Monsieur Salut writes: the London and SE branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association has just reached 50 years of age. In common with many who leave Sunderland-supporting parts of the North East to ply their trades in and around the Smoke, I eventually got round to joining the branch after seeing numerous mentions in the matchday programmes of various London clubs where I had attended away games. I’d put my membership at around 30 years, but I could and should have joined sooner, since I moved south a few months before the 1973 FA Cup Final. Plenty have done much longer stretches. Step forward Ian Todd, who was largely instrumental in creating the branch 50 years ago and has been a tireless mainstay of its activities.
Special events are planned, with a get-together and buffet at the Stadium of Light on the evening we play West Ham on April 15 – open to members, past members and their guests – and, on the eve of the final game at Chelsea, at the Knights Templar near Chancery Lane, London (all-comers welcome; many will recall the splendid pre-League Cup final gathering there in 2014). Check out details at weardownsouth.com and now read what Ian had to say in a piece headlined ‘It’s all my fault’ in the new edition of the excellent branch newsletter, Wear Down South …
In the summer of 1966 I visited the HQ office at Roker Park of the Supporters’ Association which had been formed a year earlier and was granted access (no Data Protection legislation then!) to their membership register from which I extracted the names and addresses of those who lived in London and the Home Counties.
The letter you see above was the result and about 50 members gathered before the game at Upton Park on 11th February the following year [we drew 2-2].
The chairman, Stanley Lambert, his vice chairman and two other members of the association’s committee in Sunderland attended and explained how they felt a group of fans in the South East could democratically be incorporated into the parent body. I was asked to form a steering committee and was grateful that John Coaster, Jack Petty, Len Spensley, (now sadly all deceased) and Michael Gatward stepped forward to volunteer. Len even recruited travellers for the embryo Branch’s first coach trip which took place to West Bromwich Albion a fortnight late [drew 2-2 again]!
Throughout the next few months other trips were run as well as developing the administrative arrangements necessary to become a fully fledged associate branch of the parent association. That was achieved at the inaugural annual general meeting on 30th September at which a full committee was elected with Jack Bone, Ian Earle, Joe Wetherall and Albert Younghusband adding their talents to those of the original helmsmen (minus Michael Gatward, who stepped down).
Whilst I was always hopeful that a branch with solid foundations could be established, the progress, indeed the durability, achieved over 50 years is principally due to the many who have been involved over that period not only as committee members but supporters in so many other ways and without whose efforts we would not be celebrating this summer’s events.
It is to them you, the current members, should be grateful. Collectively they have made my 1966 visit to Roker Park so worthwhile.