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On This Day (7 Dec 1965): All Sunderland wanted for Christmas was Dukla Prague in their away kit

Three World Cup Finalists were in the Dukla Prague team that came to Roker to play after school one night 57 years ago. Perhaps they were hoping to compete for some kind of championship?

In the 1960s Sunderland played a series of friendlies against some of the top sides in Europe, including Eusebio’s Benfica, Belgium’s Standard Liege, and Sparta Rotterdam of the Netherlands - and came out on top in all of them.

However, that winning streak would be brought to an end by Dukla Prague, the Czechoslovak Army side, who also played games against Derby County and a Glentoran XI in Belfast on a mid-season tour of the United Kingdom during an international break.

Even though we had all the accessories required for a big match atmosphere - and the floodlights too - cold weather kept the crowds from flocking to this midweek exhibition match.

But the 7,300 who did make it were treated to a demonstration of the best that modern European football had to offer, with the ball flicked around the Roker Park pitch like it was a game of Subbuteo.

The following day’s Newcastle Journal waxed lyrical about the visitors:

Dukla played the typical continental game, with number on the players’ backs meaning nothing by English standards.

Newcastle Journal 8/12/65

The side from Praha simply were too good for Ian McColl’s men, who had lost two on the bounce in Division One and were dropping rapidly down the league table as Christmas approached.

One of their gang, their number nine, Josef Masopust, was certainly no headless center-forward. A former Balon D’Or winner, the classy international spent the entire game in midfield directing the play.

He was one of three players on show that evening who had been in the side beaten 3-1 by Brazil in the 1962 World Cup Final, and because of that, he probably thought he was better than us.

Walter, Fritz - with Eusebio and Masopust
Fritz Walter (L), Eusebio (M) and Masopust (R) - total cost, £3.10
Photo by Schirner/ullstein bild via Getty Images

With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that they made the game look easy and, not long after the quarter-hour mark, they opened the scoring through a low shot from Ivan Novak from 18 yards.

There were chances at either end before the break, Knebork going close to making it 0-2. Our attack, however, never seemed to work, like it was powered by some sort of dodgy transformer - Gary Moore missing chances, again and again.

Dukla made three changes at half time and Nicky Sharkey came off the bench for the Lads, who then pushed for an equaliser but they never seriously troubled the Czech number one Ivo Viktor, whose only real test came when he saved a fierce shot from Len Ashurst early on in the game.

Soccer - Friendly - England v Czechoslovakia - Czechoslovakia Training
Ivo Viktor was certainly not a goalkeeper with no arms
Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

Jan Brumovsky converted a flowing move on 66 minutes before he was limped off injured, and it was plain sailing from then on in for the Bohemians. The football lesson was completed a few minutes from time when Dave Elliot’s backpass was intercepted by Miroslav Rodr, who slotted the ball past Sandy McLaughlan to make it three-nil.

Dukla was the top side in Czechoslovak football back then and would go on to win their eighth domestic league title on goal ratio that season. Although the national side didn’t make it to the 1966 World Cup, they did visit Wembley later that year with Viktor starring in a 0-0 draw that had, according to the archives, everything bar goals.

Dukla’s heyday was the 1960s and 1970s, their last domestic title coming in 1982. But they - and that iconic yellow and claret shirt - left a lasting impression on British football culture and it was immortalised by Merseyside indie band Half Man Half Biscuit on a B-side in 1986.

A select few on Wearside could say they saw it in the flesh.


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