Goal machine may be putting it high. But Craig Russell’s return on 149 games for Sunderland was 31, not prolific – Darren Bent scored one more in 58 – but certainly respectable. And he played with full heart for the club he loved, just as he now works for it as masseur.
In the latest of our reproductions of classic articles from the fanzine It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand, an anonymous writer with an eccentric approach to possessive punctuation – you weren’t once an Ithics hack were you, Pete Sixsmith? – bids a fond farewell to the local lad who scored goals but couldn’t quite convince Peter Reid of his value.
I remember wangling a trip back to the North East, at someone else’s expense though this was naturally justified, for a game at home to Millwall where victory would take us above them as leaders of what was absurdly called the First Division. I vividly recall four Russell goals in a 6-1 romp, but also that Reid couldn’t stop himself referring in post-match comments to a missed sitter for a fifth.
Ithics was also realistic about his strengths and weaknesses but its writer expressed real sorrow at his departure for £1m to Man City.
Stand by for a few further extracts …