It would appear I’ve backed myself into a corner unintentionally the last few weeks with my Cult Hero choices. As you know by now, in the build up to each game we take a look at a player that has graced both Sunderland and their upcoming opponent. Not a problem you would think. A quick reminisce and the names that first spring to mind would be Gavin McCann and Thomas Sorensen. Easy, job done. However both have recently featured with their respective clubs Bolton and Stoke in the last few weeks.
Then of course there is Dariusz Kubicki. However if I continue my infatuation with our former Right Back I fear the Pole may file for some kind of restraining order. I can’t help the way I feel Dariusz, don’t hold it against me! I miss you.
Whats that I hear you cry? I’ve forgotten someone? Yes, I may have embraced controversy in the past with Cult Heroes by including the likes of Lee Clark but even I’m not touching Darren Bent, not yet anyway!
So, we’ve had to dust of the history books and turn back the clock a few years to bring a true great in the game, a classic old fashioned centre forward. The late, great Trevor Ford.Ford was born in Swansea in 1929 and his love of football was encouraged from an early age by his father, receiving a new ball and pair of boots each birthday. His father also forced Ford to improve his weaker left foot by soaking a ball in water until it weighed a tonne and forcing his young son to play with only a plimsoll for protection on his right foot. Apparently he only made the mistake of kicking that ball with his favoured foot once.
Trevor started his footballing career with his home side, originally playing as a full back. However it did not take long for Swansea to realise his true potential and during the 1945/46 season Trevor established himself as a skilful forward. So adept at his new role in fact that come the end of the season he had scored 41 of the Welsh side’s 90 goals that term.
Trevor’s time with his first club would quickly come to an end following a disagreement with regards to the club’s training methods ahead of an FA Cup tie. Wherever Trevor went controversy was not far behind him.
Sunderland’s opponents this weekend, Aston Villa, paid £9,500 for the powerful centre-forward following his departure from Wales. Ford would go on to be the leading scorer for the midlands club in all three of his seasons with the side. Trevor had become the archetypal British centre-forward and relished the competitive nature of what he deemed to be "A man’s game" and would never shy away from a robust challenge with an opposition centre-half or goalkeeper.
In October of 1950 Sunderland, the "Bank of England club", paid a then record fee of £30,000 for Ford’s signature. To say Trevor made a good start to his Sunderland career would be somewhat of an understatement… In his home debut against Sheffield Wednesday he managed, in no particular order to:
- Score a hat-trick.
- Break a Sheffield Wednesday defender’s jaw.
- Shoulder-charge their goalkeeper into the back of the net.
Break a goalpost.
Now that’s how to make an impression!
As previously alluded to, storm clouds seemed to follow this talented forward wherever he went and his stay with Sunderland was to be no different. It is no great secret that Ford did not get along with a certain Sunderland legend Len Shackleton. The relationship between the pair became so estranged that it was impossible to play the duo in the same side. It is said that Shackleton would deliberately add intentional spin to the ball whenever he had to play it to Ford so that when it reached its intended target he was left with an almost impossible task of controlling the football neatly. Despite the tumultuous rapport with Shackleton, Ford stayed with Sunderland until the end of the 1953/54 season upon which he returned back to his native Wales and Cardiff City.
It would not be the last that SAFC would hear of Ford however as in 1957 he was suspended by the FA following investigations which arose from the release of his autobrography showed that the forward had accepted illegal payments whilst at Roker Park. This was during an era in which strict maximum wage rules were in place. Sunderland did not get away lightly either and incurred heavy financial penalties. Never one to back down from any kind of challenge Ford in turn sued the club, came out of retirement and found a new club, abroad, in PSV Eindhoven because of his ban from English football.
Whilst Ford’s time with Sunderland will no doubt be remembered for his fall out with legendary Len Shackleton it would be unfair to overlook his contribution of 67 goals in 108 league games and his 100% commitment to the side. This is a man after all that scored the winning goal in a cup replay with a broken ankle. It truly was a different game back then.
Any of our fantastic fans have memories long enough to remember Ford? Maybe your Father or Grandfather regaled you with tales of his infront of the fireplace back in the day? If so we'd love to hear from you in the comments box below!