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A new Sunderland book details the stories of every single player to represent the club

‘The Absolute Record: The Players’ contains detailed biographies of the more than 1100 players to ever turn out for the Lads, and there are some surprising stories along the way! We caught up with Rob Mason to find out more.

When it comes to the history of Sunderland AFC, few have a depth of knowledge to match that of official club historian Rob Mason.

And for the past eighteen months or so, he’s been working on a new hardback, A4-sized, four hundred-page book – ‘The Absolute Record: The Players’, which details the careers of every single player to have turned out in a competitive fixture for the Lads, and is now available to pre-order.

Following in the footsteps of ‘The Absolute Record’, which was released a couple of years ago and chronicles every game of every season played by Sunderland AFC, this new edition is a successor to the 2001 book ‘All The Lads’, and contains biographies of every player ever to have worn the red and white shirt in a competitive game, up to the end of the 2021/2022 season.

Rob says:

People have been asking me for years if I’d do an A-Z of all Sunderland players, and to be honest I’d always thought ‘that’s one hell of an undertaking, I don’t think so!

But I have done it. I’ve enjoyed doing it, but it has been, without doubt, the biggest and most demanding book I’ve ever written.

Since ‘All The Lads’ - written by non-Sunderland supporters Garth Dykes and Doug Lamming - was published in 2001, more than 330 players have made appearances for Sunderland, while new information has also emerged about many of their predecessors, thanks to some significant research and the accessibility and availability of information online.

I’ve got the utmost respect for Garth Dykes and Doug Lamming, and I helped to add some ‘colour’ to the stories in ‘All The Lads’. However, since that book was published, there’s a significant amount of new information that’s come to light, and we’ve discovered that quite a bit of information in ‘All The Lads’ is incorrect.

Some of it is very anoraky stuff: birthdates, birthplaces and stuff like that, but occasionally there was some other information that was incorrect, and all of that has been addressed in this book, too.

‘The Absolute Record: The Players’, which includes a foreword from the legendary goalkeeper and club record appearance holder Jimmy Montgomery, follows on from the hugely successful book ‘The Absolute Record’, which takes an in-depth look at every season the Lads have played.

The details for each player to have represented the club include their date of birth, their birthplace, the date on which they signed for Sunderland, their first and last games for the club, international honours gained, plus a detailed account of their career.

There are also a host of strange tales and facts about players, too.

For example, which former Sunderland player worked on Hollywood movies, and whose son was Nelson Mandela’s bodyguard?

You’ll need to get your hands on a copy of the book to find out those answers, I’m afraid!

Rob explains:

We’ve found a whole host of new stories and facts about players who’ve played for Sunderland over the years.

Willie Watson Bats
Sunderland’s Willie Watson in action for England at Old Trafford. He’s famed for representing England at football too – but in the course of researching this new book, a three-sport international who played for Sunderland has been found, too.
Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

For example, I think everyone knows about Willie Watson, who represented England in both football and cricket, but I found a Sunderland player who has played for England in three sports – football, shinty and athletics!

We’ve also found players who went on to dance for the same company that employed Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel – there are endless, unusual tales in there.

I thought I knew a lot about Sunderland players over the years, but I’ve been staggered at how many times I have found something out about a player and thought, ‘I didn’t realise that!’

While the approximately 400-page book is a huge read, Rob says people will find it interesting to approach it cover to cover, rather than it simply being used as a reference book.

We often read about players who’ve scored big goals or produced famous moments in our club’s history, but there are lots of interesting stories about the other players too, that have never been written about in any great detail before.

Until now, that is.

‘The Absolute Record: The Players’ is available to pre-order now, and orders placed by 22nd August 2022 can have a name included in the book, while the first one hundred orders placed will have their copy signed by a club legend – Dennis Tueart is lined up to sign the first fifty.

The book is due to be published in early November, so if you’re looking for a Christmas present for yourself – or a fellow Sunderland supporter – this could be it!

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