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When the animosities between Sunderland and Leeds started, as told by ‘King’ Charlie Hurley!

Mark Metcalf shares with us an excerpt from his authorised biography of Charlie Hurley; The Greatest Centre-Half the World has Ever Seen.

“King” Charlie Hurley
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The first away game in Division Two of the 1962/63 season was against another northern team who was on the hard march back to the top division, although like Sunderland, Leeds were not to reach the promised land until the following season.

The way they did it was uncompromising in the extreme and they made many enemies. Sunderland was one and it was at this game that the hostilities started. They have never really gone away.

The flash point was an horrendous thigh-high tackle by Bobby Collins which resulted in Willie McPheat being carried off with a broken leg. Never recovering properly, the Scotsman did not play again for Sunderland. He moved back to Scotland to join Airdrie.

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The return match with Leeds came three days before Christmas and although Brian Clough failed to score – surprising because he’d notched 24 from just 23 games – Charlie Hurley did. It was the winning goal in a 2-1 victory – “[he] had time to bring the ball under control before hammering it left-footed wide of Gary Sprake.”

Again according to Argus;

Hurley had caused trouble with his presence in the box and Leeds had delegated two men to watch him including Jack Charlton but he scored with his feet from a corner after Ambrose challenged for the ball.

The goal was one of Hurley’s sweetest of his career. The Sunderland team were still bitter about the challenge on McPheat at Elland Road. The man responsible, Bobby Collins, had been in fine form for Leeds and had played in the Yorkshire side’s previous game, a 3-1 victory at home to Stoke. But he was not playing that day.

‘King’ Charlie Hurley
Getty Images

He had appeared on the pitch before the game but according to the Yorkshire Post report on the Monday following the game; "Collins, the inside-left, missed the match because of a strained calf muscle.” It suggested that had he played the away side might have pulled off “a notable victory in a match where Sunderland were inspired by the ‘Roker Roar’ from a crowd of 40,282.” The game was the only one in the league Collins missed for Leeds in the 1962–63 season.

It appears he might have missed a few more had he played that day and you have to wonder if he was left out for reasons other than injury.

Hurley remembers the day, and the man, well:

Bobby Collins – he broke Willie McPheat’s leg with a very bad tackle and if there was one player I was going to get on a football pitch it was him. I said to Len Ashurst and Jimmy McNab that Willie McPheat’s career could be finished and sadly I was right, his thighbone was broken. I said to them ‘I am a hard player but today I am going to be a dirty player’.

Before the match all the Leeds players were on the pitch including Collins. I said to him ‘Bobby, you’d better be careful because there are twenty-two legs out here ready to kick you all over the place.’ When they came back out for the match he wasn’t picked. I think it would have been a tough time for Bobby if he’d played that day. Leeds and Don Revie, they had a fine side, but they could never really dominate us.

Collins, voted Footballer of the Year in 1965, continued to captain Leeds until 1966, when ironically he suffered a broken thighbone in a Fairs Cup tie against Torino.

Mark’s hardback book on Charlie Hurley sold out sometime back, softback copies are on sale at Waterstones in Sunderland and at the Back-page in the Metro Centre and in Newcastle City Centre.

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