Monsieur Salut writes: Big Sam sends on a midfielder in place of a forward to save a point at home against strugglers. Thousands of SAFC fans see the writing on the wall. So let’s dwell briefly on real Sunderland heroes, heroes of other ages …
To Sunderland supporters of a certain vintage, Johnny Crossan – who scored 39 times for us in 82 games between 1962 and 1965 – is something of a legend.
“Before him, all my heroes were those of my dad,” one fan, Keith Scott, was telling Pete Sixsmith at a recent (Reserves) match. “Johnny Crossan was the first who was my own.”
Salut! Sunderland‘s mission to obtain an interview with the former Northern Ireland inside forward, 46 years after he last kicked a ball at Roker Park, is a legacy of another long-in-the-tooth SAFC follower’s trip to Johnny’s home town, Stroke City (as in Derry-stroke-Londonderry, according to where you fit in the nationalist/loyalust divide).
Pete Horan had been sent to work with people at the local tax office. In his luggage on departure was a book on Crossan that Pete Sixsmith asked him to take to his sports shop and have autographed. Raising the question at work, Pete was told: “You’re in luck: come along for a spot of five-a-side tonight and you’ll meet him.”
Hats off to Brian Leng and all others concerned with a website called The Roker End*.
Technically home to the Sunderland Former Players’ Association, it is packed with material of interest to every supporter of Sunderland AFC – and a good many supporters of other clubs, too, especially those our players also served.
There are interviews galore, proper features and Q&As, news of events and more besides. Try this list for size and quality: Len Shackleton, Johnny Crossan, Johnny Mapson, John Byrne, Nick Sharkey, Ritchie Pitt, Chris Makin. All of them – and more, yes King Charlie included (see comment) – have been interviewed or quoted. Some quotes are familiar – Shack’s “Listen, I’ve nothing against Newcastle – I don’t care who beats them!” – others less so (Mapson: “For the one and only time in my career, I received an approach to throw a game”).
Close season seems a good time to be dipping gratefully into the archive. Here is a gem you may have missed, or rather the story surrounding it and the additional reminiscences it inspired. There are one or two links to follow but it is worth the effort …
It is not often that comments keep trickling in long after a posting has all but been forgotten, buried in the archives and popping up again only when someone does a specific Google search.
But there will be no surprise that it has happened with an article that appeared here last year, since the article was about Len Shackleton and was published not before the 10th anniversary of his death. The reason for returning to the Shack theme is simple: among the comments that were posted were three or four that added superbly to the fund of knowledge we have about one of the most gifted and also most eccentric players to grace the English game, better still in Sunderland colours.
Two months from now, we will reach the 10th anniversary of the death of Len Shackleton, one of the greatest players – and arguably the most charismatic – to wear the red and white stripes of Sunderland AFC.
Salut! Sunderland thanks Mark Walton, at the Blackcats list, for a link to a superb BBC 5 Live documentary presented by Jimmy Armfield a few years before Shack’s death.