promotion a managerial change occurred, and Wilf was a victim of the usual transfer activity that happens when a new gaffer wants to stamp his authority on a team. He was sold to Watford for £150,000 after two years at Roker Park, which saw SAFC turn a huge profit on their initial £40,000 transfer.
He was converted to left back at Watford, and spent a stellar 10 years at the club, spearheading their ‘Golden Generation’. He was unlucky not to captain the side for the 1984 FA Cup final, missing out due to suspension.
Ultimately Wilf was a decent player who had sporadic success on Wearside, before going on to achieve better things at his next club.