'The Bomber’ rebuilds
I was the person who nicknamed Alan Brown ‘The Bomber’ because he ‘bombed out’ just about every star player who was at the club when he arrived. He certainly frightened people, and I am not just talking about the players, he was a very hard man. In life you get bastards, but an honest one is pretty good to work for because he doesn’t do anything behind your back, he tells you to your face what he thinks. I put ‘The Bomber’ down as an honest bastard and I still think he was very good for Sunderland Football Club.
As soon as he arrived he wasted no time in blooding many of the youngsters at the club - Len Ashurst and Jimmy McNab were the first. I always said that my bad knee, and I’ve had it for sometime, was caused by me carrying Len Ashurst and Jimmy McNab when they first got in the team! Jimmy would get up and say ‘You may have made Lennie but you didn’t make me!’ But they were just two kids, although they were potentially very, very good players and Alan Brown, to his credit, was very patient. Then you had Cec Irwin on the right and later Jimmy Montgomery at the back, it was only Stan and I with any experience. They were frightened young professional players playing in the 2nd Division. I remember we played at Stoke and Len was up against the great Stanley Matthews. Len was frightened to death and asked me what he should do and I told him ‘Make your first tackle count!’ and sure enough in the first few minutes ‘Bang!’ I expected to see a pile of bones as Matthews was well in his forties by then mind you, he always looked like a bag of bones when he was playing, but he was a great player. From then on Len was booed every time he touched the ball and afterwards he said to me ‘Look, I did as you said and I got booed off the park.’, so I asked him what Stanley had done and he replied ‘You’re absolutely right he did do nothing!’
Coming up for corners
It was Stan Anderson, our captain, who first suggested I went up for corners. We played Sheffield United at Roker Park on Boxing Day 1960 and I scored our goal in a 1-1 draw. That goal was the start of what made me such a popular player. It was a new tactic, no defender had ever done it before, and the fact that I attacked the ball coming into the penalty area late meant scored or set up an awful lot of goals. We had some great crossers of the ball such as Harry Hooper and George Mulhall with Nicky Sharkey ‘The Nicker’ getting the goals on the end of some of my knock-downs. I used to get more knackered going up for corners than playing back in defence - if we had 10 or 12 corners I had to get back, but the crowd wouldn’t have it any other way because if I stayed back you’d hear ‘Charlie, Charlie…’ and up I went…it was one of the biggest things, it was the number one thing that they loved.
The FA Cup run 1961
3rd Round, Arsenal at Roker Park
They were all over us first half and we were a goal down at the interval although it could have been a few more. After the break it was a different story with Stan Anderson in outstanding form - Stan was brilliant that day, scoring two goals to win us the match. He was one of the greatest midfield players I ever saw. People say he lacked a bit defensively, but you can’t have it all, he had flair, and tremendous vision - the one sad thing was that he wasn’t there when we got promotion.
4th Round, Liverpool at Anfield
We went there and we were two nil up in 20 minutes, and then we had to defend throughout the second half. The longer it went on the more they lobbed the ball in and it was like ‘manna from heaven’, it was easy. I was chosen as ‘Man of the Match’ for that game and they presented me with a lighter - I gave it to my Dad and he lost it, that was Dad, or perhaps he flogged it because he liked a pint!
To play at the Kop and get a standing ovation, which the other players and I got after that game, is something to remember because the Kop were great fans. They were very fair and if you played well they clapped you off the park, it was a fabulous day.
5th Round, Norwich at Carrow Road
I’ll never forget Norwich because I remember reading the headlines the day before the match, I don’t if it was a wind up or not, but it said ‘Hurley, the Weakness’! I couldn’t fathom out that one but it put my back up that’s for sure. Anyway, we took a bit of a battering and then we had a good spell in the first half where we could have got something, then we one corner with about ten minutes to go which Harry Hooper took. He was the type of guy who’d say ‘which way do you want the lace Charlie?’ - that shows you how long ago it was!
He always curled the corner away from the keeper, beautiful for someone good in the air, one corner, ‘Bop!’ and it’s in the back of the net, half way up the iron stanchion at the back of the goal, and before I could even get off the floor there was a mass of players on my back! Then we took a pounding for ten minutes, but we won 1-0. Those sort of games will always stick in your mind and an awful lot of Sunderland fans from those days who I talk to pick that game out. It was packed at Norwich that day and in those days fans and players were one, there were no prima donnas.
6th Round – Tottenham at Roker Park
Oh yes, Bobby Smith, built like a bloody oak tree, and hard as nails - a good player though and England’s regular centre-forward at the time.
Then they had the likes of Blanchflower, Mackay and Jones, all top internationals, whereas we had a comparatively young side.
In the first half we went one nil down, and, to be honest we were outplayed, but they were the best team in the land.
In the second half however, we started to come into it and I remember going up for a corner - I had a reputation even in the 1st Division of being a bit useful in the air - anyway I dived in got in a header, Brown pushed it out and Willie McPheat forced it home. I’ve got a big picture of it at home with some of the crowd - there were 61,000 inside Roker that day - pouring onto the pitch to celebrate.
We battered them after that and I can remember Danny Blanchflower mis-kicking the ball over to Stan Anderson, now Danny never ever hit a ball more than 20 yards, but the crowd were going berserk and the panic button was being pressed.
We just couldn’t get the vital second goal although in the last minute little Johnny Dillon was very, very unlucky not to pinch the winner.
6th Round Replay at White Hart Lane
Jimmy McNab missed the return match, he was a good defender and we missed him badly. I used to call Jimmy ‘Mac the Knife’ as he knocked guys over, but he rarely got booked. He’d knock the guy over, pick himself up, say nothing and walk away, always smiling. Don’t forget referees have their own problems, so if you don’t give them too much trouble then you could get away with 3 or 4 dodgy challenges.
Underdogs rarely get a second chance against the best and we didn’t at Tottenham. For about 20 minutes we played really well and Ian Lawther had two good chances, even if he’d got one of them it would have helped. They had a fantastic side though, and once they went one up we showed our inexperience and ended up losing by five. The game attracted a massive crowd, because word had gone out that this young Sunderland side were going to cause an upset. For 20 minutes we did, but that’s not what counts, if you’ve won then you say did you play well, but not otherwise.
1961 - 62
‘The Bomber’ strengthened the side with two exceptional signings - Scottish international George Herd who was a very skilful player and also a very, very nice guy and a certain Brian Clough from Middlesbrough.
I played against Cloughie I’m not sure how many times and he was a very, very good goalscorer. I used to change my game when I played against him, he was very outspoken and it was always Clough versus Hurley, whose going to win? And I knew at the end of those games that I was going to win because I looked at Cloughie and I forgot about playing all the football and the clever stuff and just concentrated on him; he was ‘the boy’ down there. I kicked him an awful lot of times, he wasn’t that good in the air, but you couldn’t give him an inch. I think he was as good a signing as we ever made - Brown took a risk because of his outspoken nature, but he was an exceptional player and I was certain he would get the goals to win us promotion.
We had terrific season and were in contention right up to the last game when we went to Swansea needing a win to clinch promotion but could only manage a 1-1 draw. It was heartbreaking to get so near and fall at the final hurdle. I don’t know how many fans we had down there, probably about a third of the crowd, which was brilliant bearing in mind that in those days Sunderland to Swansea was a bloody long journey! We were desperate to succeed but the fans probably even more so; they’d have done anything to get back to the First Division. It was a terribly sad, we got a result away from home, but we needed a win, so we had to suffer again. The one great thing about all this was that The Bomber took it very well.
1962 - 63
Cloughie’s injury was a big blow- he’d scored 28 goals by Christmas. I’ll never forget that game against Bury - he collided with Harker their goalkeeper, chasing a through ball and that was it, his cruciate ligament was done. I can also remember the penalty which I took - before the match Alan Brown said: ‘Harry Hooper’s not playing today so who’s going to take penalties?’ Everyone turned their backs so ‘Muggins’ here said: ‘I’ll get that sorted out at half-time’, thinking we probably wouldn’t get a penalty in the first half - ‘sods law’ we got one! I didn’t blaze it, I walked up and placed it, but a couple of feet wide unfortunately, disgraceful really. Cloughie was still on the field and if I had scored it would have changed the whole context of the match and he wouldn’t have been injured. I often think about that but then, that’s life.
Yet again we missed out on the final game of the season. We had better team than Chelsea but they beat us in the game that mattered. We had an excellent squad of players, no matter who was out, there was always a ready made replacement waiting in the wings. Even when I was out we had Dickie Rooks - he was a very, very good player, legs like tree trunks, if he whacked you knew about it. A different type of player from me, a local lad and a lovely bloke
The Doc (Tommy Docherty) just banged out Frank Upton up front to upset me. It did, and I started kicking chunks out of him but when I look back it was a very intelligent thing to do, he had a plan and it worked. They got a very, very fortunate goal off Harmer’s legs, not sure which one, but we had loads of chances to get the draw we needed but we lost one-nil. That was our final game, but Chelsea had to beat Portsmouth the following Wednesday so I phoned the Pompey captain, saying ‘Come on you’ve got to do your best, you don’t want Chelsea to go up, they’re a London side!’ Anyway I put the radio on, Chelsea 2 Portsmouth 0 and they’d only played ten minutes! Then it went to three, four, five, six and finally seven seven, it was a terrible day and I felt really sad for the fans.
That season we had a bonus system - if after 10 games we were in the top two you got £300, we weren’t, after twenty games and you were in top two you got another £300 were weren’t, thirty the same. On 29 games we were in second place and if we won we got £900 each. The match was against Norwich and as skipper I went round to see every player although they didn’t need an awful lot of encouragement because £900 was an awful lot of money. We won 7-1, Nicky Sharkey got five and the match ball with it. £900 each, a fortune, you could have bought a little terraced house for that. Then we lost to Chelsea and missed out on promotion. The directors weren’t too keen on that system after that and in 1963-64 it was £1,500 if you got promotion.
Sunderland Former Players were saddened to hear of the passing of Corny O'Donnell. Corny's Funeral arrangements are as follows:-
Friday 9 March, 11am St Augustines, Wealcroft, Felling NE10 8QS
12.00 Saltwell Crematorium, Saltwell Road, Gateshead, NE8 4TQ