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On This Day (23 June 1989): Sunderland legend Stokoe offers to aid beleaguered Magpies

Jim Smith’s relegated Newcastle side were in desperate need of a boost, and he turned to a FA Cup-winning Sunderland boss and recent Roker Park Consultant for help.

Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

Hartlepool-born Bob Stokoe came through the ranks at Newcastle United as a junior and played over 260 games in black and white over a decade, winning the FA Cup along the way.

Then as a manager, after a series of clubs including Bury, Charlton, Rochdale, Carlisle and Blackpool, in 1972 he returned to his native north east to become Sunderland’s manager and a legend in red and white. We know the rest...

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Stokoe returned to Sunderland as a caretaker in 1987 as we desperately attempted to escape our first relation to tier three. It was a short tenure that ultimately ended with the playoff defeat to Gillingham, his resignation, and retirement from management. He later took on a position as a consultant to Bob Murray at Roker Park during Denis Smith’s management of the club, an appointment which ended in the spring of 1989.

A couple of months later in the June of that year, however, it was his boyhood club that came calling. The Magpies’ boss Jim Smith - who had just overseen a 20th place finish in the First Division and relegation to the Second - invited him to take up a quite different position at St James’ Park - coaching the youngsters and sharing his expertise on the training pitch.

Stokoe spoke to Jeff Brown, then of the Newcastle Chronicle, about what was on the table, adamant that he wasn’t looking to replace Smith in the hotseat on the north bank of the Tyne:

I’m not looking to take anyone’s job. All I want to do is to be involved again, perhaps with the youngsters, and to pass on what I’ve learned.

I’ve been through it all as a player and a manager, and I’ve had my share of answering to directors and chairmen and Press Men. I was grateful to Bob Murray for giving me the change to get back into the game at Sunderland but I didn’t want to be upstairs anymore.

I’ll be happy if I can just pass on a bit of advice or be a shoulder to cry on and maybe pull a tracksuit on two or three days a week.

It didn’t transpire that Stokoe would rejoin Newcastle for one last stint bringing through their youngsters, although it just goes to show that for men of his generation, in particular, the divisions and hatreds that now seem so deep and ingrained were hardly present at all.

Movement between our club and theirs was common, and although clearly we’ve been rivals throughout our long shared history, many of the region's die-hard football fans went to St James’ one week and Roker Park the next - and one or two still do.


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