Gav says... Raich Carter!
I think it’s probably got to be Raich Carter.
In his pomp, Carter captained his boyhood team to not only a league title - our last ever as a top flight club, back in 1936 - but also the FA Cup just a year later. To have watched that team achieve that success with a mackem lad leading them out must have been some privilege.
That aside, Carter was known as a fantastic inside forward, and his goalscoring record of 128 goals in 278 games is rivalled by very few other players in the history of this club.
Carter also played for England on 13 occasions, scoring 7 goals, and would have gone on to do so much more both for Sunderland and his country had the game not been disrupted by the breakout of the second world war.
The great Stanley Matthews - another fine player of the time who is still regarded today as one of the greatest English footballers of all time - said of Carter:
I felt [he] was the ideal partner for me... Carter was a supreme entertainer who dodged, dribbled, twisted and turned, sending bewildered left-halves madly along false trails. Inside the penalty box with the ball at his feet and two or three defenders snapping at his ankles, he’d find the space to get a shot in at goal... Bewilderingly clever, constructive, lethal in front of goal, yet unselfish. Time and again he’d play the ball out wide to me and with such service I was in my element.
Praise indeed. I only wish I’d have been so lucky to have watched him strut his stuff as part of a packed crowd at Roker Park.
Mark Wood says... Len Shackleton!
My first choice would probably have been Raich Carter, but I wrote the article for the anniversary of his death at the weekend and I have said all I can say on him. Therefore, the second choice that I would nominate would be Len Shackleton - who is still recognised as one of Sunderland’s greatest players, 63 years after he last kicked a ball for us.
If Raich Carter is acknowledged to have been our greatest player then Shackleton is likely to have been our most skillful. Known as ‘the Clown Prince of Soccer‘, he was a true entertainer who loved to play for the crowd.
He could hit a forward pass with that much backspin it would return into his path, and some teammates allege that he would play such a ball to make them look inadequate when they failed to reach it.
Reading from the reports of the time, it’s clear that with his incredible close ball control, Len could make anyone look like a chump, but he saved the worse for the opposition. One time he dribbled into the opposition area in the last 5 minutes of a game and pretended to comb his hair to waste time, other times he sat on the ball to mock the opposing defender.
Like Raich Carter, he played in a (not quite as great) Sunderland team, but they came very close to becoming the equals of the trophy collecting sides before them. One point from winning the title in 1950 (they missed two penalties in a 2-1 defeat that year) and four points from the top in 1955, they also reached two FA Cup semi-finals.
Len - who was signed from Newcastle - also scored the small matter of 97 goals for Sunderland, and it has to be mentioned that he scored six goals on his Newcastle debut, including a fifteen-second hattrick.
Michael Dunne says... ‘King’ Charlie Hurley!
Charlie Hurley for me. The Irish defender dubbed “The King” is someone who fascinates me to this very day. It is obviously very difficult to find any clips of him playing but from whoever I spoke to about him, they all lavish praise on the man. From pictures, he looks imposing in stature and physically. I can only imagine what he was like to come up against.
Charlie was clearly loved by Sunderland fans, and he clearly loved the club too. He amassed over four hundred games for the club was also named player of the century by the club in 1979. This is some feat considering the many legends that would have played in the FA Cup final team in ‘73. It speaks volumes about the man he was.
Hurley is the reason my father supports Sunderland, and in turn led to the reason I support them now. It would have been amazing to witness this Rolls Royce defender in action. For him to be loved by so many to this day, he must have been special.
Andrew (SAFCMerch) says... Jimmy Montgomery!
Having seen all the footage and talked to people that were there in 1973, it seems like there were a few lads from that team I think I’d have loved to watch in person.
The big one is Jimmy Montgomery; I’ve always enjoyed watching goalkeepers anyway and from what I know his double save in the final wasn’t even anything out of the ordinary by his standards.
A lot of his games weren’t filmed either so it would have been brilliant to see some of his other stops for myself. A local lad and our record appearance maker too, had I seen him live I dare say Jimmy Montgomery would be my favourite Sunderland player ever.
Kelvin Beattie says... David Halliday!
Shack, Charlie Buchan and Raich Carter were the first players that jumped into my head, closely followed by Dave Halliday, something of a forgotten Sunderland hero.
The Scottish forward’s first season with us was in 1925/26, and he got off to a cracking start scoring 10 goals in his first 4 games - and by the end of the season, he would have scored a club record of 42 goals.
This was even more remarkable given that he had effectively been bought in to replace the goals of Charlie Buchan, who had departed to Arsenal at the end of previous season in a unique transfer of £2000 and a £100 per goal, which netted Sunderland a further £2100.
Halliday played in a team that loved to attack, scoring 106 goals that season, abd they lost only two games and drew one at Roker that season. Unfortunately, having led the table in the autumn, their form tailed off toward the end of the season and they finished 3rd.
Season 1926/27 saw us finish 3rd again, with Halliday top scorer again with 37 goals and Sunderland scoring a total of 100 goals and the league’s top scorers.
Halliday’s third season in 1927/28 was not as successful for the club, with a disappointing 15th-place finish. He once again headed the scoring charts with 39 for the season.
Halliday’s last full season 28/29 saw him break his own scoring record, netting 43 goals for the season. Sunderland’s form tailed off again having been in 2nd place for much of the season, and they finished 4th.
Halliday was sold to Arsenal a few weeks into the 29/30 season having already scored 6 goals. His total of 162 goals in 175 appearances would have been fantastic to witness, but in doing so you would also have seen Bobby “boy” Gurney and “the mighty atom” Patsy Gallacher, two inside forwards with creativity and goal scorers in their own right, as well as the delightfully named Alwyne “Pompa” Wilks, a very creative winger.
England internationals Bob Kelly and Warney Cresswell, whose brother Frank also played in the same team in 26/27, were also on show. Halliday stole the headlines, but he had some creative players behind him. I wish I had been there to witness some of that!