FORMER PLAYERS’ ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL
MANCHESTER CITY 1
Monday 29th May 2017
Stadium of Light
By Rob Mason
The SFPA staged their first ever football match on Bank Holiday Monday when they welcomed Manchester City to the Stadium of Light.
Featuring a mixture of young and old, Sunderland were too strong for City as a midfield including Julio Arca and Craig Lynch had the legs to go with the know-how. Fresh from winning the FA Vase at Wembley earlier in the month with South Shields, Julio was his classy self. Meanwhile Lynch is still playing in the same league as Arca having previously been a regular from Seaham Red Star in the Northern League after playing a couple of Premier League games for Sunderland back in 2011.
With 1988 Third division winner John ‘Monty’ MacPhail and 1999 Division One winner Darren Williams at centre back, Sunderland had a good base to build on. Former youth team goalkeeper Phil Naisbett provided a safe pair of hands, whilst at full back former winger Paul Atkinson played on the left with David Duke on the right. A former Sunderland reserve of the late nineties Duke, went on to play over 200 league games for Swindon. Barry Dunn, 1980 promotion winner started on the right wing with former England Under 21 man Brian Atkinson in central midfield, playing alongside Arca and Lynch on the left. Now assisting Martin Gray with Darlington Atkinson remains a fine passer of the ball.
Martin Smith supported front man Lee Howey. The pair also provided a couple of youthful subs in the shape of their sons. Michael Proctor and Peter Stronach also played in a game of roll on / roll off subs. Playing at the heart of the City defence was none other than Sunderland FPA Chairman Gary Bennett! Benno started his career at City and turned up expecting to play for Sunderland but instead helped out City. City also had one-time Sunderland and former England winger Peter Barnes in their line up along with Jeff Whitley’s brother Jim.
Managed by Gordon Armstrong, Sunderland also had Jim Montgomery, Dick Malone, Vic Halom, Winston Young, Phillip Crossley-Lowes, Gordon Ellis, David Corner, Don Rankin and Colin Suggett in attendance to show their support.
Craig Lynch got Sunderland up and running with an early goal before setting up Martin Smith’s son for a tap in to make it 2-0 on 20 minutes – a goal at the Stadium of Light then for the ‘Grandson of Pele’! Ten minutes later Michael Proctor extended the lead with a clinical finish after Lee Howey’s tumble in the box provided the perfect dummy. Delighted with the goal ‘Proccy’ turned into Gazza with the fourth goal early in the second half, dinking the ball over City ‘keeper Eric Nixon and bringing down his cute touch to roll the ball into an empty net.
After seeing his son make it 5-0 Lee Howey got in on the act with a low right foot shot from the edge of the box. In between the goals from the Howey father and son act City reduced the deficit with the goal of the game. Paul Newton floated the ball over Naisbett from 30 yards. A member of City’s 1986 FA Youth Cup winning squad, Newton later went to Stockport County before playing in non-league.
An excellent occasion was wrapped up with a bite to eat and a drink, appropriately enough in Quinn’s bar – Niall having become a footballer at Manchester City before Sunderland got under his skin. Gary Bennett and Peter Barnes made presentations to each other as a token of the friendship between the associations with Darren Williams receiving a trophy and bottle of champagne from Gordon Armstrong as the man of the match.
SUNDERLAND: Phil Naisbitt; David Duke, John MacPhail, Darren Williams, Paul Atkinson; Barry Dunn, Brian Atkinson, Julio Arca, Craig Lynch; Martin Smith, Lee Howey. Subs: Peter Stronach, Michael Proctor. Manager: Gordon Armstrong.
A return at City is planned later in the year with City promising a stronger team and Sunderland now full of confidence after winning the first of what will be many matches for the Former Players’ Association.