Back on this day in 1969, Sunderland stalwart Len Ashurst celebrated his testimonial game against a Newcastle XI comprised of current and former Newcastle players, as well as a few with connections to the north east.
The midweek game at Roker came only days after the lads went down 3-0 at St James’ Park, which may go some way to explaining the somewhat disappointing crowd of under 7,000 that turned up to acknowledge the contribution Len had made to the football club.
Sunderland, in fact, named an unchanged team for the testimonial game, while the Newcastle XI lineup included three players who’d defeated the lads – including future Sunderland skipper Bob Moncur.
Sunderland: Montgomery, Irwin, Ashurst, Todd (Harvey), Heslop, MacGiven, Harris, Hughes, Baker (Symm), Kerr, Tueart.
Newcastle XI: Whigham (Middlesbrough), Craig, Clark, Elliott, McNamee, Moncur, Scott (all Newcastle), Barnwell (Nottingham Forest), Suggett (West Brom), Eastham (Stoke), Foggon (Newcastle). Sub: Sharkey (Mansfield)
Sunderland manager Alan Brown was absent from the game – he was busy scouting the team’s next league opposition, Brian Clough’s Derby – and he missed out on a six goal thriller.
Bob Moncur scored after four minutes, but Sunderland quickly equalised through an own-goal by Frank Clark, the future Forest and Man City manager, who also had a spell on the coaching staff at Roker in the early 80s.
A Dennis Tueart goal gave Sunderland the lead at half time, and after the interval, Jimmy Montgomery donned an outfield shirt and Bobby Kerr the keeper’s jersey.
The next day’s Evening Chronicle reported:
[Kerr] was hidden by a huge cap and jersey almost to his knees but nothing could disguise his amazing reflexes.
Likewise Jimmy Montgomery looked a capable forward and showed too that he knows how to take a penalty. Maybe that’s not surprising.
The Journal’s report, meanwhile, said:
Some of the biggest cheers of the night went to Kerr, who made some acrobatic saves in Sunderland’s goal including a brilliant point-blank stop from John Barnwell.
Indeed it was Monty that extended Sunderland’s lead just after half time, putting away a penalty (although you wonder why Ashurst didn’t take the opportunity to get a goal on his big night!), while Dennis Tueart and Newcastle’s Jim Scott got further goals as the game ended 4-2.
A Sunderland v Newcastle testimonial match would never happen in the first place today – and at half time Newcastle skipper Moncur led the Newcastle team on a lap of honour around Roker Park with the Fairs Cup, which they’d won a few months earlier. Can you imagine that today?!
Before the main event kicked off, there was a 20-minute each way game between the ‘Old Stars’ and the press – Jimmy Greenhaulgh taking Alan Brown’s place in the lineup.
All Stars: Johnny Mapson, George Hardwick, Alf McMichael, Stand Anderson, Frank Brennan, Jimmy Greenhaulgh, Ray Henderson, Dave Smith, Ian McFarlane, George Herd, Billy Elliott.
For the press, Jackie Milburn played up front, while Clive Page, Bob Cass, Tony Hardisty and Bobby MItchell, who guested, were all familiar names.
The game ended 6-4 to the All Stars; Billy Elliott (2), Stan Andreson (2), Frank Brennan and Dave Smith grabbing goals for the ‘home’ team, and Joe Cummings, Jackie Milburn, Bobby Mitchell and Clive Page scoring for the press.