John McCormick writes: I thought it was when I was old enough to go into pubs but not old enough to do so legally that I first went to went to Bloomfield Road, which would put the date around 1968. I’m pretty sure, however, that it wasn’t Sunderland I saw playing there but Bolton Wanderers, who had Charlie Hurley turning out for them and he didn’t join Bolton until the start of the 69-70 season.
Pete Sixsmith has no such doubts. He was there before me and he remembers it, or at least the bits thatmatter, well.
League One fans probably don’t know that Pete Sixsmith is a member of the 92 club, or whatever it’s called. In fact, given his proclivity for non-league and his propensity for travel he’s probably a member of the 192 club, and for many seasons he has regaled us with tales from around the country and beyond. Last season he stepped it up and provided an account of recalling the first time he saw every club we played against at home and his first visit to every ground we were due to play at in the lead up to match.
It was a tremendous series and we didn’t think he’d be able to keep it up. But he reckons he can and here’s the first effort. Charlton fans in particular, League One fans in general, I suggest you bookmark the page. After you’ve read it you’ll appreciate why.
John McCormick writes: It was Malcolm who sent the e-mail about a poll to decide on names for the stands at the SOL but it was Eric who made the original request, via the comments section, in Colin’s guess the score for the opening game of the season. My contribution was the headline you see above and the construction of the page.
Charlie Hurley, Bob Stokoe, Bradley Lowery, Raich Carter, Stan Anderson, Jimmy Montgomery and Ian Porterfield, in no particular order, were the first names we came up with; I added Cloughie and Shack when setting up the poll.
Kevin O’Neill is an Irish football writer who knows his subject. In a new book, he traces the declining role of Irish players in England’s elite clubs. Since his research covered plenty of Sunderland-related content, we invited him to introduce his project ….
With this book, I recall better times for the Irish in England’s leading clubs, largely before the introduction of the Premier League and subsequent influx of foreign players.
Sunderland supporters are fully aware of their club’s own strong links to the Emerald Isle, a bond that continues today with Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea members of Simon Grayson’s squad. Among the Irish stars whose careers I review are Niall Quinn, properly seen as a Sunderland hero, and the man he later – when chairman – appointed as manager, Roy Keane.
There’s an interview too with another former Sunderland boss, Martin O’Neill, and former club defender Mark Rossiter – [he didn’t play much for us but was there when I saw us beat Arsenal 3-2 in a League Cup game at Highbury – Ed] as well as an interview with Sunderland fan Martyn McFadden, editor in chief [crikey Martyn, that’s a grand title – Ed] of A Love Supreme.
My origins are in the Irish midlands town of Athlone, a place familiar to Sunderland supporters through pre-season visits.
Firstly, I wish to thank everyone who helped me get the book to this stage, and particularly past and present players who gave me their time. They provided invaluable insight and experience into what it’s like for Irish players, young and old, to be part of English football.
The result, I hope, is a factual, hard-hitting account of what has happened to the Irish in top-class English football over the past 20 years.
I try to find out how and why their fortunes have deteriorated so dramatically – and quickly – while also recalling better times when the Irish triumphed in England with great regularity.
Through a series of face-to-face interviews with current and retired players, the book describes how young Irish teenagers fend for themselves in the cut-throat world of Academy football and considers those who have fallen by the wayside in their pursuit of fame and footballing fulfilment in England. I pose the question of whether the Irish can ever again prosper at English football’s most successful clubs.
* Where Have All the Irish Gone? The Sad Demise of Ireland’s Once Relevant Footballers will be released by http://www.pitchpublishing.co.ukon October 16 2017, is priced at £12.99, and will be available to purchase at Amazon, Waterstones and various other book stores and platforms to be confirmed.
The publishers say the book tells a story of dramatic decline, an ‘ultimate riches-to-rags affair’ in which Irish players have largely become irrelevant at the top English clubs.
The author can be reached on Twitter @kevoneillwriter
Monsieur Salut writes: Why does Salut! Sunderland exist? What prompted its creation? What was my first game? What have been my highs and lows of supporting Sunderland? All the kind of questions we regularly ask Who are You? candidates. This time the boot was on the other foot. The newish Football Friends site wanted answers from me. Here they are – and do check out the site for chats with those responsible for other club blogs …
Pete Sixsmith doesn’t intend to spend the summer moping about our most recent relegation.
He intends to spend the summer moping about all of our relegations.
As he puts it: ‘Relegation Number 10 so lots of memories to ramble on about as our season rambles to an end. So depressing……’
John McCormick writes: I didn’t see much of last night’s game. I did see Jack Rodwell’s foul and would have had him off at half time to prevent a potential second yellow. But David Moyes apparently didn’t think there was any need to worry; Rodwell stayed on and had a “quietly effective game”, according to Pete Sixsmith.
What else did Pete note?
Find out for yourself as he regales us with not only another fine match report but also a slight diversion down memory lane, past Roker Park and towards 1961, when Spurs used only 17 players, all from the UK, in doing the double.
Years ago, when Sixer, Malcolm Dawson, John McCormick and Monsieur Salut were still young, or at least a long way from qualifying for bus passes, Salut! Sunderland reproduced a nice little interview that formed part of a Celebrity Supporters series for the newsletter of the London and SE branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association.
The interviewee was Steve Cram, then as now president of the branch as well as being “The Jarrow Arrow”, a world record-breaking middle distance runner with impeccable credentials as a Sunderland supporter.
Malcolm Dawson writes……….before the game they were showing highlights of the 6-0 win over West Ham in 1977 on the big screen. The two lads who sit next to me, both under 20, commented that they weren’t even born when that game was played. Cue a history lesson as I told them how after a record run of games without a goal, we scored 6 in consecutive games against the Wests – Brom and Ham and that following on from the 4-0 demolition of the Smogmonsters of Middlesbrough. I told them how by the second week of February we had only won two league games but went on to win another nine and draw another five. Of course it ended with the farcical affair of Highfield Road and I told them how after a delayed kick off, the late Jimmy Hill contrived to get news of our defeat at Everton on the last night of the season put up on the big screen and announced over the tannoy, allowing Coventry and Bristol City to go through the motions for the last twenty minutes and settle for a 2-2 draw, knowing that defeat for either side would see them relegated instead of Sunderland. Well we have to do what we can to educate the young folks and keep our resentment festering. It’s only 39 years – far too soon to forget. Of course the point I was really making was that during their time watching Sunderland AFC they have become used to seeing “The Great Escape” on a regular basis but that sometimes a massive turn round in form isn’t enough to keep us up. Wonder if they’ve asked to move seats yet! On the drive in, Pete Sixsmith and I agreed that a win was essential to our survival hopes but that it was achievable against a faltering Manchester United. And so it turned out and yet again history repeats itself because having resigned ourselves to relegation, we sense the shoots of optimism spring up to give us hope. West Ham’s two late goals, Chelsea’s demolition of the Mags, Watford’s victory at Selhurst Park and The Saints’ win at Swansea did us no harm either. And Liverpool’s six nil thrashing of the Villa today How did Sixer rate yesterday’s performance? Read on to find out.
MANCHESTER UNITED (H)
Fifty plus years ago, when M Salut and I were first starting on this lifelong odyssey of following Sunderland, the taking of a corner was a great thing at Roker Park. Up would step Harry Hooper or Brian Usher or George Mulhall to knock the ball to the area around the penalty spot, whereupon a huge crag of a man would scatter opposition defenders as if they were confetti blowing in the wind and thump the ball with his mighty forehead into the net. This happened several times a game.
When he wasn’t doing this, he was heading the ball clear at the other end and as far as I can remember, no centre forward ever scored a headed goal at Roker between 1961 and 1966. He even protected the younger players in the team, once throwing a particularly dirty Leeds United centre forward called Ian Lawson, over the Main Stand and into the car park of The New Derby pub.
Of course, this Desperate Dan figure was Charlie Hurley, a man whose name has the same impact on Sunderland supporters of a certain vintage as Randolph Scott’s does on the citizens of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles.
It may be that memories are somewhat exaggerated as I slip into my dotage, but we have never had a centre half since who has come near The King for sheer physical strength. There have been some good ones – Jeff Clarke, Shaun Elliott, Jody Craddock – and some very good ones – Dave Watson was a better footballer than Charlie and John O’Shea is of a different generation – but none had that raw power and determination that the Dagenham born Irishman had.
Until Saturday that was when Lamine Kone gave the closest I have seen to a Charlie Hurley tribute act. Not only in defence, where he tackled and headed with an intensity that if he had been with us since July, would have had us sitting comfortably in the safety of mid table and thinking of whether we could catch Southampton or West Ham, but also in attack where he scored the winner and had a tremendous shot pushed over the bar by De Gea. But more than that, it was the goal he scored. He powered his way through a crowded penalty area, gave Chris Smalling the slip (I wonder how Roy Hodgson felt about that) and powered a downward header which beat De Gea for pace and frightened Anthony Martial so much that he kicked it on to De Gea’s back rather than try to stop it.
The crowd, already noisy, erupted and George In Front turned to look at me and we said in unison “Charlie Hurley.” It took us back to the days of standing on the terraces, black football boots and players who stayed at clubs for years, as well as Waggon Wheels, “peanuts, tanner a bag” and a pink Football Echo.
Kone joins a select band of players including Harry Hood, Clive Walker and John Mullin, who have scored the winning goal against The Red Devils in a home victory. This was the first win over United at The Stadium of Light in a league match (we regularly beat them in the Football League Cup) and was by the best performance and by far the best win of Sam Allardyce’s time on Wearside. We had pace and verve and control on Saturday, things that have been missing for ages in our first team. The pace and verve came mainly from Wahbi Khazri who scored early on from a free kick (when did we last do that?) and who marauded down the wings to great effect. He can defend as well and looks like an excellent acquisition who may well prove to be that little bit of extra that we need to begin to climb away from the relegation zone. He seems keen to establish himself in the team and to make a real name for himself and if we can do a Southampton and get a couple of good seasons out of him before making a healthy profit on the deal, we will all be well pleased.
He was one of 14 players who gave their all for the club on what turned out to be a good day for Sunderland. De Andre Yedlin came in at right back and seized the initiative from the first minute. His enthusiastic forward running was always a threat to United and he handled Martial well enough, refusing to be drawn into a careless tackle inside or outside the box.
He was aided by a massive performance by John O’Shea in the middle of the back four. What a very good player he is and what a very good leader. Watch him talking to players – although whether Kone or M’Vila have a clue what he is saying is a moot point – and it is all encouragement. His tackling and heading were outstanding and he thoroughly deserved his man of the match award.
Losing Jan Kirkhhoff was a major disappointment and the arrival of Jack Rodwell was hardly welcomed with great enthusiasm by the crowd but the former England man did a very solid job alongside Cattermole. M’Vila dropped into the anchor role and Rodwell spent the second half picking up Juan Mata, United’s sole creative player. The Spaniard faded in the second half, mostly due to Rodwell’s persistent nagging away at him.
The other home debutant was Dame N’Doye, who took the Danny Graham default position on the right wing and did it far better than Danny (yet to score for Blackburn I notice). When he moved into the middle after Defoe went off, he looked much more comfortable and could, perhaps should have scored, when he was played in. But he too looked interested and kept on going until the end.
We have lost Fletcher, Graham, Coates and Johnson and replaced them with N’Doye, Khazri, Kirchoff and Kone. And we lost the transfer window………….?
The win was so important for us and we now have some hope (insert “It’s the” before hope and “I can’t stand” after) especially as the other results could not have been much better – maybe if West Ham had got a winner, but that is being greedy. There seemed to be more self-belief in the players and that transmitted itself to the crowd who encouraged rather than groaned and who gave rousing ovations as players went off and came on.
However (there’s always one of those) we need to remember that we were playing a Manchester United side that was one paced, lacked a genuine forward and was shaky at the back. Even the usually very impressive keeper had a poor game. Their fans were quiet by their standards and they seem to know that Van Gaal’s time is up. He has built nothing in his two years, something with which we are all too familiar. He won’t be there after May.
The day was rounded off as we all chuckled at the spectacular capitulation of Steve McClaren and his Merry Men at Stamford Bridge. There’s another one who will be gone by May – it could be even earlier.
We have a chance now. I thought that if we lose this one and away to West Ham, that’s it and Burton Albion here we come. I now think that, if we continue to play like this, we could win another five games and draw a couple which would give us sufficient points to start next season in the self-styled “Best League in the World.” This was the kind of game you want to see – and hopefully in fifty years’ time, supporters will be hailing a new Lamine Kone and fondly remembering the man who led us to back to back Premier League titles. Now where is that medicine Nurse?
The Hoff needn’t get The Huff. We’ve all had rotten days at work and sometimes, for some of us, on the first day of a new job. Before he knows it, the fans will be singing, ‘Who’s the greatest centre half the world has even seen … Jan Kirchhoff is his name’. Anyone with the sense of history shown in Iain Foster’s comment knows Charlie Hurley also made a wretched start to life with Sunderland. Iain wonders whether we might follow King Charlie with Kaiser Kirchhoff and Pete Sixsmith takes up the story …