Cult Heroes: Joe Bolton

Some people thought we'd left Joe off our Top Ten list earlier in the week, but it wasn't without reason...

It's a welcome return to the FA Cup this Sunday as Sunderland play host to our neighbours of sorts Middlesbrough. It has been a long time since the club have noticeable taken a cup competition as seriously as O'Neill has the FA Cup this year and I would expect him to field another strong eleven as he did in the last round at Peterborough. We're gearing up for the game here on Roker Report as per the norm with a trip down memory lane as we profile a Cult Hero who has represented both sides involved in Sunday's fixture.

We've already covered Simon Walsh's "mancrush" Julio Arca on these pages so I've had to look a little further into the archives. So join me after the jump as we look back at Roker legend - Joe Bolton!

Joe was a product of the Sunderland youth system in the late 1960's, early 1970's and progressed through the ranks into the first team squad in the 1971/72 season. Bolton's debut came aged 17 in a home tie with Watford as the left-back assisted his team to a crushing 5-0 victory over their opponents in April of 1972.

The left back's first two season at Roker Park would prove to be frustrating as Joe struggled to nail down a first team spot to call his own, making sixteen appearances across the two terms. However the 1973/74 season would see Bolton really make his mark and establish himself as a no nonsense, tough tackling fullback, who would often
leave opposition wingers in a heap on the touchline. Naturally this style of play endeared Joe to the Roker Park faithful who took great pleasure. What is it with our love for a good hard tackle? (oo-er)

The tough-tackling fullback made a brief appearance in Sunderland's famous cup run of 1973, the third round tie at Notts County and the subsequent replay but would lose out to the more experienced Ron
Guthrie for the remainder of the march to Wembley.

Legend also has it that Bolton was involved in a late night incident at the training ground where he chased his disobedient Greyhounds in his car, tearing the pitch to shreds in the process. Stark contrast to what Sunderland footballers get up to in the dead of night these days...

Joe's rapport with the fans was confirmed in 1977 when he was awarded the inaugural SAFC Player of the Year award. The first name on a list that has since included such greats since as Bobby Kerr, Gary Bennett, Marco Gabbiadini, Kevin Phillips and, ahem, Danny Collins, before most recently, Phil Bardsley.

There was more to Joe's game than intimidating wingers however, including goals. Bolton managed to find the back of the net eleven times over the course of his spell with Sunderland and very nearly became the only SAFC full back to score a hat trick. Joe's chance at glory came in the last game of the 1977/78 season, a home tie with
Charlton Athletic. SAFC were three goals to the good when they were awarded a penalty and having already grabbed two of the three Bolton was handed the ball to complete his hat trick... Needless to say Joe blazed his shot over the bar and into the packed Fulwell End.

Despite his reputation Joe's disciplinary record was pretty damn good, possibly due to the more lenient attitude referees were allowed to enforce in that era, picking up just sixteen yellow cards and three red in three hundred and twenty five appearance for the Black Cats. One of Bolton's dismissals, and probably his most memorable, came in a game at Sunday's opponents Middlesbrough in February of 1981. In a hotly contested, both on and off the field, game Middlesbrough ran out 1-0 winners with the winning goal coming direct from a Graeme Hedley freekick, the awarding of which was more than a touch controversial. In the 89th minute Bolton collided with Boro's winger Terry Cochrane and was promptly sent off. When I say collided I actually mean head butted. Joe also gave the Ayresome Park a piece of his mind via the medium of hand gestures on his way off as well.

Joe's nine year stay on Wearside came to an end in July of 1981 when a deal was made with Middlesbrough for the full back's signature in exchange for £200,000. Bolton would make 59 appearances for ‘Boro during two seasons on Teeside, finding the net with a solitary goal and being involved in a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at Roker Park in
1982 before moving to Sheffield United in 1983. Bolton would see out his career with the Blades, hanging up his boots in 1986 following a serious knee injury.

If you have any memories of Joe we'd love to hear them, so drop us a message below!

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