It was a dream come true when, in 1987, Denis Smith gave 17-year-old local lad Richard Ord, born in the mining village of Murton just down the Durham coast from Sunderland 52 years ago today, his debut in first-team football against Southend United in the old Division three. As he told Roker Report a few years ago:
I’d worked hard to get there but I was proud cos my Mam and Dad were there with my sisters, and virtually everybody from our village!
Just a dream come true, Mark. You support your local club and you play for them, y’know. I’ve always said if I’d only played once for Sunderland, that would have been it, but, y’know, I played quite a bit more.
And what a game for a youngster to begin his journey with the club he’d grown up with - the Lads ran out handsome winners on their way to bouncing back at the first time of asking:
It was a Tuesday night, and we beat them 7-0. I’ll never forget it. Gatesy scored four, Atky scored two and Gabbers scored. I had to come off after about 70/80 minutes with cramp. The nerves were just getting to me; the whole occasion.
A talented and versatile player, Ord was highly rated as a youngster and was capped by England at Under 21 level in the early 1990s, playing in the Toulon Tournament in the south of France along with fellow Sunderland player Brian Atkinson and a 17-year-old Alan Shearer. He came off the bench in the final where England beat France 1-0, in a squad that also included names like Steve McManaman, David James, Rod Wallace, and Paul Warhurst.
He survived multiple managerial changes, loyally remaining in the side through Smith, Crosby, Butcher, Buxton, and the first part of Reid’s tenure, and was promoted on three occasions - playing in our two top-flight seasons in the early 1990s as well as starting in the 1992 FA Cup final.
In 11 years at the club, he played 284 games, scored eight goals, and earned two red cards - that was more than enough for Dickie to be granted a testimonial at Roker Park in July 1996 against the Romanian former European Champions Steaua Bucharest, a 0-1 loss for the Lads.
He departed for QPR in 1998 but never appeared for them due to injury and retired at only 30 years of age, but not before the notorious Prince Andrew interrupted his treatment on his tour of the Stadium of Light!
Ord went on to be a well-loved voice on local radio on the “Three Legends” football show and coached locally, including a stint as manager of Durham City.
He rates the promotion under Peter Reid in 1996 as his favourite memory of his time at the club, but what are your best recollections of Dickie playing for Sunderland? Share them in the comments below and wish him a very happy birthday!