The History Programme: SAFC v Cardiff City and John Charles, Il Gigante Buono

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It was a day when the Rolling Stones began their first tour – as mere support for Bo Diddley & Everly Bros – the Judy Garland Show made its BBC debut and Pope Paul VI opened the second sitting of the Vatican Council, or so it says on the website I just consulted. It is also the day in history chosen by Pete Sixsmith for the first in a series of articles looking back at matchday programmes. The choice of a game featuring newly promoted (as they are now) Cardiff City gives us a chance to renew the call for a City fan willing to do one of our ‘Who are You?’ interviews in the coming season. One volunteer has come forward, leaving us short for the return game. Write to

Football programmes have always held a fascination for me. As a fledgling South Stander at Headingley, I usually talked my dad or granddad into buying a Loiners Review, a collection of writings that I could barely understand and what I now realise were grainy photographs of Del Hodgkinson scoring a try at Castleford or Lewis Jones putting over a penalty at Bradford Northern.

On moving to the North East and becoming acquainted with the pre-Monsieur M Salut, I managed to hang on to his coat tails and become a programme seller at Shildon, standing on the corner of Dean Street and Primitive Street, yelling “Programmes, football programmes” in a high pitched voice as men in overalls, fresh from a morning shift at the Railway Works and a couple of pints in Old Shildon Club, parted with thruppence to see if Johnnie Curran and Keith Hopper were playing that afternoon.

For years, I bought a programme for every Sunderland home and away game and filed them away in boxes, thinking that I could while away long winter evenings in front of the fire reading and re-reading them, gleaning fascinating information from the club pen pictures that were circulated at the start of each season.

I got out of the habit in the 90s and now rarely buy programmes except at non-league matches, where I want to give modest financial support to the club. I do fork out for the odd one at Sunderland games and always enjoy reading them. It really is an excellent publication and totally unrecognisable from the ones that I bought for a tanner outside the Fulwell End.

With the help of my good friend Keith Scott, I have taken a programme from each of the five decades that I have followed Sunderland. None of the games are particularly remarkable – no cup ties, promotion deciders, relegation settlers or even that elusive thing, a programme for a European home game. But they all have some interest for Sunderland fans and for social historians.

From the 1960s I chose a game that I did not actually see – Cardiff City at home on Saturday September 28 1963. This was the first season I was a semi-regular at Roker Park, travelling to games on the train from Shildon, via Durham, taking in such scenic areas as Hunwick, Fencehouses and Pallion.

Attendance was financed by pocket money and the 5/- a week that Peter Dowson paid me for delivering Sunday papers around the town. So, not every game was manageable and I missed out on this one.

Pint-sized programme from the past
Pint-sized programme from the past

It’s an interesting game because it marked the last game of a real local hero, Stan Anderson. Born in Horden into a Sunderland supporting family, he broke into The Bank Of England side of the mid 50s and played at right half through the clubs first relegation, their travails in the Second Division at the turn of the decade and their eventual regeneration under Alan Brown.

He was a classy and cultured player who could score goals, set them up and help prevent them. He had an excellent reputation in the game and had been part of Walter Winterbottom’s squad in the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

He played the opening 11 games of the season and to a callow youth like me, he seemed to do well. But The Bomber had earmarked Martin Harvey as his right half and Anderson was ruthlessly cut loose and sold to Newcastle United, where he led them to promotion the next season.

So goodbye Stan Anderson and it was also the last time that Sunderland fans saw the most complete footballer that this island has ever produced, one William John Charles. Charlie Hurley was once asked who the best centre forward he ever played against was and he said John Charles. He gave the same answer when he was asked who the best centre half he ever played against!!

We were 3-2 down at half time and Charles had scored two of them. Nicky Sharkey had got our two and it was The King himself who grabbed the equaliser to give us a fillip before two difficult away games at Plymouth (drew 1-1) and Norwich (won 3-2). We followed that up with a 2-1 home win over Newcastle thanks to goals from Len Ashurst and George Herd.

The programme was pocket sized and contained about five minutes’ reading matter. There were some notes on Cardiff’s season so far, the usual pen pictures and that was it as far as reading was concerned. Considering that the Daily Mirror cost 4d, it would be fair to say that Sunderland fans were not given a fair deal on this programme.

What it looked like inside
What it looked like inside

It’s the adverts that make it interesting. British Railways were plugging an excursion to the game at Norwich for the princely sum of 57/- (£2.70 in new money) leaving on Friday night and coming back at 6pm. on the Saturday. Breweries advertised heavily – Vaux, Newcastle, Nimmos and Flowers, a Stratford-upon-Avon based brewer who had a northern distribution depot in Sunderland. All are now gone, although the Newcastle beers are brewed in Tadcaster.

Youngs of Roker Avenue advertised a 15 minute lubrication service with free coffee, while that Fawcett Street institution, Binns, informed the readership of their three eating places. The Bear Pit Grill and Griddle sounds a fierce place to eat while The Gay Tray Cafeteria may be better suited for those of a gentler disposition.

The adverts were straightforward and to the point. Messrs Saatchi and Saatchi had little influence on the compiler and the whole thing was, even to my youthful eye, infinitely inferior to the Loiners Review and the Northern League effort produced by Shildon. But it did improve.

Programmes big and small
Programmes big and small

* Read also: how Pete Sixsmith and M Salut tried to become football programme tycoons:

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8 thoughts on “The History Programme: SAFC v Cardiff City and John Charles, <em>Il Gigante Buono</em>”

  1. I must be, Phil. Still, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Thanks for putting me right.

  2. “We were 3-2 down at half time and Charles had scored two of them.”.

    Sorry but that is not correct!

    The player that had scored two (I think may have been all three) of Cardiff’s goals was Ivor Allchurch, who Anderson was supposed to be marking – hence why he was then dropped.

    The Hurley equaliser came after relentless second half pressure and for many years I had a pic which showed him to be head and shoulders above Charles as he scored it.

    Great game!

  3. Paragraph 1; “understand”, not “understood”. Apologies. I put it down to the headaches.

    SALUT! SUNDERLAND adds: Corrected – and entire sub-editing team fired for failing to spot it

    • Right – so I get fired for not spotting something in a piece I hadn’t even read, yet you do nothing about the picture of me lying on the floor of the bookies surrounded by 50p pieces (well six 50p pieces). Get your priorities right M. Salut!

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