Stan Anderson Spectacular Part Two - "I Must Have Made A Good Impression"

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Yesterday we brought you Part One of our Stan Anderson Spectacular courtesy of the 'Captain of the North' himself, prolific Sunderland/football author Mark Metcalf, and the legend that is Jimmy Montgomery.

Today, we pick up where we left Chapter One of Stan's autobiography with a foreword from Jimmy Greaves.

We are sure you'll want to get your grubby little mitts on it, and our friends over at A Love Supreme will be more than happy to help you out.

Foreword From Jimmy Greaves

The England players nicknamed Stan ‘Boeing’ after the original 707 airplane that is generally credited with ushering in the Jet Age. This is because he cruised around the football field, and while he was never in a hurry he always got there smoothly at the right time.

I always enjoyed Stan’s company greatly and got on very well with him. We had good lives although the clubs had too much control over the players until the 1960s.

I thought Stan was one of the players who could have easily got quite a number of caps, and there were a lot of those, as the gap between those who played and didn’t was often very marginal, with a manager preferring one over the other because he’d got a system in mind and the player didn’t quite fit into it.

I Must Have Made A Good Impression

Because it was wartime, matches against other schools had been suspended but we did manage, courtesy of one of the teachers, Mr Parkin, to play organised games within the school, class against class. It was because of these games that I got my first deep liking for the game. My interest was encouraged enormously by another teacher, Jim Cole. I was bigger than the average junior, and I must have shown some sort of promise as Mr Cole was invariably advising me.

I generally enjoyed junior school and did well at the tests. So I was very disappointed when I found out that I had failed the 11-plus as a pass would have seen me go to Henry Smith’s Grammar School in Hartlepool. Even today I am mystified how I didn’t pass. I was sure I’d done well.

I would have been the first in the family to go to a grammar school and my mother was in tears when she found out. She and my dad made it their business to go and see the headmaster at the junior school. They were told I’d done fairly well but it was in my interest to go to Horden Secondary Modern because, the headmaster explained, ‘They don’t play football at Henry Smith’s but they do at the secondary school.’ Which seems to suggest the junior school teachers already thought I’d go on to do well as a footballer.

I hadn’t been long in my new school when, wandering out at the end of the day, I glanced up at the notice board. Pinned there was the school’s football team for the forthcoming match against Shotton Colliery at Horden Colliery Welfare.

I had to look again after I saw the name Anderson, and then I almost swallowed my tongue when I saw the initial ‘S’ alongside. This caused me to work out frantically if there was another ‘S. Anderson’ in the school. I couldn’t think of any – but I was only eleven, while the rest of the team were all at least fourteen.

When I got home I told my dad, on night shift that week and resting between shifts. He thought I must be mistaken. ‘You’re crackers’ were his exact words, and he asked me more than once if I was really in the side. I don’t think he was fully convinced but he did agree to take me and my boots to the ground, and I suppose he thought the worst that could happen would be that I would get to kick the ball around before and after the match. He needn’t have worried, and anyway I was already worrying enough for both of us at the thought of playing against lads much bigger and stronger than me.

My teammates had no idea who I was. I got to enter the dressing rooms, which was great. They had a shower and a bath, which was amazing. We won 2-1 or 3-1 – I can’t remember for sure. There was a crowd of around a hundred, mainly family and friends. They were not to know, of course, but two of those they were watching were on their way to doing well as professional footballers. Ken Hawkes was playing for Shotton and he was at left back for Luton in the 1959 FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest.

I later found out that the teacher who looked after the football team, Joe Herron, had, after listening to Mr Cole, decided to give me a chance, reasoning that I’d quickly adapt and become worth my place in time even if I wasn’t quite up to the mark at that stage. Anyway, they were good enough to ‘carry’ me for a while. I’d like to think I learned quickly and was playing well enough to deserve my place by the end of the season. At that time most of the boys went off to find a job, mostly at the pit, where one of the major topic of conversations would have been football – and particularly Sunderland, who at the time could rightly claim to be the north-east’s most successful club with six league titles and one FA Cup success to their name.

My brother Bob was a big Sunderland fan, going to Roker Park for home matches. He also took the train from Horden – this was long before the station was closed under the Beeching cuts of the 1960s – to Middlesbrough to watch a ’Boro side which contained Wilf Mannion, one of his favourite footballers. George Hardwick, the England captain, was another player Bob enjoyed seeing.

It was Bob who was responsible for my first taste of big-time football. As part of the end of war celebrations the three north-east sides played each other and Bob took me to see the ’Boro–Newcastle game. We took the bus to Billingham – cheaper than the train as there were two of us – hopped on another to the Transporter Bridge and walked from there. People were in a jubilant mood, and it was reflected on the pitch where the home side won 5-3 with ’Boro centre-forward Mickey Fenton striking a hat-trick.

Bob later took me to my first professional league games, at Ayresome Park and Roker Park, during the 1947–48 season and I was captivated by the performance of Johnny Mapson in goal for Sunderland. Out wide on the left, Eddie Burbanks was in the twilight of his career at Roker Park but you could catch glimpses of what a good player he must have been, able to beat players and shoot accurately. He’d been part of the Sunderland side which had won the 1937 FA Cup final, scoring the third goal as they beat Preston North End 3-1. Eddie had also scored Sunderland’s last goal before the war started in 1939 and the club’s first after it ended.

On the other wing, Len Duns, also a member of the 1937 cup-winning team, was very quick, had good control of the ball and crossed it accurately. I played reserve football with Len at Sunderland. But for the war Len could well have ended up making a record number of outfield appearances for the club. By the time he retired in 1952 his total was 244, yet he lost six years. Len Ashurst, of course, holds the record with 452 starts, plus six substitute appearances. That’s five more than me, and Len never mentions it – except every time he sees me!
Of course Jimmy Montgomery tops everyone. He played 627 times in the Sunderland first team, but goalkeepers go on for ever.

It’s interesting what stays in the mind of the young. I remember that the following season Barney Ramsden played ten first-team games for Sunderland and every time there was a free kick in his area of the field he would be cheered as he ran to give the ball a big whack up the field. Fred Hall was at centre-half. I would later play alongside him at Roker Park.

In those days just after the war Roker Park was always packed – most grounds were. People were hungry for entertainment. We would go in the Roker End, which was massive, and aim to get a spot in front of a barrier so that when the crowd swayed forward we wouldn’t get crushed.

Thirty-three spectators were killed during a cup-tie at Bolton in 1946 and looking back it is clear that too many people were allowed into most grounds – Roker Park was not unique in this respect. But the packed crowds certainly created a magnificent atmosphere, and while people would shout and bawl they certainly never lost their temper and hurled obscenities the way some spectators do today. In fact, if someone was swearing a lot people would turn on them, and if they didn’t stop they would be made to. It was very much a case of the crowd policing itself and there were very few bobbies at the games. People wore flat caps; most had finished work at 12.30pm or 1.00pm and headed straight to the ground to try and get the best spot.

At the end of the game supporters’ first thoughts weren’t necessarily about the result – it was more a case of whether they’d enjoyed it. After the rigours of war many people had a more relaxed attitude to results – after all, it wasn’t a matter of life or death. That had been all too close in the recent years. In addition the players didn’t earn much more than the average wage, so no one was jealous of their great wealth. They didn’t feel ‘cheated’ like they do today if someone doesn’t play well.

Bob and I also occasionally went to Hartlepool as well and each time we went home we’d have agitated conversations about key moments and players. Going to the match was always a great day out.

Bob was to work all his life in the pit and, typically, was dead within a year of retiring in 1980. He was a football man to the end, with a season ticket at Roker Park and a healthy respect for good footballers of any team.

In my second year at senior school I was a regular member of the team, playing in my usual position of centre-half. It was when I was thirteen that I first played right half – the berth I later regarded as my own. In those days every team lined up in the same way. In defence there was the goalkeeper and two full backs flanking a central defender in a back three. In midfield were two half backs – one attacked more than the other – and two inside forwards, also with one pushed forward; two wingers played in attack with a centre-forward. My switch to right half happened after I had been selected to represent East Durham schoolboys – Ken Hawkes was also in the team. We were losing 3-0 at half-time when a man came into the dressing room saying he was a Mr Errington, one of the Durham County selectors.

He said he was looking for a right half and asked whether I could play there in the second half. As the game was virtually sewn up, I was switched. And although we lost 5-1 I must have made a good impression as I was chosen for Durham County’s next game against a touring Kent side at Darlington. It was hardly an auspicious debut. The match was abandoned after seventeen minutes because of torrential rain. Sadly that was that for season.

The following year I was in luck. I was selected at right half for the county’s game against Northumberland – invariably our ‘bogey’ team. I played well in a 2-1 victory.

One of my most abiding memories of that time was after one game when I was given the East Durham kit to take to the lady who laundered it. Instead of taking it to her house immediately, I left it in the shed in our back yard. I totally forgot about it and went to play more football the following day. Walking back from the Recreation Ground someone told me there had been a fire at my house. I had visions of blackened, gutted rooms and horrible disasters and ran like mad. It wasn’t, thankfully, nearly as bad as what I had imagined but I soon spotted the smouldering remains of the shed with the kit in it. As I ran into the yard, I saw my mother picking up tattered, burnt pieces of cloth. She looked at me and said, ‘Your football stuff.’

It was a catastrophe and I was inconsolable. I didn’t dare tell the teachers what had happened. So Mam went to the school and told them she would make a mat as a competition prize. That was her hobby; she made a huge mat, raffled it and bought a whole new set of outfits. My face was saved thanks to her.

In my final year at school we won the local league – the second time when I was there – and I was selected for the North trials, the first step to playing for England. The match, at Brunton Park, Carlisle United’s ground, finished 3-3 with Dennis Viollet, who was to play for Manchester United as a ‘Busby Babe’, scoring one of the goals.

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Don't miss tomorrow's conclusion to our Stan Anderson Spectacular, as we wrap up the first chapter of the book with an introduction from Bryan 'Pop' Robson.

A reminder that the book in all its glory can be found at A Love Supreme and most other reputable retailers. You can find details Mark's veritable treasure trove of football books HERE.

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