1968 remembered: is Man Utd 1 SAFC 2 a dreamable dream?

Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, Pete Sixsmith harks back to schooldays (those spent as a pupil, not teaching at Ferryhill) and shares for the young’uns his priceless memories of a winning visit to Old Trafford. There’s even a spot of advice for Steve Bruce on how he might pull off our second surprise win there in a mere 43 years …

May 11 1968 was the last time we won at Old Trafford. I was 17 years old, idling my time away in the Lower Sixth at Bishop Auckland Grammar School, dozing through Miss Wilson’s English History lessons and desperately trying to impress Mr McConnell with my European history essays. What I didn’t know about the Diet of Worms wasn’t worth knowing, believe me.

I must have gone on John Tennick’s bus to Manchester, paid my five bob to get into the Main Stand Paddock, where I bumped into Mike Clarke, a former BAGS pupil who was at University in Manchester. He ate an apple and winged the core at a passing rozzer, catching him on the back of the helmet. He’s probably a High Court Judge now.

We went into that game as a team on the up. Ian McColl had been sacked in February after a poor run of results and Alan Brown had been re-employed, poached from Sheffield Wednesday.

Ironically, McColl’s final game had been a win at Hillsborough where Ralph Brand, a man who could outdo the Brucester for broken noses, had notched the winner.

Brown concentrated on tightening the defence up, recalling Charlie Hurley to the team and slipping Martin Harvey in at right back. He also signed Calvin Palmer from Stoke City and promptly dropped him from a vital game at Sheffield United because Palmer refused to go to the pictures, claiming that he had seen the film. I wonder how the Bomber would have related to Carlos Tevez or Asamoah Gyan.
You’re reading the latest sermon from Sixer’s Soapbox

By the time we rolled into Old Trafford, we were sat in the lower third of the table, clear of relegation (Fulham and Sheffield United went down that year, Coventry escaping by a point), so there was no pressure on our mix of bright young things (the Colins Todd and Suggett) and wily old campaigners (George Herd and Gordon Harris fitting this description to a tee).

On the other hand, United had a very intense period. They knew that they had to win this game and hope that Joe Mercer’s City team failed to win at Newcastle in order to take the title for the second successive season – some feat in those dim and distant days.

In addition to that, they had a European Cup semi-final second leg in the Bernabeu on the Wednesday night. They led Real Madrid by a single goal and although Puskas and di Stefano were no more, Real were still a very formidable side.

This was the closest Matt Busby had come to a European Cup Final since 1958 so it must have been difficult for the likes of Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes to concentrate on the Sunderland game, knowing that they were two games away from fulfilling the destiny of that magnificent 1958 team, so cruelly ripped apart on the runway at Munich airport.

So we played with no pressure. Good goals from Suggett at the near post from a Bruce Stuckey cross (remember him and you are showing your age and your anorak) and a rare header from another wily old campaigner in George Mulhall were met by roars from the thousands of Sunderland fans scattered all over Old Trafford. No executive seating, segregated areas and heavy handed stewarding in those days. We just got beaten up in the stadiums instead.

Georgie Best pulled one back just before half time, but my very selective memory suggests that we were never under any real pressure as United huffed and puffed and Todd, Hurley and their fellow defenders saw us home comfortably.

Meanwhile, “110 miles away to the North East” (Kenneth Wolstenholme’s words on Match Of The Day) City were winning the title with a 4-3 win over the Mags. No multiple radio broadcasts in those days, so the scores kept filtering through as men stood on the terraces with Ferguson transistor radios glued to their ears.

There is a lesson for Saturday. Like Gordon Harris, Ian Porterfield and co. we have no real pressure on us. We are expected to lose and probably will if we stick five in midfield and leave Bendtner on his own up front.

It is highly probable that Cattermole, if recalled, will receive at least one yellow card (three if Graham Poll were still available) so why not have a go at them? Some changes are unavoidable: Westwood in goal for the unfortunate Mignolet and Bardsley for the unlucky O’Shea are certainties.

So, let’s keep Wickham in the team alongside Bendtner, with Larsson and Sessegnon giving us some width. United struggled to beat Otelul Galatai on Wednesday, prompting the headline “United show little adventure in routine win” in The Guardian.

But should we revert to type and cram the midfield on Saturday, they will probably be able to dust down that headline for Monday.


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12 thoughts on “1968 remembered: is Man Utd 1 SAFC 2 a dreamable dream?”

  1. I went to the mags v Man City game that day at Sid James’ with a few school mates who were mags. It was a cracking game with the right result. A good day all round for me. Jackie Sinclair was some player though and I had nightmares of being a closet mag.

    I realised that the terms Geordie and mag are not synonymous. Sadly, many people don’t.

    I took a tranny with me to listen to the scores. That was a radio back then.

  2. every game is 11 against 11 at any given time, and while their’s no question that, collectively, their 11 are better than ours, stranger things have happened. A win at Old Trafford by us is a far lesser feat than a second tier team beating the equivalent of Man Utd, Chelsea, and Man City to win the FA Cup – but it happened. Go for it.

    PS – BB, you’ll get better odds with Paddy Power

  3. What a great idea, BB. But why don’t you wish for a million quid at the same time? You’re about as likely to get it. I expect Bruce will fall back on his old strategy of packing the defence and hoping for a draw. Then 10 minutes from the final whistle he’ll put Ji or Wickham on and we might, just might, get a consolation goal. Cattermole, meanwhile, will have been sent off.

  4. If everyone was polled, I doubt whether even the most optimistic of fans (apart from Davey, of course, who probably has twenty quid on us to win 3-0 with Stanley Racing). would reasonably expect us to get anything from this weekend’s trip to OT.

    So come on Brucie. We expect nothing, and we will go there to and get beat. Why not just go down there and have a real go at them. Throw caution to the wind and let them at least know that they are in a game. Play three forwards and lets go for goals. Give us some entertainment and whatever happens please don’t send us emails saying that you are “disappointed.”

  5. Enjoyed the vid,two classy goals, but oh dear, some shoddy defending for the Man U consolation(some things obviously dont change).Mr Best doing what he did best.

    Should nt be too disparaging,that was an unique event for SAFC.We came close a couple of years ago before Kieran had a rush of blood to his one brain cell and got sent off…the rest was inevitable.
    I was at the 5 0 thrashing we got when Cantona was in his pomp so some progress has been made.
    I cant see us winning at all, but would totally agree we need to play as we have last 2 games(2 up front),we will never succeed puttting 5 in midfield,what s to lose?

  6. A more effective teacher than Miss Wilson, who had to put up with a steady procession of boye re-entering her classroom after jumping out of the window and walking around the school, but not as good as Mel McConell, an ageing juvenille in the school operas of the 1960’s. Although I do believe he is a Mag!!!!

  7. Astonishihg to think that since the last time we beat Man Utd at Old Trafford Pete has become a teacher, has had a long and fruitful career and has retired. Let’s hope we see another win … in our lifetimes if not this weekend!

  8. I havent heard George Herd’s name mentioned for a very long time.

    I feel this is blasphemous in this context but I used to have a soft spot for Man U. The nuns at St Anthonys, some of whom were interested in football, talked about the then deceased Duncan Edwards as a good Catholic and a good footballer. I clearly remember the Munich Disaster, which along with the assasination of JFK figured largely in my memories of events which triggered long references in sermons at Church. Funny how sectarian allegiances were still so strong in those days. It did leave me with a residual interest in Man U, although obviously marginal and massively supressed in Sunderland’s periods in the Premiership. I hope we can manage a win this Saturday, they continue to look highly fallible and there is the bombshell of Owen’s injury !

    I will probably be expelled from Salut for my confession of this historic interest. You can see that I am keeping up the Catholic theme here !

  9. Oh dear, I realise that the anorak is required at my age Pete. I recall Bruce Stuckey featuring in my first ever game at Roker. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard of Ralph Brand before which is perhaps surprising. Then again I’m not as old as you old fogies!

  10. Thanks, Ken. You can see the highlights on You Tube. Just google Manchester United v Sunderland 11th. May 1968 and clory in Georges Herd and Mulhall showing Crerand, Charlton and co. how to play football.
    Same on Saturday, Brucie and the boys — please!!!

  11. This brought back some great memories Pete.I was 18 in the first year of my degree and I was a regular traveller with the London Branch.It was a terrific win and I can recall the Stretford End chanting ‘City are losing’ (they weren’t ) After the game the coach raced back to London in time for Kenneth Wolstenholme’s immortal words (well to me anyway) ‘and Sunderland here just to make up the numbers’.I actually watched it at Ian Todd’s house on a very old black and white set.He ran the Branch and has subsequently gone on to be a great ambassador for Sunderland and the game in general.I can remember too Ralph Brand’s winning goal at Hillsborough which gave us a most unexpected but wildly celebrated away win.I’m sure Monty had a great game that day too,but then again didn’t he always?Wonderful recollections.

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