Here we remember ex-players who are sadly no longer with us.
John Dillon (right) pictured with fellow former players Derek Weddle and Jack Maltby
Club historian Rob Mason pays tribute
Former winger John Dillon has passed away at the age of 76. Hailing from Coatbridge; birthplace of that other great Scots winger Billy Hughes, Dillon was a diminutive player but one with a gigantic heart.
He played 23 times for Sunderland, beginning with a debut against Middlesbrough in September 1960 when he was just 17. Six months later he played in his most famous game, an FA Cup quarter-final with Spurs that went to a replay after he had played in cup wins at Liverpool and Norwich. All but one of his appearances came in that 1960-61 season, including playing in Sunderland’s first ever League Cup tie.
In the 1961 meeting Spurs, when he came so close to scoring the winner, Sunderland’s goal in that match came from Willie McPheat who John remained life-long friends with. McPheat suffered from Alzheimers in his later years but John loyally continued to regularly take two buses across Glasgow to visit Willie until his teammate died just four months before John passed away himself.
After holding Spurs at Sunderland in a game described in the official Tottenham history as the match where the London side came nearest to not becoming the first team of the twentieth century to do the double, Sunderland were well beaten in the replay. Reminiscing about that cup-tie John recalled,
“We could have beaten them at Roker Park but when they got us back to White Hart Lane they ran rings around us. We let in five but it could have been 15. They had people like Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay and John White. They were brilliant. I remember sliding in for a tackle at 3-0 down and getting nowhere near it. Stan Anderson just looked at me and asked,
“John, what are you doing?”
“Trying to win the game” I replied, I was only young.
“We’ve got no chance here” he said, ‘Just go and enjoy your game.”
John went on to play 21 league games for Brighton and five for Crewe before returning to Scotland to play for Albion Rovers, Queen of the South, Stranraer and Hamilton. He once scored four times in a game for Albion where he was inducted into their Hall of Fame.
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Club historian Rob Mason pays tribute
We were sad to learn of the death of former Sunderland forward Harry Hood, who has passed away aged 74. Harry was a right winger or centre forward who did well at Sunderland – once scoring the winner against Manchester United – and won a stack of silverware with Celtic.
Glasgow born, Harry had turned down Celtic to sign for Sunderland before later joining the Celts. Interviewed in Sunderland’s match programme in 2010 Harry remembered the interest in him following his 40 goals in 63 league games for Clyde, “I was absolutely stunned when I ran out at Roker Park for my debut. Remember in my career I would ultimately play in front of huge raucous crowds in Glasgow but I’ve never forgotten what the noise and atmosphere was like inside Roker Park.”
Having debuted in a win over Burnley shortly after turning 20 Harry soon got his first goal against Everton – a club where his brother Jackie was a pro. After a more than decent first season on Wearside injury struck Harry who would miss the entire 1965-66
campaign after suffering a double hernia doing weight training in pre-season. When he returned in 1966-67 he would play just a handful of games despite scoring in a big win over Blackpool on his last appearance at Roker.
The problem was Harry became one of a group of players effectively frozen out by Ian McColl, the ex-Rangers man who had become Sunderland boss at the end of Hood’s first season. “I wasn’t seeing eye to eye with Ian McColl and I felt he never gave the likes of myself or John O’Hare the run we deserved.”
In October ’66 Sunderland cut their losses on Harry, selling him back to Clyde for under half the £26,000 he had cost. Once again he excelled and two and a half years later finally did sign for Jock Stein’s all-conquering Celtic not long after scoring against England in winning his only international cap at Under 23 level. He did tour with Scotland in 1967 but did not win a full cap.
At Parkhead Hood won five league titles, three cups and played in four other finals – scoring in the 1971 and ’74 Scottish Cup finals as well as scoring a hat-trick in the 1974 semi-final against Rangers.
In May 1976 Harry crossed the Atlantic to briefly play for San Antonio Thunder before finishing his playing days with Motherwell and having short spells as manager of Albion Rovers and Queen of the South in the early eighties.
After leaving the game behind Harry became a hotelier in Lanarkshire. He is fondly remembered as an exciting and effective player at Sunderland with a record, that while short-lived on Wearside, was one to be proud of.
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Everyone at SAFC was saddened to learn of the death of former player Geoff Toseland who passed away on Thursday 16 May at the age of 87.
He played six games for Sunderland, all in the 1952-53 season, scoring on his debut in a 2-1 win over Derby and playing in a 2-2 derby draw at Newcastle in his first away match. Toseland was a team-mate to top stars such as Len Shackleton, Trevor Ford and Willie Watson and even served alongside Bob Stokoe in the army. “Bob was four months older than me and we were in the same depot” Geoff told me when I interviewed him in 2007.
Remembering his debut goal Toseland recalled, “I cut in from the left, hit a shot with my right foot from just inside the box and thankfully it beat the goalkeeper. I’d been nervous up until then. When you come out of the tunnel for the first time everything freezes, it was like walking on air.”
A left winger, Kettering born Geoff had been spotted playing for Kettering Town and joined Sunderland as a 17-year old. Two of his six and a half years at Sunderland were spent in the army on National Service before he was eventually released and re-joined Kettering Town.
Back on home turf he combined with the legendary ex England international centre-forward Tommy Lawton who was player-manager. As well as creating many goals for Lawton, Geoff scored 93 goals in 144 games for the club with which he won the Southern League in 1957.
After winding down his career with Geddington and Rothwell Town Geoff became a window cleaner and market trader but he never forgot his time in the north east, saying, “People always love their football especially in Sunderland and I am proud to have played for the club.”
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Club historian Rob Mason pays tribute to Ivor Broadis
The death of Ivor Broadis, at the age of 96 years and 115 days, on 12 April 2019 brought to a close the life of Sunderland and England’s oldest living player. Broadis was one of the finest players to wear the red and white stripes. Measure that by the fact that greats including Bill Shankly, Alex Ferguson, Tom Finney, Jackie Milburn, Mike Summerbee and Trevor Ford have been amongst those to praise him to the skies as both a footballer and a gentleman.
Broadis was the first man to score twice in a World Cup game for England. He once netted a hat-trick as Sunderland beat Manchester United 5-3 at Old Trafford and as the youngest ever person to manage in the Football League he did the most sensible thing possible as player-manager of Carlisle - and transferred himself to ‘Bank of England Club’ Sunderland.
At Sunderland he partnered ‘Shack’, later at Manchester City he partnered Don Revie and back at Newcastle the centre-forward benefitting from Broadis’ artistry was ‘Wor Jackie’. In his time with England he would be supplying Nat Lofthouse and flanked by Stan Matthews and Tom Finney. Whoever Broadis played with, he was never outclassed.
Bill Shankly at Liverpool became one of the greatest managers the game has known. He succeeded Broadis as manager of Carlisle. After his transfer Broadis remained in Carlisle for the rest of his life, often training with Shanks’ Carlisle while on Sunderland’s books. After training Ivor and Bill would often spend the afternoons taking each other on in Shankly’s garden, playing one v one. A good judge of a player if ever there was one Shankly described Broadis as, “One of the strongest and most dangerous inside forwards that ever played.”
Towards the end of his playing days Broadis scored four times for Queen of the South in a 7-1 win over Queens Park in Dumfries. The visitors’ scorer that day was a young Alex Ferguson, another good judge who remembers, “For a 17-year old lad to be on the field with the great Ivor Broadis was a wonderful highlight for me.”
Newcastle’s greatest ever hero Jackie Milburn simply said of Broadis, he was “A class act” while Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee – father of Sunderland’s Nick - was another fan of Ivor, “I saw him play quite often as a young boy and he really sticks in my mind. He was a fantastic footballer and a real gentleman He is respected by every club he played for.”
At Sunderland, Trevor Ford, writing in his autobiography, said of Broadis, “He was a prince to centre-forwards for he would invariably draw his man and then send a pin-point pass to the advancing leader. As inside forwards Shack and Broadis were devastating in the way they bamboozle the defence.”
Broadis scored 27 goals in 84 games for Sunderland and 156 in 505 career league games in England and Scotland, as well as many more in war-time football where he played as a ‘Guest’ mainly for Tottenham, with whom he had signed as an amateur before the war. Manchester United, Millwall, Bradford Park Avenue, Blackpool, Distillery and Carlisle United were others he played for during the war years.
Born on 18 December 1922 in the Isle of Dogs in London, the son of a docker, in 1940 the Broadis’ home was destroyed in a bombing raid. Fortunately, the family were in their Anderson air-raid shelter and survived.
Ivor joined the RAF, flying over 500 hours during the war, serving as a flight lieutenant navigator on RAF Wellingtons and Lancaster bombers. Having trained in Ireland (Hence the games for Distillery) and America, Broadis served in Italy. After the war, Ivor’s first international appearance outside the UK was in Italy. He scored after four minutes.
Posted to RAF Crosby-on-Eden after the war Ivor was offered the player-manager position at Brunton Park. Due to the war he was 23 by the time he was able to make his league debut on the day league football resumed in August 1946. Marking the occasion by scoring Carlisle’s first post war goal he went on to bag 55 in 94 games in two and a half seasons before selling himself to Sunderland. Roker boss Bill Murray beat off competition from Manchester City, Blackburn and Preston to sign Ivor for £18,000 in January 1949. It was a record fee for Carlisle and Division Three North, not to mention almost double the £10,000 Sunderland had offered for Broadis a year earlier. The signing was the Bank of England Club’s response to sensationally being knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Yeovil the previous Saturday.
Broadis’ first full season saw Sunderland go as close as they have to a post-war league title. Only a late season home loss to relegation bound Manchester City cost a seventh championship. Ivor missed just one match. Injury restricted Broadis to just 20 appearances in 1950-51 but there were 10 goals including two hat-tricks.
The trouble with the Bank of England club was that unlike the Team of All the Talents of the 1890s they had the talent but not the team. Amidst stories of personality clashes Broadis was sold to Manchester City for £7,000 more than had been paid for him, City beating off Liverpool and Leeds for his signature.
City’s manager was Les McDowall who played for Sunderland before the war. Future Sunderland centre-forward Don Revie arrived at City around the same time. Indeed, Revie’s first goal for the club came in the same game as Broadis’ second but the two never gelled. Revie’s role as a deep-lying centre forward meant he often occupied the same space as Broadis and they never hit it off.
Nonetheless a month after leaving Sunderland Broadis made his England debut. He would score eight goals in 14 internationals. The last three of his caps came in the 1954 World Cup during which his brace against Belgium in Switzerland made him the first man to score more than once in a World Cup finals game for England. 66 years ago yesterday Ivor scored twice against Scotland at Wembley.
After a dozen goals in 79 games for City a return to the north east came in the shape of a £20,000 move to Newcastle. On his home debut against Cardiff in 1953 he created a goal in the first minute and then scored twice himself. He would play 51 times for Newcastle, scoring 18 times but after an alleged fall-out with trainer Norman Smith he was left out of United’s 1955 FA Cup final team and returned to Carlisle shortly afterwards as player-coach.
After four further years with Carlisle Ivor finished his playing days with Queen of the South, signing for the Doonhamers in 1959. He had played in Scotland before, ‘Guesting’ for Third Lanark in the 1956 Glasgow Cup finals. Following 24 goals in 85 games for Queen of the South Hearts tried to sign him, but Ivor decided it was time to focus on other people’s stories and became a journalist.
In a 45-year career as a scribe, the Manchester Evening News, The Journal, Sunday Sun, Cumberland News, Carlisle Evening News and Star and the Observer had the privilege of publishing the thoughts and reports of a footballer of finesse, pace and power. Like all writers – including me – no doubt from time to time Broadis made mistakes. Hopefully none were so bad as the league official who when he was first registered as a young player mis-read his real name Ivan as Ivor! The name stuck with him for ever. That may have been a terrible mistake but Ivor’s engine kept running for almost a century.
Made a Freeman of Carlisle in 2018, Broadis was a giant of the game from a bygone era but one who until just a week ago was here to tell the tale of Sunderland’s 1950 title near miss, the 1954 World Cup and those 500 hours of World War Two flying time.
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Club historian Rob Mason pays tribute.
Former centre-forward Willie McPheat has passed away, aged 76, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The highest scoring teenager in Sunderland’s history, all 23 of Willie’s goals for the club were scored before his career was cruelly cut short in a horror tackle by Leeds Bobby Collins in 1962, a month before McPheat’s 20th birthday. He never played for Sunderland again, joining Hartlepool three years later and moving to his native Scotland with Airdrie after 17 games and four goals down the A19.
McPheat’s haul of goals included one on his debut against Leeds and another in a big win over Newcastle. Willie also scored in Sunderland’s first ever League Cup tie against Brentford but it was in an FA Cup quarter-final against Spurs in 1961 that he netted his most famous goal, one that is pictured on the staircase that leads to the dressing rooms at the Stadium of Light. That goal triggered a pitch invasion at Roker Park as Spurs escaped with a draw. Tottenham went on to become the first team of the century to win the double of league and cup with Spurs’ official history recording that the nearest they came to failing in that mission as at Roker Park where over 60,000 gave second division Sunderland a wall of noise that had Spurs’ skipper Danny Blanchflower famously seen searching for the speakers he thought amplified the crowd after the match. There were none of course. McPheat had simply ignited the Roker Roar. John Dillon played on the wing that night and recalls Blanchflower subsequently writing about Willie McPheat and himself as ‘The two young Scots who gave me a hard time.’
Dillon was a life-long friend of Willie McPheat and recalls, “We were in digs together at Sunderland. Willie was a couple of months older than me but then I thought he was a year or more older because he was so much taller than I was. The crowd used to refer to us as Yogi Bear and Boo Boo! We got on smashing and when you gave him the ball he could do anything with it. He wasn’t a flamboyant player but he was strong.”
Willie spent his last years living in a Glasgow nursing home where he was regularly visited by Dillon who says. “I last saw him about a fortnight before he died. He hadn’t been able to recognise me for the last couple of years but I still went to see him regularly”
Another former team-mate is Len Ashurst who remembers, “Willie was raw material. He was two-footed and a big, strong player who could hold his own physically. That endeared him to the manager and the crowd. What was surprising was how quick he was. He used to cover the ground with speed and that put him in good positions. He enjoyed the dressing room banter and it’s sad to hear he has passed away after a long illness.”
Stan Anderson 1934- 2018
Club historian Rob Mason pays tribute.
Stan Anderson, one of Sunderland’s greatest ever footballers has passed away at the age of 84. Stan died at home in Doncaster on Sunday June 10th following a week where he had been hospitalized with chest pains.
“Stan was just a gentleman and a magnificent player” said his former team-mate and club ambassador Jim Montgomery. “I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. He was one of the best players I ever played with and he left Sunderland far too early.”
Monty, Victorian age goalkeeper Ted Doig and Len Ashurst are the only people to have made more appearances for Sunderland than the 447 games Anderson played for the club. “I can see him now playing right to left diagonal balls for George Mulhall” says Ashurst. “That was his stock in trade. When I came into the team Stan was the captain and he nurtured me as well as Jim McNab and Cec Irwin who debuted on the same day as me. He brought us along so that we became players. Stan was a commanding captain who was a great player and liked a laugh. I was a great admirer of his and news of his death is tragic especially coming so soon after the other former players who have passed away recently, including George Mulhall.”
Stan Anderson was born in Horden in County Durham on 27 February 1934. In 1949 he came to Sunderland as an amateur, signing as a professional on his 17th birthday in 1951, debuting in October 1952 at Roker Park against Portsmouth.
A rare home-grown player in the era of the ‘Bank of England’ side of the fifties, Stan scored the first of his 35 Sunderland goals against Newcastle. He played in two FA Cup semi-finals but his greatest day came in 1961 when he capped a fabulous display with both goals in a famous FA Cup win over Arsenal watched by over 58,000.
Speaking to me for the book ‘Match of My Life’ Stan reflected on his 1963 departure for Newcastle United, “Joe Harvey was desperate for me to sign for Newcastle and I was just as keen not to go. I knew there’d be trouble if I switched stripes and I was from a family of dyed in the wool red and whites…Playing for the team I supported was always a privilege and a pleasure for me. I never wanted to leave Sunderland but eventually Browny [Manager Alan Brown] bombed me out.”
After captaining Newcastle to promotion he completed his north-east hat-trick by playing for Middesbrough who he later managed to promotion. Anderson also managed AEK Athens, Doncaster Rovers and Bolton Wanderers where he was in charge of a young Peter Reid. Stan also had spells as assistant manager with Manchester City and QPR.
The only Sunderland player to be capped by England during the 1960s, Stan had captained his country at Under 23 level and also won a ‘B’ cap. One of his two full England caps is on permanent display at the Stadium of Light.
Always naturally fit, Stan was still a keen golfer right up until this year. “He would complete rounds in 77 or 78 shots which was under his age and quite remarkable” noted Jim Montgomery. As a player Stan Anderson would without question be a member of Sunderland’s greatest post-war XI, as a gentleman he was also one of the best. Stan always had time to talk and his life-time love of Sunderland invariably shone through. SAFC have lost an all-time great but one who will never be forgotten.
George Mulhall 1936 - 2018
Former Sunderland winger George Mulhall passed away late on 27 April, the evening Sunderland were in action at Fulham. He would
have been 82 on 8 May. “Dad’s death came as a great shock to us” said eldest son Neil. He had fractured his hip a few weeks ago and was in
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. He had been in good spirits although for many years he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s – something he attributed to heading so many heavy balls as a
footballer. My dad loved playing for Sunderland and my mother who had come down from Aberdeen with him loved living there too” George Mulhall played 289 games for Sunderland,
including five as sub, and scored 67 goals from the wing, a couple of the best known being a winner at Manchester United 50 years ago next week and a 20 yarder that completed a 3-0
home win over Newcastle in March 1967. As a left-winger Mulhall was more about making goals as scoring them. Playing in an era when every team had a ‘hatchet-man’ in defence you
had to earn the right to play. Many a winger was known to switch wings if a full-back had hacked him down once too often. George was the kind of winger who made full-backs feel like
switching flanks. I once put it to George that I remembered him as a winger who liked to get his retaliation in first. He laughed and acknowledged, “I did, aye. I used to let the full-back get there first. I used to think I’ll leave that one to you but just as they got there I’d get there with the studs. They knew I was there alright. As a winger full-backs liked to give you a kick early on just to see what you were made of and I liked to let them know I was there as well!”
Ever-present in the much-loved 1964 promotion team, those appearances were part of a run of 114 games without missing a game after joining Sunderland as a 26-year old in September 1962. Previously George had spent almost a decade with Aberdeen who he signed for on his 17 th birthday. The youngest of eight children, George was the third brother to become a footballer, Martin playing for Falkirk, Albion Rovers and Cowdenbeath while Edward represented East Stirlingshire. Always a man who’s eyes twinkled as much off the pitch as he
did on the wing George liked to tell the tale of how he once played for Real Madrid! That wasn’t strictly true but in Jackie Milburn’s Testimonial at Newcastle he
was part of an International XI with Ferenc Puskas as his inside left as they wore a Madrid like all-white.
The fact that Bobby Charlton was centre-forward indicates the company George was good enough to keep. Two of his three Scotland caps were won while with Sunderland, with son Neil revealing a gentlemanly touch by that giant of the game Danny Blanchflower after Mulhall joined Denis Law and Ian St. John on the score-sheet in a 4-0 win over Northern
Ireland. “Dad had swapped his shirt with Danny Blanchflower but when Blanchflower got back to his dressing room and realised it was my dad’s debut he knocked on the Scotland door and returned his shirt while letting him keep the Irish shirt.” Mulhall’s farewell in red and white came in the same game as Charlie Hurley’s final appearance in an away win at Burnley in April
1969 after which he played for Cape Town City and had a single game for Greenock Morton.
George managed Halifax Town, keeping them in the league and in a second spell returning them to the Football League, his Conference win being the first time The Shaymen had ever won any league title. He also managed Bradford City, scouted for Ipswich and was assistant manager at Tranmere, Huddersfield and Bolton, where he worked alongside his old Roker team-mate Dtan Anderson and tutored a young Peter Reid who as Sunderland Manager took a team to Halifax for Mulhall in 1999.
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It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden death of former player Winston Young. Winston, who was born in August 1940 died suddenly on Sunday 8 April. He was a player at Sunderland in the late fifties and early sixties. Signed as a professional Winston played for the reserve team but in the age before substitutes he was unfortunate to never get a competitive first team debut and after leaving football went on to have a highly successful career in the police.
Winston never gave up his allegiance to Sunderland and for many years was not only the secretary of the Former Players’ Association but an exceptionally efficient one. A true gentleman, Winston was held in the very highest esteem by everyone he came into contact with. Nothing was ever too much trouble for Winston and many an event of the SFPA passed off successfully without most people realizing just how much time Winston had invested in ensuring that every last detail was taken care of. A most modest and unassuming person, instead of taking the plaudits for the smooth running of golf days, quizzes or dinners he’d put together Winston would invariably be at pains to thank anyone who had contributed, even though their efforts often paled into insignificance compared to what he had done himself.
Winston never forgot it was a team game and he was the sort of person who always put the team first. There was only one team he ever loved more than Sunderland and that was his family. Winston was devoted to his loving wife Brenda, their children and their grandchildren, who he truly doted on. He will be enormously missed by all of them and by every member of the SFPA. Even if you didn’t know Winston personally, have no doubt that Sunderland have lost one of their most loyal former players and supporters.
Tribute by Rob Mason
For many years Norman worked with Sir Tom Cowie in the motor trade and became acquainted with many of Sunderland’s ex-players including such legends as Len Shackleton, Charlie Hurley, Len Ashurst, Jim Montgomery and Bobby Kerr.
Norman’s son Marty had special needs and with this came Norman's determined to provide a support facility for him and other youngsters with the same requirements. From this determination the registered charity Education and Services for People with Autism (ESPA) was established and is now a major provider of services and support not only to youngsters but to adults also. One thing Norman was extremely proud of was when as a result of much hard work and thanks to financial support from Sir Tom Cowie and the Sunderland Former Players Association it was possible to purchase and site a Caravan that enabled parents and family members to have somewhere to stay when visiting those receiving help.
In the early days Norman used his contacts with the ex-Sunderland players to raise funds for the project through golf days and other social events. Eventually this arrangement was formalised and thanks to Norman the Sunderland Former Players Association came into being and has, like ESPA grown until it now has almost 200 members.
Although not an ex- footballer, Norman was recognised as a founder member and took on the role of Secretary. When he eventually stood down from the Association Committee, his involvement with the Association was acknowledged and he was appointed Honorary Vice President.
We are all saddened by his death but pleased to have been associated with him and his achievements'.
The Associaion were deeply saddened to hear of Corny's passing in March 18. Corny, who was the Club’s Commercial Manager at the time of their FA Cup win over Leeds and worked extremely hard towards the interests of the players. Later, Corny, although not a footballer himself, helped establish the Former Players Association and spent a number of years serving on the Committee.
Until he became ill he actively supported the Former Players charitable fund raising activities and especially enjoyed their Golf Days! To commemorate his involvement, his daughter Christine and Monty have decided to establish an annual golf competition at The Heworth Golf Club where he had for many years been a member.
Family wish for funds raised at this event to be shared equally amongst suitable charities and/or good causes nominated by Corny’s family and The Heworth Golf Club who are making their facilities available for the competition.’
Everyone at the Sunderland Former Players Association was saddened to hear the news that John Leadbitter, who played for the club during the 1960s, had passed away. This is the eulogy that was written by John’s family and was read out by the priest at his funeral:-
Funeral Address JOHN LEADBITTER
We are here to commemorate, and celebrate, the life of John Leadbitter, who though he spent some time away from his home town, was Sunderland through and through. He was a man with many talents but with a passion for sport; who exuded confidence and relished challenges. A man who worked hard and played hard; and who, most important of all, was a great dad and grandad.
John was born in Grangetown in 1953, son of a coalminer also called John. His mam died tragically early and John grew up very close to his dad and learned a lot about life from him. Some of his best memories from childhood are the summer holidays he spent near Barnard Castle where John Snr used to spend his holidays from the pit working on farms and country estates to earn extra money. The work John helped his dad with ranged from hay-baling to pheasant-beating – not to mention catching rabbits - and gave him a love of the countryside which he never lost. When he became a father himself, he loved to take his lads regularly to the area he had grown to love so much, especially the spectacular High Force waterfall. And, in time, he would encourage his beloved grandchildren – Jake, Lucy and Freya – to enjoy the beautiful countryside of northern England, including the Lake District.
John and Doreen had been at Broadway School at the same time but it was through mutual friends that they started going out together. They were married in 1973 and lived at Town End Farm for about 3 years before moving to Hall Farm, needing a bigger house once Lee was born, followed by Steven 5 years later.
By the time of his first marriage, John’s career as a professional footballer had, sadly, been and gone. On leaving school in 1968, he’d signed schoolboy forms at his beloved Sunderland AFC and became a full professional 2 years later. Tragically, shortly after signing professional forms, John suffered a bad knee cartilage injury from which he never really recovered. He dropped down a level but after 19 games for Darlington it became clear that his knee would not stand up to the rigours of professional football and he was forced to retire from the game.
John then embarked on a variety of jobs, including demolition work, car sales, steel-fixing and foundry work. Surprisingly, he hadn’t really used the skills he’d learnt as an apprentice joiner whilst a youngster on Sunderland’s books but, on being made redundant from the foundry, he turned his hand to shop-fitting, going to London, where the work was. Amongst other establishments, he worked on the Yves St Laurent store, Tiffany’s and even the Houses of Parliament.
He later worked on the increasingly popular bowling alleys, his work eventually taking him to East Yorkshire. And it was there that he met Joanne, whom he married in the mid-90’s. They lived in Scarborough and it was there that John’s third son Adam was born.
John continued to live in the Scarborough area for the rest of his life, though work would take him further afield, once again. By now he had become a kitchen designer and fitter, using the innate skills he hadn’t fully utilised in his previous jobs. This is where John was probably at his best. He was a perfectionist in all areas of life – including in his appearance – but particularly in creating kitchens. Using traditional tech drawing techniques for the designs, and building them himself by hand, he made kitchens of the highest quality. He saw each commission as a challenge and prided himself on doing a top-notch job every time.
He didn’t advertise, preferring to rely on word of mouth and the amount of commissions he got was testimony to the high standards of his workmanship. His work took him from Scarborough to York to London, and he even went ‘international’, as he liked to say, when getting special requisitions in Portugal and Barbados.
Away from work, John threw himself into sport. Football was obviously his first love but he was a great all-round sportsman, excelling at badminton, cricket, golf and squash. He came fairly late in life to squash but, relishing a challenge as ever, despite having to start at the bottom of league 6 he quickly progressed to the top of league 1. He encouraged the lads to enjoy their sport, too, watching Lee and Stephen play football whenever he could. Lee remembers one time when his dad drove up from London to watch him play for Sunderland boys, and then drove back down straight after. John was similarly committed to his dad, taking time off work when John Snr was diagnosed with a terminal illness, helping him to extend the expected last 6 weeks of his life into 6 months.
And it was John’s own health problems which curtailed his sporting activities. As well as his long-term knee problem, his hip joints also stared to wear out. But it was a heart attack 15 years ago which was the biggest cause for concern, the attack coming out of the blue and bringing him very close to death. It was a shock to John and the family but, typically, he fought back and went on to have knee and hip replacements, hoping to be able to resume some of his sporting activities. Tragically, it wasn’t to be, as his cancer diagnosis soon followed these ops. Fittingly, Lee tells me John was wearing a pair of Sunderland shorts when he passed from this life.
And though he has passed from this life, he will live on in many ways. Not least through his sons and grandchildren. And also through some of the odd sayings of which he was so fond, and which have inspired Lee, Steven and Adam to write this message to their beloved dad:
‘No-one is trying to pretend John was perfect. But his enthusiastic approach to life brought joy into the lives of many people. And this will ensure that his memory, and the memories people have of him, will live on; memories from which those who knew, respected and loved him will be able to draw comfort and inspiration for many years to come.
For you will all have fond memories of John. Public memories, perhaps, of things which happened in gatherings; or more private and personal memories of things which happened just between the 2 of you, and which are known only to you and John. And these memories will sustain you, because they speak of the person John was; and because they speak of love, which is God’s greatest gift to us, and part of the very fabric of our being. For just as good is ultimately stronger than evil, so love is stronger than death, and in a very real sense will overcome it; and it is this knowledge which gives us the sure and certain hope for a glorious future in the place where all loved ones will one day be re-united for ever, in the eternal presence of God, our maker and redeemer.’
Amby died shortly after being admitted to Hospital and his funeral took place in Dublin on Saturday 9th January. I first heard of Amby’s situation on New Years Day and then three days later the message arrived that he had passed away.
The sad news prompted me to think back to the years (1958 – 1960) when I’d been a team-mate of Amby’s at Roker Park. At the time the Club was trying to recover from being relegated to the Second Division for the first time in it’s history. The manager, Alan Brown, was rebuilding the team and Amby, together with Charlie Hurley, Len Ashurst, Stan Anderson, Cec Irwin and Jim McNab were seen as key to his success.
Despite being relegated (and struggling with life in the Second Division) the atmosphere in the dressing room was good and my memory is that Amby played an important part in this. He was a great character, a good listener and always looked on the positive side of things. Just as important though was his attitude towards training. It’s fair to say that not everyone on the playing staff enjoyed this aspect of being a professional footballer. However, Amby did and he always, as the saying goes, ‘put in a hard shift’. His wholehearted attitude to training was reflected in his match day performances. These memories of him were confirmed when, on learning he had passed away I got in touch with his team mates, Jim Montgomery and Len Ashurst. Jim replied, ‘So sad – lovely man’ and Len commented, ‘ Great player to have in front of you, never stopped running, a true little lion’.
Although Amby and I lost touch when I left the Club in 1960 we renewed our friendship when the Former Players Association was established in 1999. I was honoured to be asked to represent the Association at his funeral. His popularity in Ireland was reflected by the chapel being full to capacity. Although I had met his wife, Brenda before, this was the first time I had met his children and grandchildren. Amby’s daughters each gave a reading and then, his teenage grandaughter, Alizia, stood and sang (beautifully) one of Amby’s favourite songs – ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from the musical, ‘My Fair Lady’. When she finished she was given a tremendous round of applause by the mourners – I can only say that Amby was given a great send off!
After the service everyone adjourned to a nearby inn for the ‘HOOLY’. This lasted for quite a long time and featured a short video showing critical moments in Amby’s life, football career and family. I was given the opportunity to speak for a few minutes about Amby as I had known him.
Amby’s family have been in touch since the funeral to express their thanks that the Association attended.
Dominic (Nick) Sharkey, passed away after a short illness, on Sunday 8th February 2015 at the age of 71.
He joined the ground staff at Sunderland Football Club on leaving school in 1958. Right from the outset his talents and enjoyment of the game was clear although, by his own admission, he wasn’t too keen on having to train every day! Despite the Club having a number of established goal scorers, Nick did enough to convince manager Alan Brown to select him for the first team even though he was still only 16 years old. Recently, in an interview, Nick said, very honestly, of his debut, ‘the game had somewhat passed him by and the opposition centre half hadn’t given him a kick’!
During the next two seasons Nick faced competition for the centre forward spot from established strikers Don Kitchenbrand, Ian Lawther and Brian Clough. His commitment to the game and, again, his honesty, is seen in his acknowledgement that this period greatly helped his development as, in his view, it ‘gave him the opportunity to learn from the best’. Eventually, in 1962, following Brian Clough’s career ending injury, Nick established himself as the regular centre forward and set about doing what he was good at – scoring goals. In all he made 117 appearances, scored 62 goals (a strike rate of more than one every other game), became one of a handful of Sunderland players to score more than 4 goals in a game (five against Norwich) and remained immensely proud to have been a member of what many consider to have been Sunderland’s best team in living memory.
He was transferred to Leicester City in 1966 but, unfortunately, he suffered a serious injury which led to his eventual retirement from playing at the age of 28 when, in his own words, ‘he fell out of love with football’. By this time he’d married and, as his family commitments grew, he prepared himself for a life outside football by enrolling at Durham University and undertaking a Business Studies course. This led, eventually, to his becoming a sales executive, a career which lasted until his retirement at the age of 69.
During his time in football and afterwards, Nick formed some great and long lasting friendships. In particular he remained close to many members of the 63 – 64 team, especially Len Ashurst, Jim Montgomery, George Herd and Cecil (Cec) Irwin who he describes as his ‘greatest’ friend. Nick had many strings to his bow – he wasn’t just good at football – a highly competent (and competitive) golfer he was extremely active in helping to raise funds for local charities and good causes. In 1999 when the Sunderland Former Players Association was formed Nick became a member and from 2012 until 2014 he took on the responsibility of being Chairman.
He was invariably good company and enjoyed relaxing with his friends, especially after a round of golf. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind but this was always done in a way that didn’t cause offence and usually helped resolve whichever issue was being discussed.
It was a tremendous shock to everyone who knew him when he passed away so quickly. His place in Sunderland AFC’s history and in the hearts of supporters was recognised at the home game against QPR when a tribute to him was screened around the ground shortly before the match kicked off, the players all wore black arm bands and everyone in the ground applauded his memory.
Nick Sharkey, great man, great player, greatly missed.
Remembered by family, friends, team mates and everyone in the Former Players Association.
Signed from Torquay United in September 1958 by Sunderland manager Alan Brown, Peter Wakeham soon established himself as a first team regular after making his debut against Grimsby Town a few weeks after arriving at Roker Park. An agile and highly-rated ‘keeper, Peter held the number one jersey for the best part of five seasons before losing his place to an up-and-coming Jim Montgomery. His most successful seasons at Sunderland were 1960-61 when they reached the 6th round of the F.A. Cup before losing to high-flying Spurs in a replay and the following campaign when the club came within a whisker of clinching promotion back to the top flight.
Whilst he produced many fine displays during his time at Roker Park, Peter is perhaps best remembered for one particular performance against Sunderland in April 1964 which could easily have denied his former club promotion.
Having joined Charlton Athletic two years earlier, he found himself standing between his former colleagues and a return to the top flight on the final day of the season at Roker Park. For almost the entire game Peter performed heroics in the Charlton goal, denying one Sunderland raid after another, before Johnny Crossan finally clinched victory and promotion for the home side with only minutes remaining.
Peter’s career at The Valley lasted another twelve months and in May 1965 he moved back north to join Lincoln City before finally ended his playing career at non-league Poole Town. At his peak, there were few better ‘keepers around and in 1959 Peter was on the verge of representative honours when he was selected as stand-in for Fulham’s Tony Macedo on an F.A. tour of Italy and Germany. Whilst he didn’t manage an appearance on that tour, he did play for an F.A. X1 against the Royal Air Force later that year.
In later years Peter and his wife Anne lived near Bridgend in Wales where he died in March 2013, aged 76.
Johnny Watters, the man who tended to the injuries of generations of Sunderland players for the best part of thirty years, has sadly died at the age of 92.
As a footballer, Johnny was no mean performer himself having served Celtic in his younger days and he was the last survivor of the team that faced Rangers in an Old Firm derby that attracted a record crowd of over 130,000. During the war he served in the Royal Navy and then trained as a physiotherapist before joining Sunderland in 1955.
Johnny was one of the club’s great characters and his popularity with players and staff was legend at Roker Park as Jim Montgomery recalls: ‘Johnny was an absolutely magnificent character – anybody you spoke to would have a different story about him. Johnny always had his pipe in his hand and I remember one day the door of the treatment room suddenly opened and in walked Alan Brown our manager who hated smoking. Johnny immediately slipped the pipe into his pocket but as Brown stood there talking, you could see the smoke gradually coming out of Johnny’s pocket!’
Sunderland’s goalkeeping legend also recalls that it was Johnny Watters who first persuaded him to join his local club and begin a career that would last a record 623 first-team appearances: ‘I’d been to Burnley for trials but just after I got back Johnny turned up on our doorstep with my old St Hilda’s School teacher Alfie Lavender and asked me to sign for Sunderland. I was only 15 when I went to Roker Park but from the start Johnny looked after me brilliantly. If you were on the treatment table and somebody like Stan Anderson or Charlie Hurley walked in, Johnny would say ‘Go and have a bath,’ and you would have to wait while the senior players were given treatment.’
Jim also remembers that as well as looking after the Sunderland playing staff, Johnny also had his private clients: ‘You would go in on a Sunday morning and there would always be a bottle of whiskey or a leg of lamb, gifts from people he’d treated but he never took any money.’
Johnny’s Roker Park career came to an end when he retired in 1983 but he still kept in touch with the countless players he’d nursed back to fitness over the years and he will always be fondly remembered as one of Sunderland Football Club’s greatest servants.
Born in Bolton, Bill Holden came to prominence with neighbouring Burnley earning a reputation as a powerful goal-scoring centre-forward netting 79 goals in his 199 appearances for the Clarets and gaining international recognition with an England ‘B’ cap against Scotland in 1953.
In December 1955, Holden’s goal-scoring exploits at Turf Moor finally persuaded big-spending Sunderland to pay the Lancashire club £12,000 for his services however, his Roker Park career was relatively short-lived and within 12 months he had moved back to Lancashire, joining Stockport County for £6,000.
In all Bill Holden made 24 league and cup appearances for Sunderland scoring 7 goals and is perhaps best remembered for the two strikes which knocked FA Cup holders Newcastle United out of the competition in the 6th round at St James’ Park in March1956.
Bill spent his final years in a nursing home in Morecambe and in 2011 he died following a long illness, aged 82.
Everyone at the Sunderland Former Players Association was saddened to hear that former Sunderland winger John Fraser has died in a nursing home in Southern Ireland, aged 72. John had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for a number of years.
During a visit to Wearside in August 2010, John’s wife Joan kindly agreed to do an interview regarding John’s career and she told us that in spite of his severe health problems, John still had fond memories of his time at Roker Park back in the 1950’s.
‘John is suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease and the past few years have been extremely difficult for us,’ says Joan, ‘However, I know he still retains a great affection for Sunderland - he loved playing at Roker Park alongside the likes of Charlie Hurley who he always referred to as a ‘true gentleman.’
John was born in Belfast and was signed by Sunderland from Glentoran as a replacement for Irish international winger Billy Bingham who had been transferred to Luton Town.
He made his debut wearing the number seven shirt in the 1-0 victory over Huddersfield Town at Roker Park on 28th February 1959 and his impressive performances in the Sunderland first team earned him international recognition when he was capped by Northern Ireland in a ‘B’ international against France later that year.
‘I used to watch John from the Roker Park terraces and was introduced to him by another Sunderland player, Jimmy Potter,’ recalls Joan, ‘There were quite a number of Irish lads at the club in those days, the likes of Ian Lawther, who sadly died recently, Amby Fogarty, Jimmy O’Neill and Martin Harvey who I went out with briefly before meeting John.’
John and Joan were married in 1960 shortly before John severed his ties with Sunderland and headed south to join Portsmouth. There followed a spell with non-league Margate before he moved back into league football at Watford where he and Joan became great friends with an Irish youngster who was to become one of the greatest goalkeepers in the English game.
Joan recalls: ‘I remember John coming in and telling me about this young Irish goalkeeper they had at the club who was terribly homesick and was about to pack his bags and head back to Ireland. We decided to invite him to stay with us and he eventually settled down and was soon in the Watford first team. That youngster was Pat Jennings who, as everyone knows, went on to become a footballing legend but fame didn’t affect him at all and he always remained a smashing lad.
‘I’ll always remember seeing him on the ‘This is Your Life’ programme at the height of his fame when he made a point of stating that his career would never have happened if it hadn’t been for John and Joan Fraser looking after him when he was at Watford. We hadn’t seen him for years but he never forgot us, but that was typical of Pat, you really couldn’t meet a nicer guy. A few years ago we bumped into him quite by chance at a Pro-Am golf tournament in Ireland and when he spotted us he gave us both the biggest hug you could imagine!
After leaving Watford John and Joan emigrated to South Africa where John continued his playing career with Durban City before moving into coaching and eventually management. After retiring from the game he developed a plumbing business which he ran until he and Joan decided to move to Southern Ireland to be close to their family. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year.
Interview by Brian Leng August 2010
John Goodchild, who played inside-right for Sunderland during the 1950s and early 1960s, has sadly died, aged 72.
John was born in Sherburn Hill, County Durham. He worked as a miner and played for Ludworth Juniors before signing for Sunderland. He scored on his first-team debut, on 4 September 1957 in a 3–2 home defeat of Leicester City in the First Division, and produced 16 goals the following season. He then fell out of favour, and, despite scoring a hat-trick away at Leeds United in February 1961, his first game of the 1960–61 season, never appeared for the club again. John remembers "thinking to myself that if I couldn't get into the team after scoring a hat-trick away from home, I'd be on the transfer list at the end of the season. That's exactly what happened."
He joined Second Division club Brighton & Hove Albion, and in his first season with the club, was their joint-top scorer (alongside Bobby Laverick and Tony Nicholas) with 10 goals in all competitions. Two years later, by which time the club had been twice relegated and were now playing in Division Four, he was top scorer on his own, with 15 goals in all competitions. In 1964–65, John was one of six goalscorers to reach double figures as Albion won the Fourth Division title.
He returned to the north of England in 1966, spending a season with York City and a brief
spell with Darlington.
John was a keen cricketer. He first played for his village side, in Littletown, at 14, and appeared for Durham Second XI in 1959. He played cricket for many years in thr Durham County League for Ushaw Moor CC.
May 2011 saw the death of one of Sunderland’s stars of the 1950s: Tommy Wright. A Scottish international, Tommy was Sunderland’s top scorer in 1953-54 and ever present in 1949-50 as the Lads went agonizingly close to a seventh title, eventually finishing third.
Born in January 1928, Wright was 83 when he passed away on May 3rd. Hailing from Clackmannanshire in Scotland, Tommy began his career with Blairhall Colliery before making his name with Partick Thistle with Sunderland shelling out £8,000 for him in 1949. As the Bank of England Team of Britain’s top stars was assembled in the early fifties, Wright proved himself to be a vital member of the side. Sometimes used at centre forward but more usually on the right wing Wright always scored goals as well as making them.
Of his 55 goals from 180 games for the Lads, four came against today’s visitors Wolves, two in Roker wins in 1949 and 1953 and two at Molineux. However Tommy will be most fondly remembered for scoring in each of his first three derbies against the Magpies, his late equalizer at St. James’ in September 1952 ranking alongside the greatest goals the red and whites have ever scored against the black and whites. Having left the home defence in his wake Wright leathered home a 30 yarder. Wright also scored twice in a 7-1 thrashing of Arsenal, notched both goals in a Christmas Day beating of Manchester United in 1951 and at one point scored a dozen goals in 13 games.
Capped three times by Scotland he helped his country beat Wales away, draw with Northern Ireland at Hampden and draw in with England at Wembley.
Returning to Scotland in 1955 in part exchange for Charlie ‘Cannonball’ Fleming, Tommy starred for East Fife before returning to England for a brief stint with Oldham before coming back to the north east to end his career with North Shields.
Part of a footballing family, his son Tommy Wright junior played over 400 games as a winger with Leeds, Leicester, Bradford, ‘Boro and Oldham and is now assistant to John Sheridan at League Two champions Chesterfield. Tommy was also the uncle of former Leicester and Scotland player Jackie Sinclair and Willie Sinclair who played for Huddersfield and Falkirk.
Born in Belfast in 1939, Ian Lawther joined Sunderland from Crusaders in March 1958 and made his first team debut against Aston Villa at Villa Park early in the 1959-60 season. He soon became established as the club’s first choice centre-forward and ended his first campaign in English football as Sunderland’s leading scorer with 18 goals as well as winning his first full international cap for Northern Ireland in the Home International Tournament against Wales at Wrexham.
After topping the goal-scoring charts again the following season Ian’s future prospects at Roker Park looked bright but, following the signing of Brian Clough from Middlesbrough during the 1961 close season, he was immediately transferred to Blackburn Rovers for £18,000. Whilst Sunderland were obviously keen to recoup part of the £45,000 fee they’d paid the Teesside club for Clough’s services, many Roker fans felt the club had missed a great opportunity to form a potentially devastating strike partnership by playing their new signing alongside the popular Irish international
After leaving Ewood Park in 1963 Ian went on to provide great service to Scunthorpe United, Brentford, Halifax Town and Stockport County and on retiring in 1975, he had played nearly 600 league games in English football and had also been capped four times by Northern Ireland at full international level.
Ian died in April 2010, aged 70.
We were sorry to hear of the death of Lewis Wheatman who died on February 20th 2010 in Sunderland Royal Hospital, aged 87. Lewis played 16 war time games debuting away to Leeds on September 27th 1941 having joined Sunderland in 1939 before signing for Hartlepool in 1944. Ryhope born and bred, Lewis was a blacksmith at Ryhope colliery who played as a wing half at Roker Park where he counted Raich Carter, Bobby Gurney, Patsy Gallacher and Eddie Burbanks amongst his team mates.
Although he never played a Football League or FA Cup game for the Lads, Lewis was a fascinating last playing link to those stars of the thirties and was featured in the programme’s ‘Looking for the Lads’ series just under two years ago. A stalwart of the Sunderland Former Players’ Association, Lewis was at the SFPA’s most recent event in the sports bar just before Christmas and will be a big miss at future events.
Lewis was believed to be Sunderland’s oldest surviving player, a mantle that now passes on to former England international Ivan ‘Ivor’ Broadis who was born on December 18th 1922, some six months after Lewis Wheatman.
Few men have given Sunderland Football Club more loyal and dedicated service than Billy Elliott who served the club as a player, coach and manager during an association with the club that lasted almost 30 years.
Born in Bradford in 1925, Billy was already an established England international when moved from Burnley to Sunderland in June 1953 and he went on to play 212 games scoring 26 goals in his six year spell at the club. As player he had a reputation for his tenacity and work-rate, qualities that would serve him well in his coaching and managerial career in the years that lay ahead.
Although very much in the background, Billy played a significant role in Sunderland’s 1973 success having helped develop and coach many of the players in the F.A. Cup-winning squad.
Billy was caretaker manager at Sunderland immediately before Bob Stokoe’s arrival at Roker Park and again 6 years later when he was desperately unlucky not to be offered the job on a permanent basis after almost guiding the club to promotion.
Whilst his career in football saw Billy working for a number of clubs both at home and abroad, Sunderland remained his home and almost right up to his death at the age of 84 he was a regular visitor to the Stadium of Light.
As long as football is played on Wearside, Ian Porterfield’s 1973 F.A. Cup-winning goal will remain one of the most iconic moments of the club’s history. Ironically, the man who scored what is widely regarded as the most famous goal ever scored by a Sunderland player was never normally renowned for his goalscoring prowess.
Bought from Raith Rovers for £30,000 in December 1967, Ian was seen by the Roker Park management as the man to replace the legendary Jim Baxter following the Scottish international’s departure to Nottingham Forest.
Like Baxter, who also began his career at the Kirkcaldy club, Porterfield was a cultered left-sided midfielder, a play-maker rather than goalscorer, and those goals he did score invariably came from his favoured left foot. It is even more surprising therefore that the glorious volley which brought the F.A. Cup to Wearside in 1973 was scored with his weaker right foot.
After making his debut in the red-hot atmosphere of a Tyne-Wear derby at Roker Park, Ian soon became a first-team regular and for the best part of 8 years he was the ‘engine room’ of the Sunderland midfield. However, his football career almost came to an abrupt end in December 1974 when he sustained serious head injuries following a horrific car crash and only the expertise of the surgeons at Newcastle General Hospital saved his life.
After battling back to fitness, he eventually joined Sheffield Wednesday as player-coach and soon afterwards began a long and successful career in football management both at club and international level. When he died of colon cancer in September 2007 at the age of 61, he was still in charge of the Armenian national team and had just recorded a memorable 1-1 draw against Portugal in a European Championship qualifier in Yerevan.
A Scotland Schoolboy international, Jimmy McNab was a stalwart performer for Sunderland throughout the 1960s, a terrific servant for the club who made well over 300 appearances in a Roker Park career spanning over ten years. Jimmy made his debut in a Division Two game against Ipswich Town alongside two other debutants who would go on to become legendary figures at the club, Cecil Irwin and Len Ashurst. He held his position in the side for the next nine games before tragedy struck when he sustained a broken leg in a game at Rotherham.
Fully recovered, he returned to the side less than a year later and thereafter was pretty much an ever-present in a Sunderland team chasing promotion back to Division One. Promotion was finally achieved in 1964 with the half-back line of Harvey-Hurley-McNab firmly established as the backbone of the side and also widely regarded as the finest in the club’s history. A consistent performer who was noted for his tough tackling and uncompromising approach to the game, Jimmy played 37 games during the promotion campaign, missing only 5 games in the run-in following an injury sustained in the 0-0 draw against Norwich City.
He briefly lost his coveted number 6 shirt following the arrival of Jim Baxter in 1965 but continued to perform for the team in a more forward role and occasionally at left-back. Jimmy’s final Sunderland appearance came in a 1-1 draw at Blackpool in January 1967 and soon afterwards he joined Preston North End where he gave great service during his seven-year stay at Deepdale. Jimmy then moved on to Stockport County before retiring from the game in 1976 to take up a career in insurance. His services to Sunderland Football Club were finally rewarded with a testimonial match in May 1999 at the Stadium of Light where he came off the bench to slot home a perfectly executed penalty. Sadly, in June 2006, Jimmy died at the age of 66 following a short illness.
When Bob Stokoe took over as Sunderland manager in November 1972 few supporters, even in their wildest dreams, could have visualised the incredible events that would unfold just a few months later.
Whilst the new Roker boss had inherited a squad that included quite a number of talented players, the league table showed a Sunderland team hovering perilously close to the bottom of the Second Division with relegation to football’s third tier a very real possibility.
Yet, such was Stokoe’s impact on the team, by the end of the season they had climbed to sixth place in the league and lifted the F.A.Cup in a glorious campaign culminating in probably the greatest F.A. Cup final victory ever when they defeated Leeds United at Wembley, prompting Sunderland fans to name their new manager ‘The Messiah’.
The 1973 triumph also saw the Sunderland manager join an elite band of men to have won the F.A. Cup both as a player and as a manager, having picked up a winners medal with Newcastle United following their victory over Manchester City in 1955.
As an accomplished central defender, Stokoe spent the best part of his playing career with the Magpies clocking up over 260 league appearances before taking his first steps into management when he joined Bury as player-manager in December 1961. There then followed spells in charge at Charlton, Rochdale, Carlisle and Blackpool before he fulfilled his dream of returning the North East.
He followed his 1973 success by leading Sunderland back to the First Division three years later but ill-health forced him to resign just a few months into the club’s first season back in the top flight. In April 1987 he was asked to return to Roker Park as caretaker boss after the disastrous Lawrie McMenemy era but sadly, was unable to prevent the club from dropping into the Third Division.
After his death in 2004, aged 73, rival fans from both Sunderland and Newcastle attended his funeral in Prudhoe to pay tribute one of the truly great names of North East football. At the Stadium of Light his memory is now preserved for all time by a wonderful statue at the south-east corner of the ground which captures the moment at the end of the 1973 final when he raced across the Wembley turf to greet Jim Montgomery.
Regarded by many as one of the finest wing-halves in Sunderland’s post-war history, Arthur Wright first came to prominence at Castletown School where he picked up schoolboy international honours for England before joining the Roker Park ground staff in the mid-1930s. He was only 18 when he made first-team debut in a 0-0 draw with Leeds United at Roker Park towards the end on the 1937-38 season and whilst the war interrupted his playing career, he would eventually become an established member of Sunderland’s famous ‘Bank of England’ team of the early post-war years.
At his peak there were few finer players in the English game prompting one well-known sports magazine to comment: “Arthur Wright has developed into a fine attacking half-back with a great shot (Sunderland people think the strongest in England). He became adept at changing the point of attack besides being a sound, dependable and clever defender”.
International recognition duly arrived in 1948/49 when Arthur represented the Football League and he was then selected for the England touring side only to be forced to withdraw due to the illness of his daughters. Sadly, whilst he was now widely regarded as one of the best wing-halves in the English game, he was never given another opportunity to pick up that elusive full international cap.
Arthur went on to make over 280 appearances for Sunderland, scoring 14 goals, before hanging up his boots at the end of the 1954-55 season. He then joined the Roker Park backroom staff where he operated as first-team trainer predominantly under manager Alan Brown and was a key figure in developing the Sunderland team that gained promotion back to Division One in 1964. The following season, following Brown’s shock departure, Arthur was briefly in charge of first-team affairs at Roker Park.
One of the club’s greatest-ever servants, Arthur finally retired from the game in 1969, bringing to an end an association with Sunderland that had lasted over 35 years. Throughout his Roker Park career he had continued to live in Castletown where he ran a small off-license and he later moved into the pub trade running ‘The Travelling Man’ in West Boldon. Arthur died in May 1985, aged 65.