Ken Gambles was admirably prompt in his response to requests for contributions to the Beauties and Beasts series on Sunderland kits past and present. But Salut! Sunderland proceeded to lose or at least overlook his affectionate reminiscences on a special away strip from his youth. The search party has now reported back and we can make amends. What we cannot do is direct you to our friends at Classic Football Shirts to buy the shirt; they have 300,000 in stock but the SAFC range starts in 1981. And the YouTube clip below is in black and white …
It is fair to say I’ve liked all of our red and white striped home kits (candy stripes excepted) in their various manifestations of the past 50 years or so, but the kit that has the warmest, most nostalgic memories for me is the all-red away strip of the late 1960s.
Aesthetically I thought it was superb, uncluttered by sponsors’ logos or the current over-elaborate designs, unnecessary shade variations and “fiddly bits”.
It was an imposing all-red, with a large white S and smaller AFC underneath as a badge; the red shorts had a classy white stripe down the side and the socks were white, completing a most attractive outfit.
Also I suppose it came at a time of my middle to late teens when feelings were strong and now memories of that time are at their most emotional. Undoubtedly I “loved” that team of the late 60s, although they were perennial strugglers in the top division (what changes eh?).
In addition five of that team would be in my all-time SAFC XI : Monty, Charlie Hurley, Jim Baxter, Colin Todd and Neil Martin, (Martin Harvey, Cec and Len, George Mulhall, George Herd and John O’Hare weren’t bad either). In similar vein to 2016, the team had the quality of player they should have brought higher league positions.
The kit is also special because it featured in two of the most exciting games I’ve seen in 50 years of watching Sunderland, the replay and second replay of the FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Leeds United.
The first game at Roker finished 1-1, Bobby Kerr broke his leg and unusually for us we featured on Match of the Day.
For some reason we wore the all-red kit and Leeds played in blue, with I think yellow shorts, both kits being worn in all three games.
The replay at Elland Road was chockfull of drama: a record crowd of over 57,000, the collapse of a crush barrier and a battling 1-1 draw against one of the best sides in Europe, a performance from the Lads in which to take enormous pride.
Hillsborough and Ayresome Park were mooted for the second replay but eventually Boothferry Park at Hull was the chosen venue.
We witnessed another great performance where we more than matched our illustrious but “dirty” opponents. Extra time looked certain before a hugely controversial last minute penalty was awarded following an alleged trip by Cecil Irwin on Jimmy Greenhough that saw us lose 2-1 – but not before Mulhall and Herd had been sent off. [Check the link in the next paragraph: the tackle that led to the penalty took place five yards outside the box – Ed].
In later years Peter Lorimer admitted that manager Revie had told them to go down in the box at every opportunity, seeming to cast some doubt on the integrity of referee Ken Stokes, a name that will live in infamy for Sunderland fans. To heap indignity on indignity I had to start my homeward journey on a train full of Leeds fans and sleep on Leeds Station.
I was immensely proud of our performances, though, felt at one with our brilliant fans and now had real optimism for the future.
Eight relegations later, thankfully the passion remains, and I’ll always remember with genuine affection that marvellous kit worn by such excellent players from a major part of my youth.