When your autobiography includes a foreword by Carlos Alberto and has a photo of you posing alongside Mick Jagger on the dust cover, you know you’ve done well for yourself. All the glitz and glamour of a fantastic career in football may not have been possible had Dennis Tueart not risen to fame during seven years as a professional at Roker Park however, and he remains a favourite amongst many of the Sunderland fans that saw him play for the club.
An astute character off the pitch and a speedy, skilful player on it, Tueart brightened many otherwise gloomy afternoons during the late 1960s and early 1970s with his tireless left wing performances. After signing schoolboy terms and playing for Sunderland’s youth team he joined the club full time in 1967 and made his senior debut the following year. The team struggled for large parts during this period but Tueart’s ability offered some hope and plenty of entertainment.
His first goal came in only his third appearance, during a 4-1 victory over Stoke City in March 1969. This was the first time the Lads had scored more than three goals in a game for over two years and although he sat out the next four fixtures Tueart soon became a first team regular and one of the first names on the team sheet.
A great creator but also a goal threat in his own right, 1971-72 saw Tueart score double figures in a season for the first time, and he ended up with an impressive record at Sunderland of roughly a goal every four games. His stats included a hat-trick against Swindon Town in November 1973, although it was two magnificent strikes of his from earlier in the year that really stood out.
FA Cup holders, thanks in no small part to Tueart’s form during the run to Wembley and in the final against Leeds United, Sunderland were big news and so the television cameras were there to capture both efforts. The first was a sweeping mid-air scissor kick from the angle of the six yard box against Oxford United, and in Sunderland’s first ever competitive European fixture a month later he scored arguably one of the club’s greatest ever goals when he collected possession against Vasas Budapest in his own half before slaloming through the defence and nonchalantly finishing past the keeper.
Unfortunately for Sunderland, these golden flashes and the consistent nature of his performances meant Tueart was attracting the interest of First Division clubs. Amidst contract wranglings due to a Government imposed national wage freeze, and keen to test himself at the highest level, Tueart moved to Manchester City in March 1974 as part of a deal that saw teammate Micky Horswill go with him and Tony Towers head in the opposite direction.
Not all Sunderland legends fare that well at their other clubs, but Tueart remains a popular Citizen to this day. The spectacular goals continued to come, and his overhead kick for the Blues in the 1976 League Cup final is almost as well remembered on Wearside as some of the magic he produced in an actual Sunderland shirt, securing as it did victory over his hometown club Newcastle United. Following two spells as a player at Maine Road he later became a director at City.
Never a drinker, the athletic nature of some of his goals and the fact he was still playing in his mid-30s can perhaps be attributed to the shape Tueart kept himself in. He also had success during a stint playing for Cosmos during the boom period of the North American Soccer League and was Man of the Match when his side won Soccer Bowl ’78. That section of his autobiography provides some particularly interesting reading, but the story started here, and Sunderland fans will no doubt wish him all the best today.