It was a good day at the office for the Salut! Sunderland Comments department yesterday. Some sharp thoughts on Blackburn’s plight and on our own progress, plus a simple, moving response to our tribute to Ralph Coates. And once again Frank Johnson, who covered Sunderland for the Northern Echo for four decades, popped up with priceless memories. We just hope he doesn’t mind them being elevated in this way to ensure a wider audience …
I wonder what Alan Brown (the manager, not the player) would make of today’s game and today’s players.
He once sent the team into the sea at the Cat and Dog steps in the middle of winter – the training ground was snowbound – because after initially telling them to do it tongue-in-cheek one of the players refused.
The “Bomber” was the boss in all respects and a disapproving glare from the ex-army sergeant was usually enough to bring any wayward players to heel. (Calvin Palmer was the exception and eventually the rebel was bombed out).
The first real experience I had of money-motivated players (and their agents) was when Frank Worthington signed in 1982.
Transfers were usually done and dusted quite quickly and the press corps were called in.
We all got to Roker Park early afternoon but the negotiations dragged on and on into the early evening. The reporters (me included) ended up playing charades for hours in the Roker Park Club (unfortunately the bar was closed!).
Big Frank insisted on every perk possible before putting pen to paper, ending up staying at the posh Seaburn Hotel and told to put everything on the bill.
That was okay until Tom Cowie got the first month’s account and found that Frank had been living like a lord, ordering the most expensive meals from the a la carte menu and buying bottle upon bottle of the finest wines! Needless to say he didn’t stay very long and those two goals he got cost a lorra lolly.
Things just seemed to go on from there. One of the most telling indications of how player-power was going was when a young Michael Gray rolled up at the Charlie Hurley Training Ground at Whitburn in a Ferrari! They’ve all got them now I suppose.
The money situation has got way out of hand and even mediocre players are earning thousands every week. They seem to spend it on gambling, cars, jewellery, big houses, blousy women and waste the rest!
Bomber Brown must be turning in his grave.
** Bomber Brown’s “young whippersnapper”: Frank Johnson’s 2002 report from the Stadium of Light after the last game of his 42-year career covering Sunderland for the Northern Echo. Click here