The Johnny Crossan Story (1): Manchester City 0 SAFC 1

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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.”

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Soapbox: is James McClean our new Johnny Crossan?

The signing of a promising prospect from Derry City inspires Pete Sixsmith to reminisce about another Sunderland product of that club, the charismatic Johnny Crossan. There’s also a brilliant anecdote recalling the day another SAFC supporter was invited to play with the great man …

At a time when the opening day of the Premier League season is in doubt because of the large scale disorder that is sweeping parts of the country, it may well be no bad thing to look back to the calm and peaceful days of the 1960s when most people had an awareness of where they stood in society.

The catalyst for this piece of nostalgia is the arrival of James McClean from Derry City for the relatively modest sum of £350,000. He’s a left winger, highly regarded by both FAs on that divided island, who will with luck turn out to be as successful at Sunderland as another Derry boy, one John Albert Crossan was between 1962 and 1965.

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York Soapbox: making merry with the Minstermen

Bastille Day over here, the morning after the “start” of the 2011-2012 season back home. Steve Bruce famously dislikes pre-season. Pete Sixsmith rather enjoys it and was happy to spend an evening down the road in York watching the Lads, or certain of them, play with just enough urgency to get us off to a winning start …

There are few more pleasant places to start a pre-season than Bootham Crescent, York. The city is a delight with the evening sun illuminating the Minster, the Wetherby Whaler on the bypass is a Mecca for fish and chip fans, the other Minster continues to dispense excellent beer and the ground is a fine example of what a lower league club needs.

The game was an enjoyable amble for both sides. We turned out a strong side, with only Oumare Tounkara a name and face that few recognised.

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