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Roker Reminisces: Happy memories of watching Sunderland take on Man City in 1967!

RR’s Kelvin Beattie has many happy memories of watching his heroes Jim Baxter and Charlie Hurley at Roker Park - and remembers one of his first visits to the old ground fondly as we beat eventual Champions Man City 1-0.

Photo by Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images

It was 1967, and I was going to Roker Park for my third home game of that season.

The game was against the eventual champions, Man City. I was very excited to get to games, but was reliant on the local curate to invite me.

I was very keen to find alternative transport to matches because I was reliant on being invited by the local curate, and he could not make every game - I was feeling increasingly frustrated having already been badly bitten by the Sunderland bug!

The journey could take up to an hour depending on traffic and the route taken. It was great sitting listening to all the banter from the older lads in the car, as well as the serious chat about the team and “which Baxter will we see today”, which seemed to be a running theme.

‘Slim’ Jim Baxter and Charlie Hurley were my first two heroes, however the more games I watched, the wider my interest in other players got.

I had really been caught by a young half back who seemed to have pace to burn and great calmness on the ball. I proclaimed my like for Colin Todd in the car, and was chuffed that it triggered a lengthy but positive conversation that almost lasted the whole journey.

I was also really enjoying watching Neil Martin play.

To me he seemed to have everything you wanted from a forward - strength, speed, good in the air, a good shot. He was also quite clever at holding the ball up and laying it off at just the right moment, drawing a defender and creating space for others.

Soccer - Football League Division One - West Ham United v Sunderland Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

When asked I told my fellow travellers we were going to beat City 1-0 and Neil Martin would score, and that was exactly what happened.

I remember with great fondness the banter in the car going back home, and what felt like the respect of the older Lads at what I perceived at the time to be my knowledge and insight on all things Sunderland, despite my tender years!

In my mind at the time, this “respect” prompted one of the older lads to tell me about a supporters bus that he had heard was going to be going to Roker from Morpeth, and he would find out more and let me know. At last, an alternative mode of transport to get to every game. It was a pivotal moment for me and my relationship with Sunderland that has seen me into my 64th year!

There were 28,000 fans at Roker that day in early October. Man City were a team packed with stars and playing exciting football under Joe Mercer and the enigmatic Malcolm Allison. Franny Lee, Summerbee, Neil Young & Stan Bowles were the stars.

A Hesleden lad, who had played for Horden Colliery Welfare in his youth was really getting himself noticed. Colin Bell came to be known as the King of the Kippax by City fans. I saw him play on a number of occasions after this and his nickname was well deserved.

Soccer - League Division One - Manchester City v Sunderland - Maine Road Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

City had a very strong defence with Book, Doyle and Pardoe and an underated George Heslop in front of the man mountain that was Joe Corrigan in goal.

For the record the Sunderland team that day was: Monty, Irwin, Parke, Hurley, Todd, Kinnell, Baxter, Suggett, Heslop, Brand & Martin. Herd was sub.

We were 1-0 up by half time and managed to hang on for the victory… and in case you are wondering, Baxter had a cracking game that day.

Despite denting the City championship aspirations, we would go on to do them a big favour by beating Man Utd 2-1 on the last day of the season, to help them win the title.

Coincidence saw me at St James Park for City’s last game against Newcastle that season. Taken by a Toony-supporting uncle who thought he might turn me, it was a fantastic game that City won 4-3. Whilst I was always up for going to a footy match, my uncle came to realise my loyalties lay at Roker.

Happy memories.

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