When you think of Sunderland legends, there are certain names that just roll off the tongue. Horatio Stratton Carter and Bobby Gurney. Charlie Hurley, Jimmy Montgomery. Quinny. And, of course, Bobby Kerr.
And, today, our FA Cup winning skipper – fittingly – turns 73.
Born on this day in 1947, in the west Dunbartonshire town of Alexandria, Bobby joined Sunderland as an apprentice in 1964, and played in the team that reached the FA Youth Cup final in 1966.
Later that year, a few weeks after his 19th birthday, he made his debut.
And, if ever a debut foreshadowed what was to come, this was it.
New year’s eve, 1966, Sunderland faced Manchester City at Roker Park. A late injury to George Herd gave Kerr his debut chance and, in the 89th minute he netted the only goal of the game.
A lofted ball from Colin Todd was knocked down to Kerr’s feet by George Mulhall.
Kerr went past City centre half Heslop, feinted to send the keeper the wrong way, and slotted the ball into the other corner.
“The new Bobby-dazzler” read the headlines that followed.
And it certainly wasn’t a flash in the pan – he played 11 games over the following couple of months, scoring seven goals, including a brace in a 3-0 win at home to Newcastle in front of over 50,000. A broken leg in a clash with Norman Hunter during a bad-tempered FA Cup tie at home to Leeds, however, cut his season short – ruling him out for the best part of 18 months.
Manager Ian McColl said:
His own guts landed him in trouble, The accident was no fault of Hunter’s.
Bobby is as game as they come. He knew his leg was broker straight away and had the sense to warn the trainer not to give it a massage.
Bobby of course, came back and did so in style, famously captaining the team to an FA Cup win and promotion a couple of seasons later.
By the time he left the club in 1979, he’d made 433 appearances for Sunderland, scoring 69 goals and captaining the club on many occasions.
Another memorable late strike came at Carrow Road in 1977. Appearing off the bench, Kerr netted the equaliser as the team came from two down to grab a vital point.
After leaving Sunderland, he joined up with the manager with whom he’s indelibly linked – Bob Stokoe – before returning to the north east with Hartlepool, and he’s remained in the region ever since.
Today, he’s still a regular at the Stadium of Light (present times excepted, of course), and when we’re allowed to go to the match again, you’re likely to bump into him at the brilliant Fans Museum. You don’t really need any additional incentive to go there, but I’ve just given you one.
Bobby Kerr is one of those special people that has a strong and lasting affinity with the football club but, more importantly, the people.
He’s part of the fabric of the club, the heart, the soul.
That special relationship between Bobby and the fans – many of whom never saw him play – is as strong as ever. And the feeling’s mutual.
Speaking to Roker Rapport podcast last year, he said.
I couldn’t believe the crowd that went [to the Checkatrade Final]. We looked over at where the crowd were sitting. We’d got beat, and they were so proud of them, the fans. They were signing, dancing, and they’d got beat. In London they were magnificent. You look at the fans. You’re so proud of them. I am!
Happy birthday, Bobby. Everyone here at Roker Report wishes you the very best of days, and many, many more to come.