Bill Cowell already has an OBE. Now he’s Guessed a Sunderland Score

Let us introduce you to our Guess the Score sponsors

Burnley away and another chance to Guess the Score will come soon enough. But first, let’s hear about a winner, a supporter whose mother moved south but had the good sense and exceptional style to go back to her native Sunderland to give birth to each of her children …

Bill Cowell is one of this site’s more regular visitors and, via the Comments, contributors. He has been watching Sunderland since, wait for it, the late 1940s. It is fitting that he should have won the first sponsored instalment of the Guess the Score feature.

Bill, who correctly predicted what he now concedes was a “fluky” 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, opted for that, complete with his surname embossed on the mug as one of the shirt-wearers.

Personalised Footballs Gifts, owned by a Sunderland supporter and based in beautiful Weardale (start at and navigate the site from there), offered its SAFC “dressing room” mug as the prize. You see it below …

Bill's prize
Bill’s prize

This is how Bill has previously described himself:

I have been a supporter since the late 1940s – ouch!

Here is my best [favourite] team


Todd Watson Hurley Bolton

Bingham Anderson Crossan Tueart

Phillips Ford

Todd out of normal position because I can’t leave out Watson or Hurley, and Todd could play anywhere in defence, and be better than anyone else.

Our new No 12, Bill Cowell, pictured today
Our new No 12, Bill Cowell, pictured today

Monsieur Salut thought we should hear more. How many of us, after all, have actual memories of seeing Trevor Ford and Len Shackleton in action?

This was Bill’s response:

“I am, as you so shrewdly discerned, getting on a bit. I was born in Deptford [Sunderland version] in October 1937. Both parents from Sunderland. Mum from Deptford, Dad from Hendon. “I grew up in Epsom, Surrey, where my parents had met and married. However Mum insisted on her children being born in Sunderland, and she duly went back to Deptford to welcome all three of us. We returned to Sunderland every year during and after WW2, and my sister and I went to school in Deptford for a while, when Dad was in the army.

“I blame my lifelong addiction to SAFC on my uncle Frank. He started taking me to Roker Park in the late 1940s, and I then accompanied my father to all the London grounds whenever Sunderland were playing.

“I was in the Army for three years, and subsequently trained as a psychiatric nurse, working in Surrey, Somerset and Kent. I became an NHS manager, and received an OBE in 1999 for services to mental health care. I later managed a charity which provided care for severely disabled adults, and later worked as a special projects manager for a community care company. I retired in 2003.

“My wife was a registered nurse, and worked for the NHS for 41 years. She is now retired. We have two children. My daughter is a partner in a law firm in Paris, and my son works in financial services in Kent.

“My main interests in retirement are painting [the creative version], literature and football – particularly SAFC.

“My favourite Sunderland player of all time was Monty, who I saw on many occasions throughout his career, and whose heroics , at times, bordered on the miraculous.”

There is now more. I asked Bill for any stand-out memories of seeing Ford and Shack and this was his fascinating response:

“My memories of Shack and Ford are a bit mixed.

“Like most SAFC fans I adored Shack, but I have to say, when I saw him, he consistently failed to live up to the hype. I probably saw him live about a dozen times – mostly at London matches, and I don’t remember him scoring once. Or make many assists come to that.

“As everyone knows, he was a fantastic talent but, in my view, an individual genius rather than a team player You will have noticed he wasn’t in my “best” team.

“My favourite memory of Shack was the goal he scored in 1954 against Germany. A superb individual effort which lives in my memory.

“I feel that the fact that he only received five caps, given his ability, does indicate that he failed to capitalise on a special talent.

“The ‘Bank of England’ team should have won something. There were some outstanding players, but it seemed to me that they never played collectively, or to their potential. They needed a Clough or a Ferguson to manage them.

Trevor Ford was something to behold. He was as hard as iron, and totally fearless. I once worked with a chap from Swansea (no mean player himself) who had known him in local football in Wales. He said Ford was impossible to contain, even as a schoolboy.

“It seemed to me that Shack and Ford never hit it off (I also remember reading that somewhere). Ford scored 67 goals in 108 games for Sunderland and I honestly think that if he’d received better service, he might well have made it 1:1. He was absolutely lethal on the ground and in the air, and had terrific pace.

“As you will know, he had a fearsome, and well deserved, reputation as a physical player. When he arrived at Sunderland I expected a man mountain, but he was actually about 6ft with quite a lean build. He was, however, in the words of the late Bill Shankly when describing Tom Finney, “grizzly strong” and must have been a nightmare to mark.”

Great memories, Bill. Now you can start working out how to win a second Guess the Score mug.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, adapted by jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, adapted by jake


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