He lived out many of our dreams, did David Corner. A Sunderland lad, born and raised within spitting distance of Roker Park, he made his debut against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest side in the opening scenes of the 1984-85 season, having turned 18 only a couple of months earlier.
He made a total of five starts that season. The fourth came in an impressive 3-1 away win at Norwich; the fifth a week later against the same opposition at Wembley.
If you’re a Sunderland supporter, you know what happened.
That’s because, as a Sunderland supporter, you’re brought up knowing certain things.
Brian Clough played for the lads.
Charlie Hurley is the greatest centre half the world has ever seen.
Bobby Kerr lifted the FA Cup.
Macs and trilbies are fashionable.
Monty, Monty, Jimmy Monty was the hero of 1973.
And David Corner made the mistake at Wembley that cost us the Milk Cup in 1985.
I was a year or two too young to fully appreciate that Final. My six-year-old self remembers it being on the TV at home, but I recall little of the detail.
It’s all been brought back to life by friend of Roker Report, BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown. Jeff’s stage show, Cornered, toured the north east to great reviews, and now the audio book, narrated by Jeff himself, is out.
It’s essential listening for any SAFC supporter – on many, many levels.
Cornered – the audiobook
The audiobook, narrated by Jeff and featuring a Q&A with David towards the end, was launched last week with a session at the Beacon of Light to coincide with the UK Anti Bullying Week. And with good reason.
We all know the story, don’t we?
During the Milk Cup Final, just after half time, Corner tried to shepherd the ball out. He didn’t. Norwich’s John Deehan, ‘Dixie’, as Jeff recalls, nicks the ball away, and sets up Asa Hartford for the only goal of the game.
Well, Hartford, via a deflection from Gordon Chisholm – Turner would have saved it without Chis’s intervention.
Allegedly the ref, Neil Midgeley, admitted subsequently that he suspected the goal was offside, but thought the game needed it...
Minutes later, at the other end Clive Walker missed a penalty and 15 minutes later, Corner, still only 18, was dragged off to be replaced by Howard Gayle.
The physical and verbal abuse started as soon as Corner got off the bus on the return to Sunderland. And it continued for years. Broken bones, metal plates and barrage of abuse have been directed at him. Why? Because, as an 18 year old he made a mistake.
And yes, it was a mistake. But it wasn’t the only one.
It seems rather illogical that an 18-year-old kid, who – Cornered tells us – had been keeping Tony Adams out of the England youth teams, should be made the scapegoat for a 1-0 defeat in which a teammate scored an own goal, which was offside but the ref gave to liven up proceedings, and another teammate missed a penalty.
The media inflamed the situation – the match report on Monday in The Journal described Corner’s second half performance as ‘a public execution’, ‘fatally’ delaying playing the ball. A ‘public burial’ of our European chances followed, and ‘cruel torture’ was experienced.
That sort of language sticks in people’s heads.
Food for thought
As football fans, we often go to the game as a bit of an escape. We care passionately about the club, the result and the players.
In some respects it’s amusing to hear someone repeatedly shout ‘Lemonmanyershite’ and wonder if we’ve signed a new Russian winger. And sometimes players do deserve some stick.
But it can go too far – anything that goes on away from the field of play certainly needs second thought.
It continues today though. We saw a video of Tom Flanagan copping abuse after an away game last season. And he hadn’t even made a mistake!
I’m not for one second saying it’s a Sunderland thing, it’s a societal issue. It’s evident in face-to-face, it’s evident – very evident – online. And it’s all of our responsibilities to help stop it, and recognise the impact our words and actions might have on someone else.
Cornered – a perfect present
Anyway, I listened to Cornered the other day while mowing the lawn, and it’s a cracker.
There’s a load of anecdotes about football, life and Sunderland in the mid-late 80s. There’s some great stories from David’s post-playing career in the force. And it certainly makes you think. Think about yourself. Think that, really, David Corner’s had the rough end of the stick these past 35 years.
Maybe it’s time to shake David Corner’s hand (well, elbow bump) buy him a pint, and say, “Unlucky, mate.”
Anyway, if you haven’t listened to it, do so. You can download it from iTunes, and CDs will be available from the Club Shop and the Beacon Of Light before too long. It’ll make a great stocking filler, and all proceeds from the audiobook go to the Foundation of Light.
You can purchase the audiobook from iTunes here.