Martin Harvey RIP. A Sunderland name that flies off supporters’ tongues

Martin Harvey: a SAFC giant


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.

Martin Harvey in NI colours


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.

Stan Anderson

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.

Sixer: ‘an absolute linchpin in the finest Sunderland side I’ve watched’

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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The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: Sixer on Gillingham.

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I reckon I have seen Sunderland play Gillingham on four occasions. I must have seen them at home in 2004 and 2005 as I had a season ticket, but I don’t recall much of those games. The first time I went to the Priestfield was in September 2004, when we coasted to a 4-0 win early in a season when we finished top of what had become known as The Championship. I went down with some of my mates from the Heart of England Branch and we had such a good time in the pub pre-match, chatting with Gills’ fans who were enjoying the dizzy heights of the second tier that we decided to go back another time and in 2006 returned in our Sunderland shirts to see them play Walsall. Pete Sixsmith admits he hasn’t seen that much of them but has seen them at Roker Park and other assorted North Eastern football grounds as well as the Stadium of Light and down in Kent. I’ll let him take up the story.

Sixer by Jake


Kent’s finest, some would say only, Football League team, have not much appeared on the radar at Sixsmith Towers over the years. I have seen them three times at Sunderland, have visited Priestfield twice and have caught them at Feethams and Victoria Park. So, this piece may well be a short one (“Thank goodness” say the readers)

My first sight of them was on the 22nd October 1966 at Darlington. Our home game with Stoke City had been postponed due to the opening games of the Home International Championship being played on that day and we had three players involved.

John Parke and Martin Harvey played for Northern Ireland in their 2-0 defeat to England, the World Cup winners turning out the same XI that had triumphed at Wembley three months earlier. Second half goals from Roger Hunt and Martin Peters saw England defeat the home side in front of a huge Windsor Park crowd of 47,897.

John Parke
Martin Harvey

Meanwhile, in South Wales, Jim Baxter was strutting his stuff for Scotland at Ninian Park in a 1-1 draw. Ron Davies’s opener was cancelled out with four minutes remaining, by Dennis Law, and that was the only point dropped by Slim Jim and his mates as they defeated Northern Ireland 1-0 in Glasgow and then went on to win 3-2 at Wembley where Baxter played keepy-uppy and the Tartan Army, with whisky fuelled logic, proclaimed themselves “World Champions.”

So, with my paper round money sewn into my mittens, I caught the No.1 bus from Byerley Road and handed over a bawbee to the gateman at Feethams in order to watch Darlington play Gillingham, a town of whose location I had only a vague idea. A grammar school education in Geography focused on ox bow lakes, the economy of Nigeria and the rivers of Canada, rather than useful things like where on earth were places like Gillingham, Stockport and Cowdenbeath.

Thanks to an excellent website called “Gillingham Scrapbook” I was able to find out what the teams were that day and a report on the game. It was an undistinguished 1-1 draw which confirmed that the Quakers were struggling in Division Three (they were relegated at the end of the season), with the goals coming within 90 seconds of each other and both containing goalkeeping errors.

Darlington stopper Tony Moore failed to come for a cross and Brian Gibbs headed in but 90 seconds later stalwart Gills keeper John Simpson, a native of Appleby who made 571 appearances for them, let slip a fierce shot from Quakers full back John Peverell and the ball slid over the line.

John Simpson

The game had been held up in the first half when Darlington winger George McGeachie suffered a serious injury, the entire crowd heard his knee cartilage snap as it made a sound like a bullet being fired and there was a long wait while he was moved and taken to hospital. McGeachie had played for Dundee when they won the Scottish League in 1962 and ended up at Darlington as he worked as a chemist for ICI on Teesside. He never played again.

There was a crowd of 5,819 and I remember walking around the cricket pitch and back to the bus station, pleased as the proverbial punch that I had managed to exchange a Sunderland badge for a Gillingham one from a travelling Kentish Man (or is it Man of Kent?), replete with Invicta, the rearing white horse.

The last time I saw them was a few months ago at Hartlepool where they were seconds away from being dumped out of the FA Cup by a National League side. Pools had drawn 1-1 at Priestfield and, with seconds left, were 2-1 up in the replay. Goals by Carl Magnay and Paddy McLaughlin in the first half had put Pools in control, but Max Ehmer had pulled one back.

With six minutes left and the visitors desperately looking for salvation, Pools manager took off forward Luke James and sent on defender Conor Newton to shore up the back four. There was a rumbling of discontent amongst the home support as James was perfectly placed to take advantage of the gaps that Gillingham were leaving in their quest for the equaliser and their fears were founded as keeper Scott Loach missed a cross and Carl Magnay handled to stop the ball going in. Impressive striker Tom Eaves rattled home the penalty and the Gills went on to win 4-3 in extra time.

As far as Sunderland goes, I first saw them in a Division Three game at Roker on the 30th January, 1988, just over 31 years ago. I had missed the play off game as I was committed to taking the Aged P’s to East Midlands airport for what turned out to be my mother’s last foreign holiday before she died and I remember picking up scores from it on the Radio 2 news as I sat in the passenger seat of the Mini Metro and my father drove and dropped lighted cigarettes on the floor.

That day in 1988 ended in a 2-1 win for us, with Gary Bennett opening the scoring in the 9th minute and Marco doubling the lead in the 27th before he went off ten minutes later. Mark Cooper, then Gillingham’s record signing, pulled one back in the second half but we saw the game out (would that we could do that now!!!) to remain top of the pile.

Marco and Benno in their Quaker days

The teams who performed that day, in front of 16,195 people were’

Ian Hesford; John Kay, Gary Bennett, John McPhail, Reuben Agboola; Paul Atkinson, Paul Lemon, Steve Doyle, Gordon Armstrong; Eric Gates, Marco Gabbiadini subs; Frank Gray, Keith Bertschin (for Marco 36)

Ron Hillyard (who ended up 8 appearances behind John Simpson); Karl Elsey, Graham Pearce, Gavin Peacock (ex Mag, now a pastor in Calgary), Gary West, Colin Greenall (713 games for various clubs including Blackpool, Bury and Chester) Howard Pritchard, Trevor Quow, Steve Lovell (their current manager), Mark Cooper, David Smith subs; Les Berry, Irvin Gernon.

They have slipped a bit recently and could well be in the relegation places when they pitch up at the Stadium. This is their fourth visit in the league and they have lost two and drawn one. That was in 2003-04 and was a 1-1 draw.

You knew that was coming didn’t you…….

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