Sunderland great Ian Porterfield died on this day in 2007 after a brave battle with cancer.
Although he was known to be in poor health, he had continued to work up until shortly before his death, and so the news came as a shock to many supporters, who were hit hard by it such was his impact as a player 30 years previously. A Scot who travelled the world during his subsequent managerial career, he passed away in a Surrey hospice.
Four days after Porterfield’s death Sunderland won 2-1 at home against Reading, themselves one of Porterfield’s former clubs having had him on loan towards the end of time at Roker, and then later appointing him as manager.
It was an emotional day, and prior to kick-off there was a touching tribute, with some of his former teammates being welcomed onto the pitch and the commentary from his winning strike in the 1973 FA Cup final being played over the public address system, followed by a heartfelt period of applause.
A book of remembrance was opened, and the following month Sunderland Minster hosted a memorial service that celebrated Porterfield’s life, during which artifacts from his career were on display.
Dennis Tueart and George Forster were two of several speakers that gave a eulogy to the congregation, who as well as signing the traditional FA Cup final hymn ‘Abide With Me’ were shown a montage of video clips from Porterfield’s career.
Members of Porterfield’s family then attended a private gathering at the Stadium of Light, where his ashes were scattered.
After hanging up his boots Porterfield had undergone a management career that saw him take charge of several foreign clubs and national sides, including Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago and Armenia.
Prior to that he had worked domestically for nearly 15 years, winning promotions at both Rotherham United and Sheffield United in that time. It was no surprise however that it was at Sunderland where his remains were laid to rest.
A graceful midfielder with a touch of class on the ball, Porterfield will always have a place in Wearside’s heart.
Becoming Raith Rovers’ record sale when he joined in 1967, he went on to give Sunderland a decade of service and whilst his standout moment was of course that famed unerring finish against Leeds United, he was also a first team regular during the first half of the 1975-76 Division Two winning season; adding to the promotions he contributed to at Raith and later Sheffield Wednesday.
In 1978, a year after his departure, the club staged a testimonial match for him that saw the current side take a team of former players.
It was an enjoyable evening, but Porterfield did not live a life without difficulties. In 1974 he was driving near Sunderland Airport and was involved in a collision that left him battling against life threatening injuries. Although he recovered quickly, he had to wear a protective cap during reserve games for a period.
Nearly 20 years later he was tasked with the job of rebuilding the Zambia national side after the squad was involved in a tragic air disaster.
If you are going to watch Sunderland play against Accrington Stanley today there’s an extremely good chance you will see somebody wearing a 1973 FA Cup final replica top, or some other nod to one of the club’s greatest days.
Porterfield had a massive bearing on that occasion, but it was just one of several other memories from a fantastic life in football. Rest in peace, Ian.