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PLAYERS OF THE DECADES: Sunderland’s greatest player of the 1950s - VOTE NOW!

We start today by looking back at the best Sunderland players of the 1950s - a decade which saw our club go from some extraordinary highs to some unbelievable lows - but who was the greatest of them all?

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We have had turbulent decades... and then we’ve had very turbulent decades. The 1950’s started with Sunderland as one of the giants of the game - it saw us break the British transfer record and we became known as the Bank of England team - but we got caught out for financial irregularities, we’re eventually relegated for the first time in our history and by the end the decade were languishing in the bottom half of the second division.

The 1950’s was a certainly a very Sunderland decade.

We had some great players during that time, though - so who was the player of the 1950s?

Read our suggestions below before voting for who you think deserves that mantle - the poll closes at 3pm BST on Wednesday 24th October.


Who was Sunderland’s greatest player of the 1950s?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Billy Elliott
    (6 votes)
  • 15%
    Stan Anderson
    (76 votes)
  • 77%
    Len Shackleton
    (376 votes)
  • 2%
    Trevor Ford
    (14 votes)
  • 2%
    Willie Watson
    (11 votes)
483 votes total Vote Now

Billy Elliott

Billy Elliott was a famous name long before the film about a young boy from County Durham was released. However, to my generation this Billy Elliott was best known as the caretaker manager who oversaw Gary Rowell smash a hattrick past the mags at St James Park on the day of the battle of Bath Lane.

Billy Elliott, the footballer, was a fixture at left wing in the Bank of England Sunderland team of the fifties. He was capped by England and was as tough as old boots - his brylcreamed centre-parting and a broken nose were the trademark of a tough man from a tough time, and he’s undoubtedly a Sunderland legend.

Stan Anderson

Stan - a man of Horden, County Durham - was Sunderland through and through.

He did however play with distinction for each of the three big North East clubs, but it was at Roker Park where he really cemented his name into folklore. The 400 games which he racked up for the lads in red and white between 1952 and 1963 with a couple of England caps thrown in make Stan a true Sunderland great.

He was a wing half - ask your dad or granddad what that is - but, regardless of his position, he was a fantastic captain and a leader.

Skillful and creative, with attack always in mind, he said that the idea of signing for Newcastle was “ridiculous” but was given no choice and left Roker to gain respect up the road as well. As one of the highest appearance makers in our club’s history, Anderson has to be a contender.

Len Shackleton

This list could simply not exclude the Clown Prince of Football, Len Shackleton - otherwise simply known by his friends and fans as Shack.

I am sure that I am not alone in that I was brought up on stories told by my grandfather of Shack checking his watch as he waited for defenders to get near, sitting on the ball, of playing a one two with the corner flag, putting spin on the ball to confuse opponents and teammates alike, and many others - he was simply a maverick footballer, one who was undoubtedly ahead of his time.

Shackleton left Newcastle United to join Sunderland in 1948 for a then British record transfer fee - £20,050 - and became one of the most adored and loved players ever to pull on a red and white shirt.

He gained all of his England senior international caps whilst he was a Sunderland player, and retired from professional football in 1957 after making 348 appearances for the lads, scoring 100 goals.

I’ve no bias against Newcastle – I don’t care who beats them!

Trevor Ford

Unlike Stan, Billy or Len, the name Trevor isn’t a name normally associated with the 1950s - it is much more of a 1970s vintage. But Trevor Ford was a great centre forward and, in true 1950’s aggressive style, his most notable characteristics were the ones which gave the defenders he went up against a difficult time - his toughness and grit.

Ford was signed for a then-British record fee of £30,000 from Aston Villa in 1950 and went on to score 70 goals in 117 appearances for the Lads in his three years on Wearside - and it’s said that his shot was so hard he once even broke a goalpost!

Ford was a controversial character, mainly through clashing with his team mates who were star players of their time, and he left abruptly after multiple issues meant he felt his role as a player at the club had become untenable.

Despite this, his unbelievable scoring record at the top level at a time when Sunderland were one of the biggest clubs in the country means Ford simply has to be included, and we can only look back now and wonder how many more he could have stuck away had he remained longer than just the three years he spent on Wearside.

Willie Watson

Willie Watson - who appeared 223 times for Sunderland - played football and Test match cricket for England, and holds the distinction of being the first Sunderland player to ever be selected as part of a World Cup squad, traveling with Walter Winterbottom’s side as they bombed out of the tournament at the group stages.

That doesn’t deride from Watson’s contributions at Sunderland, however, and he was a top-class wing half who played in the best post-war side that this club had.

Being considered international-standard in one sport is a feat in itself, but to represent your country in another sport entirely is just something else - they don’t make them like Willie any more, and he was undoubtedly a true all-round sporting great.

Willie Watson was an England international in two sports
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