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King George VI and Queen Elizabeth presenting the cup to Raich Carter, the Sunderland captain after his team’s victory at Wembley in 1937

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Memory lane: First-hand memories of Raich Carter’s Sunderland

In the first of a new series, we ask fans to share their earliest SAFC memories with us. To kick us off, regular Roker Report poster Mordey St shares his memories of Sunderland legend Raich Carter and the brilliant team we had in the late 1930s.

Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Mordey St first watched Sunderland in the 1930s, at a time when Sunderland had one of the best teams in the country, winning the League title and the FA Cup prior to the Second World War. These are his earliest memories of watching Sunderland.

I was fortunate at a very young age to see that team in 1939, playing Charlton at The Valley. They were two decent teams in those days. As a matter of interest Charlton’s goalie who was a real star was Sam Bartram who originated in Boldon Colliery - his brother Sep had a small grocer’s shop at Simonside, Tyne Dock.

Charlton have a statue commemorating Sam outside the ground.

Then of course war occurred with the leagues disrupted and games being played with guest players, as many players were enlisted into the Armed Forces. Local Colliery teams sometimes played games at Roker Park.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland
Eddie Burbanks F.A. Cup final scorer in 1937, played on for Sunderland after the war.
Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

I recall seeing games with Carter, Gurney, Duns and my favourite Eddie Burbanks. What I remember is not very much but I recall walking home worshipping Duns and Burbanks for the way they laid on chances for other players, Carter and Gurney.

After the war the great Sunderland team of the 1930s was broken up, with Raich Carter leaving Roker Park – but this was not the last time Mordey St saw Raich.

Carter – who had served as a fire fighter during the war – transferred to Derby County, who were an excellent team. Carter played as an inside forward together with Peter Doherty in the other forward position.

Just after the war I went to Roker Park, in the Fulwell End to see Sunderland play Derby. What a game and what a crowd!

I seem to recall being at the front but then worming my way to stand on the fence at the back of the Fulwell End to watch the game. If my ancient memory is correct Derby won 3-2. Walking home, my Dad questioned repeatedly why the pre-war team had been broken up and Carter transferred away from us.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round - Chelsea v Derby County
Raich Carter leads out Derby County. They won the F.A. Cup in 1946
Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

Some time afterwards I met Carter when he was managing Leeds, and then at Doncaster station when he was managing Hull City. He was very approachable and proud of his time at SAFC, and I got the impression that he wished he had stayed at Sunderland with the opportunity to manage the club.

Carter was a great player, and the misfortune to have his playing career disrupted along with other great players (Tom Finney) by the war is indeed sad. If that had not happened he may well have seen out his career at SAFC. Just think Carter and Shackleton in the same team!

There is not much more information in my ageing brain but I really consider myself to have been very fortunate indeed to have seen Raich Carter play along with other great players.


Ed’s note [Martin]: I’ve loved reading this piece from Mordey St – and would love to hear memories of Sunderland from older supporters. It’s really important to capture these memories and share them – the history of the club is what makes it so special. So whether you began watching the lads in the 30s like Mordey St, or in the 40s, 50s or 60s, it’d be brilliant to hear from you. From players you remember, to specific games or just some memories of the era in general – let’s share some stories!

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