The Johnny Crossan Story (3): who was ‘brilliant’, who was ‘priceless’?

Only tiny glimpses of Johnny Crossan, from after his SAFC days, in this clip of a 4-1 home defeat of Man City by Chelsea. In one of them he acts as peacemaker after Mike Summerbee appears to stamp on Eddie McCreadie. But it has been a privilege to run the interview with him, not least because although Johnny played with Colin Bell, Mike Doyle, Summerbee and other City stars, it is his time at Sunderland that he remembers most fondly …

A great pleasure it has been to bring the thoughts of Johnny Crossan to readers of Salut! Sunderland. My thanks to the many people, including those too young to have seen him play, who have visited the site to read about him. This is the final instalment.

The first two parts can be reached by clicking on these links:

* The Johnny Crossan Story (1): Manchester City 0 SAFC 1

* The Johnny Crossan Story (2): hero with ‘a wee bit venom’

And to wrap up the interview, here are Johnny’s quickfire answers to a final burst of questions:

Best goal scored:

In the 3-3 cup draw, Old Trafford. Feb 29 1964*

Best game played:

The 2-2 replay. March 4 1964

Worst game played: A night game at Yeovil. We were lucky to get a 2-2 draw **

Feelings on Newcastle United:

Another club that should be buying better players than they do

One word to describe Charlie Hurley:


Ditto Brian Clough:


How did it go in the 5-a-side after we spoke last Friday.? You said you’d get a hat-trick.

I got five!

* Johnny remembered it as his second goal, but that was a penalty so he clearly meant the first, described here by Phil Johnson, writing from flood-hit Thailand, in these terms:

“He picked up the ball on the left wing, close to the half way line, and went past a couple of players and then cut inside, beating another 2 or 3, then from the centre of the 18 yard line he drove it into the net.
He did, almost, the same thing for a second but this time was slightly inside the penalty area and was upended – he then scored from the resultant spot kick!”

** I can find no trace of such a game. Maybe one he played after leaving Sunderland. Boro, his last club in England, did play a 2-2 FA Cup draw in a replay at Hull City in Jan 31 1968 before winning the second replay. Yeovil is a long way from Hull, though. Maybe there is statistics sleuth out there who can track this down.

STOP PRESS: I have just asked Johnny again about this and he now realises it was an FA Cup game at Gravesend (a 1-1 draw on Feb 12 1963) – “terrible pitch, I think we got lost on the way to ground, we were dreadful”. He got two goals in the 5-2 win in the replay, Sharkey, Mulhall and Fogarty getting the others.

*** Great quote from Brian Leng’s interview with Johnny for The Roker End, to whom thanks again for permission to use photos: “We were all sitting in the dressing room when Cloughie shouts to me: ‘Young man – do you realise this club has paid £30,000 for you to get goals for me and since you arrived you’ve not created one chance?’.”

And finally, thanks again to Johnny, to whom life has often but not always been kind but who has plenty of great memories to look back on. I will dedicate these interviews to the memory of his wife, Barbara, who loved Sunderland but died five years ago.

All interviews: Colin Randall

11 thoughts on “The Johnny Crossan Story (3): who was ‘brilliant’, who was ‘priceless’?”

  1. Not just his calibre, Bob, but his modest outlook on life. I can’t imagine any of todays players going down to Fulwell to get the shopping in as Johnny did after the Chelsea game. Nor can I imagine them talking as fondly of our club as he has. In 50 years time, will the name of Asamoah Gyan or Darren Bent bring back waves of nostalgia as the words Crossan, Hurley, McNab, Mulhall do for our generation? Somehow, I think not.

  2. Great to hear from Johnny. I remember him very well – an accomplished, gifted, inside-forward who served the club so well for such a regetfully short time. I can also still remember the furore that was caused when we signed him for the “huge” sum of £30,000 from Standard Liege, and certainly no-one could be disappointed with the return on the investment. And finally, who could forget THAT goal at Old Trafford in 1964?
    Oh for a player of his calibre today!

  3. Re McNally.

    I can remember him as being hyper critical of everything that Murray did – especially his plans to move from Roker and he published drawings, in the Sunday Sun, of how he thought Roker could be developed.

    Whether that had anything to do with his being shown the red card I, honestly, don’t know.

  4. On a similar theme (about Chronicle & Journal sports writers) I can remember that the guy responsible for the Sunderland columns was L.O. Hetherington, who later amended his name to Len Hetherington.

    His son then picked up the mantle and then went on to the nationals (IIRC) The People, Sunday Mirror & The N.O.W.

  5. I, certainly, can remember him being banned from Roker but cannot recall whether it was for his anti Sunderland stance, in general, or if it was because of specific incident.

    To me he was an earlier version of McNally, who seemed to have a very similar agenda!

    I must confess, though, to not remembering the “Shots at Sleeman” column or knowing what became of him.

    • He was a skilled controversialist and would have loved being banned by any club pompous enough to take him seriously. I remembers Shots at Sleeman, which was a refinement of readers’ letters, the title designed to get people to write in to have a go at him. Plenty did, unless the Sunday Sun had someone in the make up the letters. No idea whether he is still alive, or whether the one writing now could be a son or nephew.

  6. Alan Sleeman – surely not the same one – is writing football reports for the Sun. Not that I ever read it, I’ve just read about it

  7. “Shots at Sleeman” in The Sunday Sun – do you remember that page, Phil? He was banned at Roker Park by Syd Collings. Wonder what happened to him?

  8. I can add a little more about the O.T match/goal.

    At the time, I was dating a VERY attractive Utd supporter who knew a number of their players (maybe, too well) and had had her nose broken by Nobby Stiles in a “kick a bout”.

    She met my train at the Central Station and was devastated that her (pre match) prediction of us being “annihilated” had not been realised but that, also, Utd had been very lucky to escape with a draw.

    Indeed, I can remember picking up a copy of the Sunday Sun at the station and the headline read “Their Finest Hour” – The report was by a guy called Alan Sleeman, (sp) who was as anti SAFC as it was possible to be, so that spoke volumes for me!

    Anyway, I digress – Coming back to the match.

    I was standing in The Stretford End wearing my colours, which in those days was possible, and had struck up a few conversations with the Utd supporters around me (I used to travel to away games alone) and as most were leaving, with 5 minutes to play, they all, to a man, wished us every success and ALSO (again to a man) said that we were the best team that they had seen at Old Trafford that season!


    I almost forgot (I’m getting old) both JC goals were scored under my nose with the unique GM header having to be viewed from a distance.

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