I was sorry to hear of the death of ex-Sunderland player Gary Moore this week.
Whilst not one of our prolific centre forwards, the strapping six-footer was a local lad who looked the part when he did break into the team in our first season back in the top flight in 1964/65.
Gary Moore was an unused sub at my very first game against Blackpool (at this time substitutions could only be made if a player was injured) and because he was part of that very first Sunderland team I ever saw, I kept an eye on his career, even after he left us.
Born in Sedgefield, County Durham in 1945, he signed amateur forms with Sunderland as a 15-year-old and played for the England Youth Team at 16 years old. He became a full time professional at 17 years of age with Sunderland.
A cartilage injury in 63/64 proved an early set back and challenge to the young Moore. It was at the age of 19, coming toward the end of season 64/65 that he was able to take advantage of an injury to Nick Sharkey and force his way into the team. He had scored goals for the reserve team and was arguably ready to take his chance.
He made his debut in a game against Wolves at Molineux that Sunderland lost 3-0. He did not though have long to wait for his 2nd game, as just four days later he played gamely against Stoke City at the Victoria Ground in a 3-1 defeat. He made two consecutive appearances and bowed out for the last game of that season as Sharkey returned.
It is probably fair to mention the forwards who were at the club during his spell with Sunderland, which probably contributed to his low appearance count for the Lads. Brian Clough was there, attempting to get himself fit and good to go again following his horrible injury. Nic Sharkey and Harry Hood and then Neil Martin and John O’Hare provided formidable competition for the striker role over the period 1964 to 67. It is worth considering also that Sunderland’s managerial merry-go-round probably impacted on his career over the same period, with Alan Brown, the board of Directors, Charlie Hurley, George Hardwick and then Ian McColl at the helm for various spells. Knowing Brown’s track record with young players, it may have been a case of what might have been.
The 1965/66 season was his most productive for Sunderland, Moore made 9 appearances and was an unused sub on 6 occasions. He scored his solitary goal in the home game against WBA in front of 34,000 at Roker. Unfortunately, WBA scored 5, but he could not have done so badly, as he was selected for the next home game against Newcastle and in front of 54,000 fans, he played his part in a 2-0 victory.
By April 1966, Moore was on the transfer list. He was planning to marry in October of that year and requested help with a house from the club (a common arrangement at the time). The Directors refused and Moore responded with a written transfer request that was granted.
A game I saw him play at Roker was in season 66/67. He got his chance due to an injury to John O’Hare and in front of almost 30,000 boisterous home fans, on 5th November, he scored in a rampant (and perhaps unexpected) victory against Sheffield United.
It was 3-0 at half time and we were cruising, it finished 4-1 with this victory one of 12 at home for the season. Neil Martin (a canny operator) scored two and the mercurial Jim Baxter scored to cap his gallous performance that day.
My memory of the game and Moore in particular, was that there were flashier players on show, but his work rate and touch were promising, he was a “big fella” and despite his youthfulness, used his physique well and it seemed to me as a young fan that his goal and performance seemed very popular with the Roker faithful.
Gary Moore played his last game for Sunderland on 17/12/66 in a 2-0 reverse at Arsenal. Having made only three appearances that season, he was transferred to Grimsby in February 1967, whereupon he fashioned a more than useful career in the lower leagues for the next decade.
He was transferred to Southend in 1968 having scored 15 goals for Grimsby in 56 appearances. He played a total of 164 games for the Shrimpers, scoring a very credible 46 goals.
A 43-game spell at Chester followed, where one of his 4 goals was scored against Aston Villa in the League Cup semi-final.
The two-legged semi was a classic David v Goliath confrontation. Ron Saunders’ Villa were formidable, with the likes of Brian Little, Chris Nicholl, Frank Carrodus, Sammy Morgan, Chico Hamilton and the all action Ray Graydon. Nonetheless, Chester played out a fantastic 2-2 draw in the first leg at Sealand Road and after Terry Owen (Michael Owen’s father) had equalised a McDonald opener for Villa, Moore scrambled an equaliser to Ray Graydon’s 2nd half goal. All square into the 2nd leg at a packed Villa Park, this tie had caught the imagination of the football community. 2-0 down, Chester came back to 2-2 before a goal by North Easterner Brian Little settled the tie in the last 10 minutes of the game. Villa went on to lift the league cup and the basis of this team won the league in 80/81 and European Cup glory in 81/82, framing an incredible effort by Chester.
Gary Moore retired from league football due to injury in 1978, having played 34 games and scoring 9 goals for Swansea from 1976 - 78. Many may remember he coached Blyth Spartans for a spell in 1988.
He gave good service to his lower league clubs, and whilst his Sunderland career showed senior statistics of 14 appearances and 2 goals from 1964 to 1966, his statistics in the lower leagues show a very credible 305 appearance’s and 81 goals.
RIP Gary Moore.