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"The derby is such a massive game for the area - you daren't lose!" Roker Report meets... Chris Turner! (Part one)

Chris Turner made 224 appearances between the sticks for Sunderland and was much loved by the Mackem supporters. Today, we bring you the first part of our chat with the former Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday stopper where he talks about promotion, beating the mags and just how bloody brilliant Roker Park was.

RR: Here's a nice and easy one to start us off - what would be your Sunderland XI of players from your time at the club?

CT: I'll go with me in goal, Barry Venison, Shaun Elliott, Jeff Clarke, Joe Bolton, Nick Pickering, Kevin Arnott, Mick Buckley... I suppose I could fit Stan Cummins on the right, even though he was more central. Up front I'll go for John Hawley and Gary Rowell.

RR: Born and bred in Sheffield, you had a successful start to your career at Sheffield Wednesday before then-Sunderland manager Ken Knighton brought you to the club in 1979. What did you know about the area at the time, and what convinced you to make the move?

CT: Well, my contract had expired. I knew Ken Knighton and Peter Eustace - who were both ex-Sheffield Wednesday - but I also had the option of signing for Graham Taylor at Watford. I just felt that, knowing them two, it was a good move. I had never been to Sunderland as a city before the move and had never been to Roker Park in my life!

Chris Turner of Sunderland
Sporting-Heroes.net

RR: You made your debut against Preston North End in front of a home crowd of just under twenty-five thousand people. What were your first impressions of the Roker Roar, and the crowd in general?

CT: I actually remember the League Cup game against Manchester City a little better, which was in the same week. Like I've said, I had never been to Roker Park before I moved to the club. When I had played in the reserves at Wednesday and came up we played at Washington.

But that City game... it was a night game, it was pouring down. Roker Park had such a brilliant atmosphere, especially in night games. It was a great, traditional ground. The game itself was a big, big test. Malcolm Allison was their manager at the time, and they had Mick Robinson up front. It was a good team performance, I played well too, so it was a good starter for me.

The atmosphere of the place though... unbelievable, just unbelievable.

RR: In your first season at the club we played Newcastle four times. You played in both the league games at St. James and Roker Park. What were your first impressions of the Wear-Tyne derby?

CT: I never actually played in the Sheffield derbies, as they were both in different divisions. So it was all new to me - especially this derby game.

Sunderland-Newcastle, though... boy, what an atmosphere it was at St. James. It was really disappointing to lose, but then the game at Roker Park where Stan Cummins scored, where we had the majority of fans, was unbelievable too. Both games were just amazing to be part of.

The derby is such a massive game for the area - you daren't lose!

RR: You won promotion in your first season at the club after we had a fantastic late run. FA Cup winners West Ham were the visitors to Wearside when we needed only a point to gain promotion. We won 2-0 and Stan Cummins scored an absolute cracker. Did you expect to gain that immediate success at the club?

CT: That’s right, they had just played in the Cup Final. We needed a draw. What a great night that was. The next morning we flew off to Florida for two weeks.

That season was just great for me, though - I got in the side as a twenty-one year old and then kept my place whilst we were promoted. We had a good hard working team and were organised. We were like a snow ball - growing week on week, getting better and better.

We had a fantastic Easter. We played Wrexham and Shrewsbury and came out with two wins. We had beat Newcastle just before that too. It’s way back for me this kind of stuff, but you still remember certain games like that Shrewsbury game - we got battered, but came out of Gay Meadow and won 1-0. It was a fantastic season, all in all.

RR: We managed to maintain our top tier status for a few seasons after that promotion. We had a bunch of young lads mixed in with experienced pros. Players like Barry Venison and Ally McCoist went on to have terrific careers, sadly away from the club. Could you see the talent in players like McCoist, even at that age?

CT: We had a lot of good young lads at the club then. Nick Pickering, Rob Hindmarch, Gordon Chisholm are a few others that I could name. You also had Barry Venison an Nick Pickering who played for the England Under-21s and also went on to have great careers, played at a high level and for the England senior side.

Ally McCoist came down from St. Johnstone when he was just 18 - nobody knew him in England then. You could tell he had something though as he was such a confident boy. He knew where the net was. I remember we played Southampton at Roker, he beat Peter Shilton from about 30-yards out. He stayed for a few years, then got the chance to move to Rangers - who were his club - and he went there and obviously had an absolutely amazing career.


Join us for part two tomorrow as Chris takes us through the 1985 cup final run, his move from Sunderland to Manchester United and playing for Alex Ferguson, Jordan Pickford and why he didn't get the CEO job ahead of Martin Bain in the summer!