John McCormick writes: I’m quite sure I was at the Stoke match Pete mentions in this report; Ed, his brother and I certainly did go to the Victoria Ground at the start of one season in the late sixties, but yet again we have a home game which eludes my memory. Surely I was there.
No matter, Pete Sixsmith was definitely there, and 50 years later, more or less, he does us proud by recalling the game:
After a good wallow in late 70s nostalgia – flares, wide lapels and scarfs tied around the wrist – we go back to the late 60s and the peak of the hippie era, where we all wanted to wear flowers in our hair, make love and not war (unless Newcastle United were involved) and generally be hip.
Which might have been alright if you lived in London and attended a progressive Comprehensive School like Risinghill or Holland Park, but which wasn’t really viable if you were stuck in the Sixth Form at Bishop Auckland Grammar School, with teachers who were either violent bullies or incompetents mixed with some really decent people who wanted to help you on your way but who were never really sure of how to go about it. Plus ça change.
For a clown like me, the Sixth Form was an opportunity to imbibe some hardly earned status as a senior. I was more of a Bunter (“a fat, frabjous fool” according to Harry Wharton, Prince of the Remove) than a member of the Famous Five, but I hung around with the footballers and those who, in the main, had reasonable academic ambitions, ambitions which I latched on to.
My claim to fame was that I was acknowledged as a bit of an expert on Sunderland AFC and that gave me a smidgeon of status in the world of 17-year-old adolescents. Other students asked my views on Alan Brown (“He’ll get it right”), Charlie Hurley (“Once the King, always the King. Far better than George Kinnell”) and the Board of Directors (“idiots”) and I was even quizzed by teachers as to what was going on at “that football club of yours”. As if I knew…..
I had spent the summer holiday of 1968 doing as little as possible. I retained my paper round on Sunday mornings but couldn’t find any work other than a short stint as a petrol pump attendant at Fylands, working for a man who owned a stonemasonry business and was a bit of a character. Money did not flow in.
Nor did it flow in to Roker Park. The board was now under the benevolent chairmanship of Jack Parker, a local builder with a penchant for keeping racing pigeons (about as far away from Ellis Short as you can get) and money was tight. Not a single player arrived at Roker in the summer and that continued for the remainder of the season. Whether the ascetic Brown was happy with that is unknown. He seemed content to blood youngsters and it was in this season that Dennis Tueart and Richie Pitt made their breakthroughs and Richard Huntley and Colin Beesley didn’t.
We had opened the season at the Victoria Ground, where a Gordon Harris penalty cancelled out Peter Dobing’s opener but Willie Stevenson scored their winner early in the second half. Stoke had Gordon Banks, Terry Conroy, David Herd and George Eastham in their line up, so it didn’t look a bad result and we looked forward to the visit of newly promoted Ipswich Town on the Wednesday night.
They arrived at Roker fresh from an opening day win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and lined up thus;
Alec Bugg; Tommy Carroll, Billy Houghton; Peter Morris, Bill Baxter, Derek Jefferson; Danny Hegan, Colin Viljoen, Ray Crawford, John O’Rourke, Frank Brogan sub; Charlie Woods for Carroll 46 minutes.
Our line up was;
Monty; Cec, Len; King Charlie, For Kinnell, Toddo; George Herd, Bomber Harris, Hughesy, Colin Suggett, George Mulhall sub; Ian Porterfield for Herd, 46 minutes.
It was a balmy evening as I caught my first glimpse of the not-then-called “Tractor Boys”. They had caught the nation’s imagination at the start of the decade when they made it into the top flight for the first time in their short history.
They went on to win it, thanks to the organisation of manager Alf Ramsey, the goals of Ted Phillips and Ray Crawford and the pace and trickery of Jimmy Leadbetter. However, they fell apart as Ramsey left to become England manager and Town slid back into the second level.
Under the management of Bill McGarry, they pipped QPR to the title by a point and looked forward to a new dawn over Suffolk. Skippered by Broxburn-born Bill Baxter, they looked tidy and had a decent mix of experience and youth plus a competent if rather inflexible manager.
Baxter was described as “a wing half in the finest tradition of Scottish ball players who could also look after themselves” and, although by this time Baxter had moved to centre half, names like Jimmy McNab, Dave McKay, Billy Bremner and Bobby Murdoch spring to mind.
He was a big figure in the Ipswich dressing room and when McGarry left for Wolves in the autumn, Baxter was not enamoured of his replacement, Bobby Robson. They had a stand up fight in the dressing room and Baxter was shipped out to Hull City at the end of the season, an inauspicious end to a distinguished career at Portman Road.
Ray Crawford was in his second stint in Suffolk, having left for Wolves and then West Brom as Town were relegated. He had an outstanding record in that first spell, scoring 143 league goals in 197 league games between 1958 and 1963 and gaining two England caps. He did well enough on his return, claiming 61 in 123 games and linking up with the eccentric John O’Rourke, signed from Middlesbrough. They both bagged 17 goals apiece in what turned out to be a decent season for Town.
Danny Hegan had joined them from Roker in 1963 and, despite a “hectic social life”, had excelled in midfield. It may be no coincidence that he left at the same time as Baxter, heading for West Brom (where he lasted a year) and then Wolves, where he was successful until the hecticness of it all caught up with him. He returned to Roker for about five minutes and faded away.
We won it 3-0, with George Mulhall, starting his final season at Sunderland, opening the scoring and Billy Hughes, entering his first full season, claiming two in the second half. Two fine Scottish wingers of the type we rarely, if ever, see nowadays and a testimony to a scouting system that seemed to work pretty well half a century ago. I thought Mulhall was an exceptional player with a real eye for goal – he is one of those that I get all misty-eyed over.
I would have travelled on the OK Football Special from Bishop Auckland with fellow Sunderland supporters from BAGS (King James I Grammar) and the man who sat with a transistor radio glued to his ear and who always left a huge Brylcreem (other hair creams are available) mark on the bus window. I would have stood in the Fulwell End, towards the Clock Stand side, usually in front of a barrier and would have had a Roker Pie at half time and maybe a pre-match snifter in the Wolseley on the seafront.
The year worked out well for Ipswich who finished 12th, sandwiched between Manchester United and Manchester City while we ended up in 17th and a mere four points from being relegated. That pleasure was reserved for the next season.
|My year was ok. I managed to bluff my way in to Sunderland College of Education, played the part of Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore and passed my driving test. If only I had managed to kick the habit of following Sunderland AFC, life might have turned out a whole lot different…….
No record of Pete Sixsmith as Dick Deadeye is known to exist, much to everyone’s regret. This will have to do:
The Dick Deadeye video was found at https://youtu.be/snS8E9VGQqE, posted by Tom Morehouse
If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the video and images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.