The Johnny Crossan story revisited: (3) what Brian Clough told him

Only tiny glimpses of Johnny Crossan, from after his SAFC days, in this clip of a 4-1 home defeat of Man City by Chelsea. In one of them he acts as peacemaker after Mike Summerbee appears to stamp on Eddie McCreadie. But it has been a privilege to run the interview with him, not least because although Johnny played with Colin Bell, Mike Doyle, Summerbee and other City stars, it is his time at Sunderland that he remembers most fondly …

Just about time to wrap up the three-part interview with Johnny Crossan, reproduced from four years ago for the benefit of readers of Salut! Sunderland who missed it back then.

My thanks to the many people, including those too young to have seen him play, who have visited the site – or revisited it – to read about him. This was the final instalment as published in 2011.

Read moreThe Johnny Crossan story revisited: (3) what Brian Clough told him

The History Programme: SAFC v Cardiff City and John Charles, Il Gigante Buono

mackems copy2

It was a day when the Rolling Stones began their first tour – as mere support for Bo Diddley & Everly Bros – the Judy Garland Show made its BBC debut and Pope Paul VI opened the second sitting of the Vatican Council, or so it says on the website I just consulted. It is also the day in history chosen by Pete Sixsmith for the first in a series of articles looking back at matchday programmes. The choice of a game featuring newly promoted (as they are now) Cardiff City gives us a chance to renew the call for a City fan willing to do one of our ‘Who are You?’ interviews in the coming season. One volunteer has come forward, leaving us short for the return game. Write to

Football programmes have always held a fascination for me. As a fledgling South Stander at Headingley, I usually talked my dad or granddad into buying a Loiners Review, a collection of writings that I could barely understand and what I now realise were grainy photographs of Del Hodgkinson scoring a try at Castleford or Lewis Jones putting over a penalty at Bradford Northern.

On moving to the North East and becoming acquainted with the pre-Monsieur M Salut, I managed to hang on to his coat tails and become a programme seller at Shildon, standing on the corner of Dean Street and Primitive Street, yelling “Programmes, football programmes” in a high pitched voice as men in overalls, fresh from a morning shift at the Railway Works and a couple of pints in Old Shildon Club, parted with thruppence to see if Johnnie Curran and Keith Hopper were playing that afternoon.

For years, I bought a programme for every Sunderland home and away game and filed them away in boxes, thinking that I could while away long winter evenings in front of the fire reading and re-reading them, gleaning fascinating information from the club pen pictures that were circulated at the start of each season.

I got out of the habit in the 90s and now rarely buy programmes except at non-league matches, where I want to give modest financial support to the club. I do fork out for the odd one at Sunderland games and always enjoy reading them. It really is an excellent publication and totally unrecognisable from the ones that I bought for a tanner outside the Fulwell End.

With the help of my good friend Keith Scott, I have taken a programme from each of the five decades that I have followed Sunderland. None of the games are particularly remarkable – no cup ties, promotion deciders, relegation settlers or even that elusive thing, a programme for a European home game. But they all have some interest for Sunderland fans and for social historians.

From the 1960s I chose a game that I did not actually see – Cardiff City at home on Saturday September 28 1963. This was the first season I was a semi-regular at Roker Park, travelling to games on the train from Shildon, via Durham, taking in such scenic areas as Hunwick, Fencehouses and Pallion.

Attendance was financed by pocket money and the 5/- a week that Peter Dowson paid me for delivering Sunday papers around the town. So, not every game was manageable and I missed out on this one.

Pint-sized programme from the past
Pint-sized programme from the past

It’s an interesting game because it marked the last game of a real local hero, Stan Anderson. Born in Horden into a Sunderland supporting family, he broke into The Bank Of England side of the mid 50s and played at right half through the clubs first relegation, their travails in the Second Division at the turn of the decade and their eventual regeneration under Alan Brown.

He was a classy and cultured player who could score goals, set them up and help prevent them. He had an excellent reputation in the game and had been part of Walter Winterbottom’s squad in the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

He played the opening 11 games of the season and to a callow youth like me, he seemed to do well. But The Bomber had earmarked Martin Harvey as his right half and Anderson was ruthlessly cut loose and sold to Newcastle United, where he led them to promotion the next season.

So goodbye Stan Anderson and it was also the last time that Sunderland fans saw the most complete footballer that this island has ever produced, one William John Charles. Charlie Hurley was once asked who the best centre forward he ever played against was and he said John Charles. He gave the same answer when he was asked who the best centre half he ever played against!!

We were 3-2 down at half time and Charles had scored two of them. Nicky Sharkey had got our two and it was The King himself who grabbed the equaliser to give us a fillip before two difficult away games at Plymouth (drew 1-1) and Norwich (won 3-2). We followed that up with a 2-1 home win over Newcastle thanks to goals from Len Ashurst and George Herd.

The programme was pocket sized and contained about five minutes’ reading matter. There were some notes on Cardiff’s season so far, the usual pen pictures and that was it as far as reading was concerned. Considering that the Daily Mirror cost 4d, it would be fair to say that Sunderland fans were not given a fair deal on this programme.

What it looked like inside
What it looked like inside

It’s the adverts that make it interesting. British Railways were plugging an excursion to the game at Norwich for the princely sum of 57/- (£2.70 in new money) leaving on Friday night and coming back at 6pm. on the Saturday. Breweries advertised heavily – Vaux, Newcastle, Nimmos and Flowers, a Stratford-upon-Avon based brewer who had a northern distribution depot in Sunderland. All are now gone, although the Newcastle beers are brewed in Tadcaster.

Youngs of Roker Avenue advertised a 15 minute lubrication service with free coffee, while that Fawcett Street institution, Binns, informed the readership of their three eating places. The Bear Pit Grill and Griddle sounds a fierce place to eat while The Gay Tray Cafeteria may be better suited for those of a gentler disposition.

The adverts were straightforward and to the point. Messrs Saatchi and Saatchi had little influence on the compiler and the whole thing was, even to my youthful eye, infinitely inferior to the Loiners Review and the Northern League effort produced by Shildon. But it did improve.

Programmes big and small
Programmes big and small

* Read also: how Pete Sixsmith and M Salut tried to become football programme tycoons:

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Reading FC v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: another vote for Toon Doon

Jake asks the question
Jake asks the question

Water, maybe tons of melted snow,
may have flowed under the bridge by the time you read this. The questions to Martin Brailli*, a bookseller, football referee and fan of Reading, were answered while emotions were still stirred by seven or eight minutes of heroics at home to West Brom but before the fine win at St James1 Park. He has strong memories of Charlie Hurley’s spell as manager, strong views on what shoud have happened to SAFC for failing to stage a game because of summer rainfall and an unusual philisophy on life at the lower end of the Premier …

Read moreReading FC v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: another vote for Toon Doon

The Lars Word: great centre backs from King Charlie to John O’Shea

Lars Knutsen: opening the defence case

Lars Knutsen, Sunderland exile in the USA, praises the contributions of our centre-back regulars to the unbeaten start to the new season and looks back at the rock-like figures who played for SAFC in the days when there was one in the middle and he was called the centre-half …

SAFC vs MUFCJohn O’Shea in action vs old mates: image by ‘vagueonthehow’

Read moreThe Lars Word: great centre backs from King Charlie to John O’Shea

When SuperKev’s Birmingham magic wasn’t enough

It’s on YouTube so it must be OK.

Salut! Sunderland wanted Birmingham to go through to the FA Cup semi-finals because the Charlie Hurley link with Bolton, right at the end of his playing career, was outweighed by the combined Kevin Phillips/Jimmy Montgomery factor.

Read moreWhen SuperKev’s Birmingham magic wasn’t enough

Cup wishlist: Man United, Man City out. Arsenal or Reading’s trophy

Bob Stokoe statue, Stadium of Light, SunderlandImage: Mrs Logic

Salut! Sunderland has absolutely nothing against the city of Manchester. We hold no grudges against Stoke or Bolton.

But choices have to be made. Sunderland’s humiliating exit at the earliest possible stage of the FA Cup means we have been able to pick our runners at will in subsequent rounds.

So to do our bit to restore interest in the ailing old competition, colours will now be nailed to the FA Cup mast.

Read moreCup wishlist: Man United, Man City out. Arsenal or Reading’s trophy

Blackpool v SAFC: Beer crates, pigs and Mr Punch

As the hoo hah dies down after the derby game and Darren Bent’s move to the Midlands, we have a very important game at Blackpool on Saturday. Our current form is not brilliant; since two hard fought consecutive wins, we have crashed out of the cup and almost allowed the Mags to claim undisputable bragging rights for the rest of the season So, let’s wallow in a little bit of nostalgia as Pete Sixsmith reminisces about three visits to the seaside town that is noted for fresh air and fun, one in the 60s, one in the 70s and – to follow later in the week – one in the 80s.

My first visit to Bloomfield Road was in September 1964 in a proper First Division game. I was 13, Colin was 15 and he played a major part in persuading my reluctant father that I be allowed to go to the game on Billy Reilly’s bus. Colin convinced him that we would be ok and that no drinking would take place on the Central Coaches flyer and that after the game we would go to Woolworths for a meal before taking a tram (probably in the shape of a Mississippi river boat) see the illuminations.

Well, the first part was wrong with a capital W. The bus was full of Shildon’s finest drinkers, including Michael Jones and his somewhat overweight brother who rejoiced in the nickname of Jasper. He was a drinking legend in the town and he took up two seats on the coach because of his mighty girth.

We were picked up at The King William and the bus meandered down to Close House, where the adults got off and shot into the Royal Hotel for a couple of pints while Billy Reilly and Kenny Snowdon loaded the bus up with crate upon crate of Newcastle Brown Ale.

Read moreBlackpool v SAFC: Beer crates, pigs and Mr Punch

Arsenal: ‘go on – would you rather watch us, or Stoke?’

Our second Gooner to preview SAFC v Arsenal, Jon Ryan*, had an enviable journalistic career, mixing business and pleasure by becoming sports editor of the Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Telegraph. A racing man, too, he rounded it off by cantering into a top job at the British Horseracing Authority, which oddly enough brought him into contact with Niall Quinn. No hardship for a big Quinny fan. Jon is pictured with his daughter Jemma “on a disastrous night in Munich – we lost 3-1 in a snowstorm but at least witnessed the world’s biggest snowball fight in the Olympic stadium and had a mean knuckle of ham”. Bet he was happier last night …

Read moreArsenal: ‘go on – would you rather watch us, or Stoke?’

Salut! History (1): a jewel from bleaker times

colin irwin

Colin Irwin is best known as a music writer, with a passion he shares with Salut! Sunderland, folk music. But in 2006, he brought out a smashing book,
Sing When You’re Winning, based on travels into the heartlands of football. They were grim times when his odyssey reached Sunderland. We were on our way down and visiting the Stadium of Light brought to mind “an official observation of the last rites”. It’s a treat to see how well he managed to make it sound the great place it is …

I can’t think ill of Sunderland, who are the only Premiership club to respond to my plea for information, encouragement, tickets and dusky handmaidens when I am researching this book. They return phone calls, e-mails and cinvivial banter and furnish me with a press pass for their local derby with Middlesbrough.

The days of Roker Park are long gone since Sunderland moved into this gorgeous space age stadium on the outskirts of town, so close to the Wear that you fear it may topple in and get us all wet.

Read moreSalut! History (1): a jewel from bleaker times

Who are you? We’re Sunderland


Seemed only fair. Jonathan Fear, from Vital Villa, previewed the Carling Cup match for us so I agreed to return the favour. Salut! Sunderland often asks rival fans the “lazy interviewer’s question” – inviting them to ask something we forgot but they wanted to answer. Jonathan made the ultimate refinement of this device by leaving it to me to ask all the questions as well as answer them …

Good start to the season for Sunderland, with important wins already (question posed before St Andrew’s!) Is this going to be a big season for you?

Certainly better. How big remains to be seen. Ellis Short, our new owner made a top 10 finish his target and I would have settled cheerfully for that until we nearly beat man United and then beat Liverpool. So let’s be bold as say seventh, maybe even sixth.

Read moreWho are you? We’re Sunderland