Every so often, others come cap in hand to Salut! Sunderland for help, almost always of the ‘free, reward-in-heaven’ variety. They want our views of this or that. Monsieur Salut reckons he has done his bit for unpaid journalism and usually asks around in case someone else fancies obliging the website, publication or broadcaster concerned.
Pete Sixsmith‘s great fund of knowledge, general as well as football, makes him an easy recipient in this buck-passing exercise. Here he is again, responding heartily to a request from a newly established site, http://thefootballshirtcollective.com/. The approach was from the site’s Michael Maxwell, who said: “We want to tell the stories behind great football shirts.”
Sixer rattled off his answers to three questions as quickly as used to get down low goalbound shots when he was a goalie for the Shildon Sunderland Supporters’ AFC. You may come up with other candidates …
What is your first ever football shirt?
Cast your mind back to 1966. I was in the Fourth Year at Bishop Auckland Grammar School, overweight, rather silly and a Sunderland supporter (nothing has changed). My footballing abilities are even worse than my efforts in maths, but I did enjoy football. Maths was awful.
I had been following Sunderland for five years and went every week and had started using my paper round money for away games so I wanted a red and white striped shirt for games lessons.
In the dim and distant past, clubs did not market shirts. Club shops were rudimentary affairs selling mugs, ashtrays and pennants so shirts had to be bought from the manufacturer or by using the classifieds in Football Monthly or Soccer Star.
My mother, God bless her, decided that she would comb through these magazines and get me a Sunderland shirt for my birthday. She was from a sporting family – her brothers were Leeds United fans and her father was a Hunslet RL man (I was brught up on the other side of the city and followed Leeds RLFC; still do) but she knew that Sunderland played in red and white stripes. She ordered a red and white striped shirt from Bukta or Litesome or Umbro.
Comes the birthday and I open the surprise parcel and there it is – a red and white striped shirt. But (you knew this was coming) instead of it having a red rounded collar as Sunderland’s did, it was a white rounded collar a la Stoke City. She had seen a picture of Peter Dobing on the cover of Football Monthly an had assumed that the strip that he was wearing was the same as Charlie Hurley, Jim Baxter and George Mulhall pulled on every other Saturday.
The first games lesson was difficult. “Are you Eric Skeels, Sixer?” “Like the new John Ritchie look, Pete. Pity you can’t play like him.” Kids can be so cruel, can’t they.
What is your favourite ever football shirt? Why?
My favourite strip is the Umbro shirt that Sunderland wore when they won the FA Cup in 1973. Obvious reasons and I don’t think I will ever see it again. It is closely followed by the wonderful Le Coq strip that France wore in the 1978 and 1982 World Cup Finals. And a mention for the Leeds RLFC strip that I gazed at in awe and wonder from the South Stand in the 50s, particularly when it was being worn by Lewis Jones, Gary Hemingway or Jeff Stevenson.
What is your favourite ever goal? Why?
My favourite goal is obviously Ian Porterfield’s at Wembley in 1973 closely followed by Carlos Edwards’s winner against Burnley at the Stadium of Light in 2007 which virtually clinched promotion for us in Roy Keane’s first season. Finally, Janos Farkas’s goal for Hungary against Brazil at Goodison Park in the 1966 World Cup. It switched me on to the sheer poetry and beauty of football in general and Florian Albert in particular. Worth a look on YouTube.