The swinging sixties saw a vibrant young Sunderland team win promotion back to Division 1 in 1964, and that side consolidated themselves in the top flight until off-field problems eventually contributed to us running out of steam. Relegation brought an end to a very exciting period for the club.
Choosing a shortlist of five players to be player of the decade from this era was exceptionally difficult; it was a time full of real Sunderland legends. The players of the early part of that decade had style, energy and verve and the 1963/64 team is still regarded as one of the favourites, if not the favourite, of those old enough to have witnessed them.
Read our suggestions below before voting for who you think deserves that mantle - the poll closes at 10pm BST on Saturday 27th October.
Who was Sunderland’s greatest player of the 1960s?
This poll is closed
Len Ashurst, a left back from Liverpool, was a defender forged from steel.
He holds the appearance record for an outfield player for Sunderland - 458 matches - a record that is incredibly unlikely to be surpassed by any current or future player. Len also managed Sunderland for a season in 1984/85, and led us to the Milk Cup Final.
He had a fearsome reputation in an era when full backs were expected to be tough; he would stand up to anyone. Full England honours unfortunately didn’t follow Youth and U23 level caps, but Len Ashurst formed part of a great Sunderland defence that won promotion and survived in the top flight for the remainder of the decade.
Here’s a man that needs no introduction, as there has been so much said and written about this man that it is not possible to add anything new here - we all know the stories and the legend of Brian Howard Clough.
Clough often said that he played the best football of his career for Sunderland and it was where he was at his happiest. His goal scoring exploits speak for themselves and can’t be matched - 63 goals in 74 games is a truly insurmountable total, particularly for a Sunderland player.
But then, in the blink of an eye his credible playing career was cut short - a typical Sunderland tale of what might have been. He came off worse when going in to a challenge with Bury’s goalkeeper and he never fully recovered, instead heading into management when he became one of the legendary figures of the game.
Along with Len Shackleton, Charlie Hurley was the most talked about footballer from the past when I was a kid. A man mountain at the centre of defence, Hurley was a ball playing centre back as well and those that watched him regularly often remark that he was ahead of his time.
His ability to head the ball in attacking areas changed the way that corners were viewed - when we won a corner the adoring Mackem crowd would chant “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” as it was in expectation of a towering header hitting the back of the net.
Hurley made 401 appearances and scored 26 goals for Sunderland - he also gained 40 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
Nicknamed “The King”, a mark of how good Hurley was is perhaps evidenced in that he was the runner up to the one and only Bobby Moore as Football Writers player of the year in 1964. Hurley was voted our Player of the 20th Century and remains a hero to this day.
George Mulhall was one of many great players to come down from Scotland and distinguish himself at Sunderland. Signed from Aberdeen in 1962 for £23,000, Mulhall quickly became a regular on the wing for Sunderland and was a star of the 1964 promotion team.
George was a model of consistency, making a record 125 consecutive appearance for the club and in total scored 67 goals in 289 appearances.
Maybe it was just the way footballers were back then, but Mulhall was another tough man, unfazed by the treatment dished out by fullbacks of the time and would mix it with the best.
Mulhall was the type of footballer that anyone would want in their team - he had skill, strength, toughness and ability in abundance, and of course scored many goals. He was, without a doubt, one of the best to pull on the red and white stripes during the 1960s.
Colin Todd is probably best remembered outside of this area for what he did for Derby County in the 1970s, not what he did for Sunderland in the 1960s.
But, as a young man, Todd played 173 games in Division 1 for a struggling Sunderland team and is still incredibly highly thought of by those that had the pleasure to watch him.
I’ve spoken to many people that watch Todd play for the lads during the 60s, and the common consensus amongst them is that he held our team together.
In fact, many view Todd as simply the best footballer they have seen play for the club, full stop. He was a regular in the side at the age of 17 and played with skill and maturity for 4 years which belied his youth.
He hardly ever missed a game and was equally at home in midfield or central defence. Colin Todd was just a quality footballer and, for that reason, he can’t be ignored.