So, as we continue our team of One Good and One Bad (4-4-2 formation). Michael Conroy chose two centre halves. Just confirm this is not a best and worst, it’s more of a one I liked, one who pissed me off!
How can a team sheet consisting of good players not include The King? Not that king. The proper one. Time is a cruel mistress and I curse the fact that I have had a reasonably miserable existence as a Sunderland fan purely by virtue of when I was born. Four years before I entered this world Sunderland won their last major trophy. Since then, well Phillips and Quinn were canny for a bit. I guess I have seen the six in a row. When I first started following Sunderland my old man would talk about the old days and two players came up over and over again. The first was Clough, but he can’t play centre back although I’m sure he would have given it a go. The next was a man so revered by my dad that when I spoke to him his eyes veered from either sparkling to misty. I never saw Charlie Hurley play but the stories I have been told over the years have created this man of legend. My dad always said that centre backs never came up for corners in the past, Charlie invented that. Every time Sunderland got a corner, Roker Park would chant. “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” In 1979 he was named Player of The Century at Sunderland and for a centre half to win that accolade in light of the mercurial Len Shackleton and the undoubtedly talented forward Raich Carter is testament to how highly he was regarded. He scored 23 goals for Sunderland and from the stories I hear I presume most of those will have been from obliterating everybody in the box as his determination to reach the cross from the corner was satisfied. I am envious of everyone who saw Charlie Hurley play. At the age of 18 he was selected for a London XI in the first European tie for an English club as London beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the Fairs Cup. The headline in the paper? “Hurley holds Germans”. It’s not just us who hold him in high regard either. Millwall fans voted him their greatest ever player even though he only played for them for a few years. How can you not name him in your starting XI? Walk round the front of the Stadium of Light and you will see the old gates from our training ground. They aren’t there because we like to remember the ground, they are there because of what is written on them. The Charlie Hurley Centre.
I was unfortunate to suffer a house fire in my teenage years. I say unfortunate, our insurance company moved us into a hotel where I had my own plush room, a golf course, a full English every morning and access to the leisure facilities. There were also a couple of Sunderland’s new recruits staying at the hotel. One of them got me some decent tickets to the derby match, the other, well the was a bit aloof. John Colquhoun was a lovely bloke and would always wave at me in the Main Stand Paddocks when he was warming up which made me feel a bit like a star. I chatted to Terry Butcher a bit but found him quite cold. Maybe he was just a bit shy I don’t know, or maybe I was an irritating teenager that he couldn’t be arsed with, probably the latter. To sit with an iconic player like Butcher is something which is quite unsettling. I mean this was the man that played on with blood pouring out of his bandage and on to his white England shirt. Now he was a Sunderland player. Albeit a Sunderland player at the twilight of his career. When his pace had gone a bit. And he couldn’t leap as high. And couldn’t turn very quickly. To watch a legend like Butcher unravelling before your eyes is difficult. He was appointed player/manager after a while and promptly got sent off on his managerial debut against Swindon. The best thing you could say about his managerial stint at Roker Park was that he did that whole fist pumping thing to gee the fans up, which I seem to recall he got a warning or a fine for. Butcher is on the bad list not because he was an awful player so much as he was just a bit of a damp squib. Never meet your heroes they say, well here was a player with such history and such reputation. In the end he just came to Sunderland too late.
THE STORY SO FAR
Stay Safe, Haway the Lads