A - Academy of Light
Still a category one Academy, the AOL has produced the likes of Champions League winner Jordan Henderson and World Cup semi-finalist Jordan Pickford. The AOL is where they were educated, nurtured and turned into the stars that they are.
The production line didn’t stop there either, with the likes of John Egan and Conor Hourinane achieving promotion to the Premier League recently, and former Academy graduate Martyn Waghorn narrowly missing out on promotion for Wembley alongside a host of other who have made careers for themselves in football.
B - Blue House Field
Our very first ground was based in Hendon, known as Blue House Field after being founded by schoolteacher James Allan.
Blue House was on the site of what is now known as Commercial Road, whilst the Lads wore kits consisting of Blue shirts and knickerbockers with white stripes, as well as a tasselled cap.
C is for Charlie Hurley
If the question is ‘who’s the greatest centre-half the world has ever seen?’ then then answer is Charlie Hurley.
Our player of the century and a man simply known as ‘The King’ will forever be known as the greatest player to pull on the red and white stripes and, for those who seen him, will be forever etched in their memory.
D is for Derby Day
Whether we like to admit it or not, both sides of the divide absolutely love a good derby day, and the Wear-Tyne derby showcases all that is brilliant about north east football.
Whilst many attest to the likes of Manchester United v Liverpool or Spurs v Arsenal as the biggest games in England, no rivalry in this country matches the intensity of this one and, as much as we hate them, I’m pleased they are around - it’s just too much fun beating them.
E is for Eighteen Seventy Nine
Ah, our formation date. October 1879 to be exact. What a day.
F is for FTM
Let’s not deny it, we all feel that way about them, don’t we? And no, I’m not having any of this ‘I support all the North East clubs’ - stop it. We hate them, they hate us and it’s just fine that way.
G is for Gordon Armstrong’s diving header
Talk about memorable moments at good old Roker Park and you’d be hard pushed to look beyond Golden Gordon’s last minute diving header in the FA Cup quarter final replay against Chelsea.
A wonderful corner, whipped in by Brian Atkinson allowed massive lads fan Armstrong to leap like a salmon, sending a bullet header flying beyond Dave Beasant and into the back of the Chelsea net.
Pandemonium ensued and the goal was cemented as as one of Roker’s greatest moments of all time.
H is for Horatio Carter
The first, and still the best, local hero. ‘Raich’ is immortalized in SAFC history and will forever be part of Wearside folklore.
Born in Hendon, the inside forward was the star and skipper of both our 1936 league title winners and our 1937 FA Cup triumph and is, quite rightly, part of the DNA of this football club, despite leaving Sunderland eighty years ago.
I is for Irresponsible recruitment policies
Talking of things being part of our DNA - our failures in recruitment are right up there.
Lee Congerton’s purchase of Jack Rodwell and Roberto De Fanti’s scattergun approach to signing any European player on a Bosman may be fresh in the memory, but let’s not forget the big money errors of the late 00’s such as Tore Andre Flo, or the mid-90’s splurge on Brett Angell.
Unfortunately for us, our recruitment has pretty much always been dire.
J is for James Allan
Without our founder, this glorious - and often despairing - giant of a football club that we all adore, agonise over and ultimately fall in love with every weekend would simply not exist.
Sometimes we wish you didn’t exist Sunderland AFC, especially when the disappointments come thick and fast, but without you, we wouldn’t be the people we are - and for that James, we thank you very, very much.
K is for Kevin Phillips
SuperKev, our top post war goalscorer and the poster boy for what success at the Stadium of Light can look like.
The little goal-poacher ignited the imagination of the region by becoming the best striker of a generation in his six seasons on Wearside, and his name is still sung to this day.
L is for Len Shackleton
Ask any fan over a certain age who the best player they’ve seen play is and the likely reply will either be Charle Hurley, or “the clown prince of soccer, Len Shackleton, sunshine”.
Widely regarded as one of football’s greatest ever entertainers, ‘Shack’ was not only a supremely talented footballer, but coined one of the greatest SAFC related quotes of all time when he said he “wasn’t biased against Newcastle, he didn’t care who beat them”.
M is for Murray
Sir Bob Murray had his critics - and rightly so - but he certainly gave us three gifts that have defined, and continue to define, how Sunderland AFC are viewed.
Our home, the outstanding Stadium of Light and the similarly exceptional Academy of Light are Murray’s legacy and changed not only the outlook of our club but the city as a whole.
We also must remember his appointment of Peter Reid in 1995, which was the springboard to the most enjoyable period in Sunderland’s recent history and a benchmark for how our future success should look.