After signing for Alan Brown’s Second Division side in July 1961, It took Cloughie a little time to get going before hammering home the goals.
His prolific account began with the home fixture against Bury on 27 September - the eleventh game of the season - when the number 9 scored his first Sunderland hat-trick. First on 28 minutes he collected a long George Herd centre before a subtle feint sent both Bob Stokoe, the former Newcastle centre half, and Frank Adams the wrong way and Clough was actually back on his heels as he nodded the ball home inside the far post with nearly 40,000 inside Roker to witness it.
Seven minutes later Clough beat Stokoe on the turn to go in and hit a powerful cross shot wide of Adams. Three minutes from the end of the game a great run by wing-man Jack Overfield ended with a centre that Clough deflected to the right wing with his head. Hooper’s return pass came in low and Clough, holding the ball against two powerful tackles, went in to complete his hat trick with a great shot. It was reward for a stupendous performance.
And within ten days he’d done it again, as Walsall were swept away, beaten 5-2 at Roker Park in the second round of the League Cup. First he was on the end of a Charlie Hurley header, and then scored with a low drive before a George Herd pass was knocked into the net from just four yards for his third.
Clough had also scored the only goal in the first round replay against Division One side Bolton Wanderers, when after twice being denied by Wheatley Hill born Eddie Hopkinson, he was the recipient of a lucky break. Dashing down the wing, Harry Hooper lashed the ball across the goalmouth where it hit his colleague on the lower leg and bounced past the England keeper.
He was also fortunate with one of his scoring efforts in the 2-1 win at home to Leyton Orient, when fastening on to a long ball from full-back Len Ashurst he hit a shot that Frank George initially saved before the keeper got his legs in a tangle and sent the ball into the net to make it 1-1. In truth it was probably the least the striker deserved, because on a day when the Sunderland side played badly and should really have lost by a couple of goals he was the one bright performer as he constantly searched for the ball in and around the penalty box.
He earned his reward with a fine match-winning effort, when after Herd’s run into the box had been blocked, Clough fastened on to the rebound, glanced up and picked his spot between keeper and post. Despite the result, Orient, under manager Johnny Carey, the former Manchester United and Ireland full-back, had shown they were a force to be reckoned with.
The following weekend, away to Preston North End, Sunderland again collected two points when Hurley, with two men trying to block his run, powered home a 74th minute corner. The match was a real rough encounter in which Ashurst was outstanding.
By the end of October, Clough had scored another hat-trick, Plymouth would make the long journey home from Roker Park after being beaten 5-0. After snapping up an inch-perfect Stan Anderson pass on 22 minutes he had his second and third laid on a plate after some fine Hooper and Herd moves down the Sunderland right carved open the Pilgrims’ defence.
Just as good as his scoring touch was Clough’s ability to pick up the loose ball and get it out quickly and accurately to the Sunderland wingers for them to attack the opposition full-backs. It was a masterful all-round display. Against Orient the Roker Park crowd had been forced to rally their side with some resounding cheers, but against Plymouth no such action was needed as the 30,202 watched on, hardly able to take their eyes off the action. The victory put Sunderland just a point behind second placed Southampton with a game in hand.
Away to Southampton Sunderland lost for the first time in 13 League and Cup games. The 2-0 result was a harsh scoreline, especially for Clough who shot narrowly wide from a Ambrose Fogarty pass, had his second effort cleared off the line by Tommy Traynor and then hit the woodwork with the keeper beaten. A point at home to Luton Town then saw Clough nudge home Ashurst’s cross in a 2-2 draw.
The eagerly anticipated first local derby match of the season took place on 2 December 1961. It proved an exhilarating occasion, with three pitch invasions at St James’s Park adding to the tension. Len White rushed Newcastle into a 17th minute lead, but when Clough equalised in the 66th minute Sunderland fans danced on the pitch. Two minutes later Johnny McGuigan shot Newcastle back into the lead provoking another invasion, this time from home fans.
When Clough then struck, from a Hooper cross, the equaliser in the 85th minute the police were forced to prevent the Sunderland players from being mobbed by the ecstatic away support. In the final minute a Hooper drive flashed inches past Welsh international keeper Dave Hollins’s right hand post. At the end the crowd of 53,991 applauded both teams off as the match ended 2-2.
Swansea Town’s journey to Roker Park wasn’t that much less than Plymouth’s and in a repeat performance Sunderland again won by five goals, this time 7-2, with Clough scoring a hat-trick. Equalling him was Fogarty, signed from Glentoran in October 1957 and later to become Hartlepools United’s (as Pools were known back then) only capped international when he represented the Republic of Ireland against Spain in 1964.
In typical opportunist fashion, Clough scored all his goals from no more than six yards out, profiting by snapping up the rebounds from some fine saves - to keep out a series of Hurley headers from corners - by Johnny King. The Swans keeper was to get his revenge later in the season holding Sunderland to a 1-1 draw on the final day of the season when the Rokerites needed to win to earn promotion.
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