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Memory Lane: Charlie Hurley, Alan Brown and becoming hooked by Sunderland

Lifelong lads fan David Haswell first saw Sunderland as an eleven-year-old in the 1957-58 season. A regular at Roker Park until he left the north-east in 1966, David has lived in Staffordshire since 1973, but has never lost his accent. He watches Sunderland whenever they are in his area, and here he talks to Mark Wood about that era in the 1950s and 60s.

Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

Your first experience of Sunderland was the 1957-58 season when we were relegated for the first time in our history with all kinds of turmoil happening on and off the pitch. What can you tell us about your memories of that season?

David Haswell: Dad, a Newcastle fan took me to Roker Park twice that year and I was hooked. I recollect the derby game when Scoular kept raising his arms after a foul to encourage our booing, Dad bursting out laughing. I was only 11 and can’t say relegation for the first time came into it.

I remember backhanders, Shack’s retirement and the headline concerning Charlie’s first two games - both defeats. I always claimed my place eight steps from the front just right of the goal post at the Roker end, hoping the players would hear me at their level.

Over the years we have heard people with good memories of that era where the manager looked to build a young team to get us out of the Second Division. What kind of football would we see watching an Alan Brown team?

David Haswell: Teams were attack minded with 5 forwards. Apart from Ernie Taylor, Brown built his defence around Charlie, bought in Herd and Mulhall then introduced youngsters such as Monty. Even so attendances could be fickle, as low as 12,000.

Jimmy Montgomery
Jimmy Montgomery of Sunderland AFC in action during a match against Cardiff City FC, UK, 10th February 1964.
Photo by County Photos/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of the players that Alan Brown brought in, of course, was Charlie Hurley - who is still talked of today as a club legend. You saw him first hand, so what made him so good?

David Haswell: Charlie was dominant, particularly in the air - to quote Dad, “as though he were a magnet”. I can visualise some of his footwork also.

He was majestic, loyal and a great inspirational captain.

The chants of “Charlie, Charlie” whenever we won a corner will never be forgotten. As well as a marker, a player would be positioned to block try him off as he ran in to head the ball. Remember, there was only ever one centre half those days.

And I have to ask you about another player from that era, Brian Clough...

David Haswell: Or Dr. Clough as I called him, because whenever a player was injured he’d be there. Goalkeepers if not defenders were afraid of his scoring ability. I recollect an Easter game on Rotherham’s quagmire of a pitch. Charlie scored with a shot, Cloughie a header and a scissor kick high into the net. All were unique in that Charlie’s were mainly headers, and Cloughie’s were daisy cutters into the corner. A brief reply signed by Cloughie when Derby manager is a prized possession of mine.

Soccer - League Division Two - Chelsea v Sunderland - Stamford Bridge
Brian Clough lines up for Sunderland at Stamford Bridge
Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

Can you tell us what are the main differences you notice watching football now, compared to the 1950s and 60s?

David Haswell: Then there were the five forwards, precious little back passing except when mopping up following an attack, and back to the keeper. A winger opposed by two players would whip the ball into the danger area - none of this at the corner flag business of back up the line to the midfield player, then to the full back over the half way line, then square across the field to a centre half, to the other full back and maybe all over again in their own half.

There was no messing about at the back with short passes out from the goalkeeper.

What were your best experiences as a Sunderland fan of those times?

David Haswell: Prior to our promotion year, the greatest game was the 1961 Quarter Final versus Spurs. I’d been to Liverpool to see Lawther score in the third round when we were pelted with missiles during the game.

I could never forget Willie McPheat’s eqauiliser and “The Roker Roar” the day of the Spurs game them going on to win the double.

The promotion year was never going to be a formality, the last game of the season being the decider same as the previous two years.

Crossan and Sharkey were influential, but I was sorry when Fogarty had left.

A friendly against Eusebio’s Benfica I remember that season.

Alan Brown left at the end of that season, were you sad to see him leave? Do you think it was a mistake by the club to let him go?

David Haswell: Yes, I was sad Brown left, Stan Anderson too, but Harvey was a capable deputy. Perhaps he thought we might struggle back in the first division. After Hardwick, McColl became manager and brought in Kinnell to try replace Charlie. Baxter was class but disruptive, and soon followed me down to Nottingham.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland Photocall Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

From then on, after you moved away your experience of watching Sunderland has been mainly at away games when they have been in your area. Which games over the years stand out to you, either good or bad?

David Haswell: I should mention I went back to the North East every Christmas and I saw Bobby Kerr’s debut in 1966, when he scored the late winner against Man City.

Also, when back home around the the 1969/7 season, between jobs I bought a season ticket for my wife only for us to be relegated, with Heslop by then at centre half.

Over 130 programmes later on my travels, its venues such as the man with the coracle to retrieve balls in the river by the Shrewsbury ground rather than games that stand out.

I do have a humorous article written 13/3/71 titled “Heavens Above No Goals Til Easter”. At the end of that Pompey game, we had gone 6 games failing to score. Losing 6-1 at Blackburn in 1986 in contrast to guaranteeing promotion at Bury in 1999 with Quinn/Phillips spring to mind, and Sorensen staying to sign autographs.

Have you been to any of the nine appearances that Sunderland have made at Wembley since 1973 (obviously not last season when nobody could go)?

David Haswell: The 1985 Milk (League) Cup final was the only one I was able to obtain tickets for.

Regardless of you went or not, which was the most memorable? I’m guessing you will say 1973 here...

David Haswell: Well, there was the semi-final where we had wonderful seats on the half way line at Hillsborough. At the end I put my two-year-old daughter on my shoulders, and turned around to laugh at Jimmy Hill, who’d given us no chance.

On final day I drove down to London at the same time as the supporters, and watched the game on my uncle’s TV in Surrey.

Football. Sheffield, England. FA Cup Semi Final. 7th April 1973. Sunderland 2 v Arsenal 1. Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery makes a fine save to deny Arsenal’s Alan Ball during the match at Hillsborough.
Sunderland in action vs Arsenal 7th April 1973
Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images

Since that Charlie Hurley/Alan Brown era, which times, which players, which managers have been your favourites?

David Haswell: Bobby Kerr, Watson, Bennett, Cummins, Gabbiadini, Quinn & Phillips, Pop Robson, Michael Gray and of course Monty spring to mind. Grief, I’ve known of 31 managers. Brown, Stokoe and Reid were best, yet we had high hopes of O’Neill, Allardyce, Moyes and McMenemy - the latter turning out to be the worst.

The one time I met our players was Sept ‘84 when my son Paul was the mascot for our game away to Stoke City. Manager Len Ashurst allowed us into the dressing room, where Venison was the most vocal. That programme and one for Jan 1960 take pride of place. It was a NE Challenge Cup game at Roker Park versus Kibblesworth CW - my village team.

What do you make of our current state of affairs in our fourth season in the third tier?

David Haswell: Its a poor state of affairs these days - we never seem to sign a dominating centre half or a strong midfield player, despite all the team changes each year.

Playing out from the back causes us nothing but problems.


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