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Monsieur Salut writes: to Sunderland fans of a certain age, Martin Harvey epitomises all the was good about our club. He was a dependable, cultured footballer and, by all accounts, a throughly decent man. I once met someone in a Belfast pub who, on hearing I supported Sunderland, told me with obvious pride that they were cousins. The sad news is that Martin has died, aged 78. Here, Pete Sixsmith rues the passing of a man SAFC fans of our generation will never forget …
I watched a documentary on BBC4 last week that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the film Kes. Greg Davies, the amiable narrator, spoke to Ken Loach and Tony Garnett (director and producer respectively) and Dai Bradley who played Billy Casper and who took Davies on a tour round Hoyland Common where the book and film were set.
The book was written by Barry Hines who, like Casper, came from that pit village in South Yorkshire. Hines was an authentic working class writer, a man who would have been campaigning for the Labour Party in this awful election campaign were he still with us. I can only imagine what he would make of some areas of Corbyn’s campaign like in his dallying with Johnson, Gove, Farage et al….
He was also a decent footballer, playing for Crawley Town while he was working in t’South and he wrote lyrically about George Best, something which gave the BBC a rarely missed opportunity to wheel out clips from a documentary made about Best.
The film was made in 1970 and there is a lengthy slow motion section of Best at his mercurial best as he dribbles round a succession of players clad in light blue shirts; those players are ours and the player who ends up plonked on his backside after Best has bamboozled him is Martin Harvey, who died yesterday. (I couldn’t find a clip with us in blue, but in this one – go in 2.00 mins it looks like Best in blue, plonking our players on their backsides. MD) YouTube Clip of George Best
Martin was a colleague of Best’s in the Northern Ireland team – he had made his debut for them long before he became a regular in the Sunderland side – and played for Sunderland from his debut at Plymouth in 1959 right up to to his final game at Norwich in 1972, where he scored a goal that put us ahead and possibly on the road to promotion.
Unfortunately, Jim Bone equalised and Martin suffered a serious knee injury as he stretched to keep out a shot that would have given the Canaries both points.
That typified Martin Harvey: unselfish, committed and a Sunderland man through and through.
There will be people at the Burton game tonight who will reminisce over the sliding tackles that he made, the remarkable ability that he had to hook his leg round an opponent and legitimately dispossess him and the fact that he replaced two international wing halves in a week, Stan Anderson at Roker and Danny Blanchflower for the Northern Ireland international team.
Not bad, eh.
He was a Belfast boy, deemed too small by Burnley and snapped up by Alan Brown as a full time professional at the age of 17; no ground staff duties for this Northern Ireland Schoolboy International.
For five years he understudied the iconic Anderson, a Horden lad who was also Sunderland through and through, making his debut at Plymouth Argyle and starting that half back line that flew off the tongue of Sunderland supporters of our generation; Harvey, Hurley, McNab.
The three of them became the mainstay of Brown’s team that ended up dragging itself out of the Second Division in 1964. Charlie Hurley was the icon, Jimmy McNab the hard man and Martin Harvey gave the trio a touch of class with his subtle probing and passing and his brilliant tackling. Like a Bushmills Malt, he had quality and fire in equal parts.
He was a regular for nine years, sometimes in midfield, sometimes at centre half, sometimes at full back. He was the last of the promotion team outfield players in 1972 and the knee injury that he suffered at Carrow Road finished his career. He worked for the club, moved on to Carlisle as Bobby Moncur’s assistant, taking over as manager for a few months when Moncur left.
He teamed up again with Moncur at Plymouth Argyle and coupled this with a lengthy stint as Billy Bingham’s No 2 for Northern Ireland. He was sat with Bingham when they took the team to the second phase of the 1982 tournament and although they did not progress out of their group in 1986, it gave me much pleasure to see one of my boyhood heroes sitting on the bench at Zaragoza, Valencia, Madrid, Guadalajara and Mexico City.
He was back in management with another former colleague in Jimmy Nicholl at both Raith Rovers and Millwall before he retired to Devon in the late 80s.
The team he played in in 1963-64 was probably the best Sunderland team I have seen. Martin was an absolute linchpin of it, anchoring what is now known as the midfield. Pete Horan intended to call his first child Martin Harvey Horan had he been a boy; it was a girl and he resisted the urge to call her Martina and settled on Claire instead.
Our sympathies go out to Martin’s family. He was a fine player, a true gentleman and a Sunderland player who will always be remembered by those who saw him and those who have sat at their father’s and grandfather’s knee to listen to tales of the players from the past.
Thanks for some lovely memories Martin – and, if you ever bump into George Best in the afterlife, give him a damn good kicking.
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As readers know, we have been unable to publish comments for some weeks and this seems likely to remain unresolved as we wind down the site (which will remain visible until the hosting period, already paid for, expires).
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