Sunderland’s Twelve Days of Christmas: (7) Manchester City

Happy new year Pete
Happy new year Pete

Pete Sixsmith continues with the task he set himself of finding a match to reflect upon for each of 12 days of the festive season. Today he recalls the start of the illustrious Sunderland career of the 1973 FA Cup-winning team captain Bobby Kerr…

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7. 31/12/66 Manchester City (H) 1-0

We have reached New Year’s Eve, not the greatest day for a game of football and one that has, in the past, had Portsmouth and Luton travelling to Roker Park, while we were sent to Burnley in the 70s.

In 1966, the team were in their customary position- the lower echelons of the First Division. Manchester City were little better off, but both teams had a decent mix of youth and experience. The difference was that City did something with theirs, while we went on to flatter and deceive.

It was game notable for the debut of one Robert Kerr, a 5’5”, 9st midfield player from Alexandria in Dunbartonshire, who had joined the club at 15 and was earmarked for great things by non-other than the 1965 youth team manager, Brian Clough.

Despite his small stature he was a tough competitor and had broken his right leg in a reserve team game towards the end of the previous season. He had been part of the team that had lost the FA Youth Cup on aggregate to Arsenal in 1966, along with Colin Todd, Billy Hughes, Colin Suggett and Derek Forster. The Gunners had Pat Rice in their team and his erstwhile full back partner Sammy Nelson on the bench. The goalkeeper was Ernie Adams, who later had a spell at Darlington.

By the time we won it the following year, he was ineligible as he was too old and was replaced by a mercurial Scots midfielder called Albert Brown who, on his day, was a world beater. Whatever happened to him?

Kerr had been an unused sub (only one in those days) for the previous two games against Aston Villa and Ian McColl put him in the first team for the City game instead of George Herd. He made an immediate impact, scoring in the 89th minute in front of the Fulwell End, pushing the ball past Ken Mulhearn to lift us to the heady heights of 17th.

He went on to have a very good run in the side and his youthful enthusiasm played a major part in a revival that lasted from that day until the middle of March, when we went out of the FA Cup to Leeds United in a somewhat contentious 2nd replay at Boothferry Park, Hull.

He scored regularly; the second in a 2-0 win over Chelsea, the opener in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool (when his mate Billy Hughes made his debut) and two against the Mags as we put them to the sword for the second time that season.

His team mates included Jim Baxter and George Kinnell and it is feasible that their influence on an impressionable young man contributed to the heavy drinking that has blighted Bobby’s later years. In 1967, he was a fresh faced young man, with a mop of hair and no facial accompaniments; the trend for ‘taches was not yet with us.

His sparkling debut was a kind of catalyst as we went on a good run, winning five and drawing six of the next 11 games, including a 7-1 crushing of Peterborough in the FA Cup. Then came the infamous game in Hull and the season collapsed, finishing with us back in 17th place.

Bobby went on to captain us to an FA Cup win and to win a Second Division Championship medal in 1976 – but he was also relegated twice with us in 1970 and 1977. He made 413 appearances in his time at Roker, scoring 67 goals before moving on to Blackpool and then Hartlepool.

I don’t imagine he made a fortune out of the game- players didn’t then. They still lived in nice semis and drove slightly better cars than fans did, but there was no fantastic wealth for them. Bobby moved into the licensed trade which probably wasn’t the best job for a man who liked a drink.

His name is forever emblazoned on the hearts of Sunderland fans for his dedication to the club and the city and no Red and White will ever tire of seeing him picking up the FA Cup from some minor royal. And it all started on New Year’s Eve.

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5 thoughts on “Sunderland’s Twelve Days of Christmas: (7) Manchester City”

  1. Oh dear, I see the critics are gathering. Let me try to answer them.
    Alexandria is a town in West Dunbartonshire, 4 miles from Dumbarton, noted for cotton manufacture, bleaching and printing, according to Wikipedia. The citizens are renowned for their sobriety and rarely take a drink, unless they fall into the company of coal mining Fifers.
    The immediate impact I refer to is in the context of the season and Kerr’s career, rather than that one match. One tries to take a broader picture.
    Gas fitter, plumber, they all stick pipes into things.
    And a Happy New Year to all readers and pedants. xx

  2. Another one I remember well. I think this was the season when I started going regularly with my mates and no longer relied on my poor old Dad to subsidise my attendance. The trip to Boothferry Park (on a Tennicks bus I believe), included a stop off in Yarm where every door seemed to lead to a pub.

  3. Three questions.

    1. Did someone who came from a Scottish mining area and moved to Sunderland, need much encouragement to enjoy a drink?

    2. In an effort to make the shortlist for M Salut’s “Pedant of the Year Award” I ask can you make an immediate impact in the 89th minute?

    3. And this one from the ALS Quiz Book (I know you read this Martin McFadden) and I quote “Which member of Sunderland’s 1973 Cup winning side was born in Egypt?”

    Thanks Pete for this and all the other enjoyable reads you have provided over the year. Let’s hope tomorrow’s game is equally enjoyable.

    • I’d also like to make the shortlist for Pedant Of The Year for pointing out that Barry Dunn was a gas fitter and not a plumber. (Ref:12 Days Of Christmas No.5)

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