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On This Day (Dec 4th 1992): Sunderland legend Patsy Gallacher - “The Mighty Atom” - passes away

The 4th of January 1992 saw the passing of Sunderland forward Patrick “Patsy” Gallacher - a small but all-action player who was nicknamed “Mighty Atom” by the Roker Park faithful!

Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

The 4th of January 1992 saw the passing of Sunderland forward Patrick “Patsy” Gallacher.

The diminutive forward was born on 21/08/1909 in Bridge of Weir, Scotland. With a very healthy Scottish playing contingent and scouting network at Sunderland, Gallacher joined the ground staff at 17 years old in 1927. He signed professional forms in 1928 and made his debut against Arsenal at Roker Park in the 1929/30 season in a 1-0 defeat.

It would take another two seasons for “Patsy” to establish himself fully in the first team and by the time season 31/32 had finished - he had made 34 appearances and had scored 12 goals from his left wing or inside forward position. He had also been christened “Mighty Atom” by the fans, in keeping with his 5’ 6” height and just under 9 ½ stone in weight allied to his all-action displays.

What a rich period for Sunderland fans this was as Gallacher, Connor, Carter, Duns and Burbank would join Bobby Gurney in a scintillating forward line over the next five years.

In many respects Gallacher was the typical Scottish “tanner/bob player”, with great ball skills. He was a great dribbler and combined a good degree of pace with a very natural body swerve. Two footed (though naturally left footed) he would often operate on either wing or inside forward. He and Raich Carter (also two footed but naturally left) would interchange at will during games and to the bemusement of defenders. Many who saw him play regularly would say that left hand side inside forward was his most effective, but with the legend that was Raich Carter often filling that space, Gallacher was happy to develop his all-round game and positional ability.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland Photocall Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

The Mighty Atom contributed double figures in goals for six consecutive seasons in the top division of English football throughout one of the most successful periods in Sunderland’s history. But goals were only part of his game, his ability to create space and see a pass short or long was well appreciated by his esteemed fellow forwards.

My Grandfather was a Newcastle fan and once grudgingly described Sunderland’s forward line of this era as “the famous five”. He was referring to Len Duns, Raich Carter, Bobby Gurney, Jimmy Connor (followed by Eddie Burbank) and of course the Mighty Atom - Patsy Gallacher.

These five terrorised first division defences in the mid to late 30’s and helped a very good Sunderland team wrestle the league trophy away from the all-conquering Arsenal who had won the league in three successive seasons prior to Sunderland’s title winning season in 1935/36. Sunderland continued to haunt the Gunners, by winning the FA Cup in 1936/37 again taking it away from the previous season’s winners Arsenal.

Gallacher contributed 20 goals and 39 appearances in the title winning season of 1935/36. He had also scored twenty goals in 38 appearances the previous season (34/35) as Sunderland finished runners up to Arsenal in the league.

In 1934 Patsy would score on his international debut against Ireland at Windsor Park. Playing alongside him that day was Jimmy Connor, not only his Roker colleague, but his left-wing buddy on the Roker paddock.

The Sunderland side that was so successful just prior to the second world war, would often have an all-Scottish international half back line of Alex Hastings, Bob Johnston and Charlie Thomson, with Jimmy Connor and Patsy Gallacher also in the side, the Scottish influence within the team of that period was undeniable.

The Mighty Atom would not add to his international tally but continued to perform at a high level in a highly skilful Sunderland forward line. In the cup winning season of 1936/37, he scored 12 goals and his 3 goals in the FA Cup included the winner in the semi-final against Millwall at Leeds Road Huddersfield.

Season 1937/38 would once again see Sunderland embark on another exciting cup run, which would end at the semi-final stage against eventual runners up Huddersfield. Gallacher made a total of 35 appearances this season scoring 7 goals. This would be the Mighty Atom’s last full season with Sunderland. With injuries prevailing and a changing of the guard anticipated Gallacher transferred to Stoke City early into his 11th season with the club.

Gallacher only played 5 games for Stoke before injury curtailed his season, during this period war was declared and he enlisted in the RAF, where he served as a PT Instructor and made “war-time” appearances for Leicester, Forrest, Crewe, Dundee United and Morton.

Gallacher had played 9 seasons in the top tier with Sunderland. It was a period that included four consecutive seasons where Sunderland had been league runners up, league champions, Charity Shield and FA Cup winners and then Charity Shield runners up and FA Cup semi-finalists. The Mighty Atom had been a key ingredient of this success and scintillating forward play.

After the war and a brief period in Irish football, Gallacher retired to business in London, before returning to Scotland for his final years.

The Mighty Atom made a total of 306 appearances for Sunderland between 1929 and 1938, scoring a very healthy total of 107 goals including six hat-tricks.

Patrick “Patsy” Gallacher passed away on the 4thJanuary 1992 in Greenock. His record for the Lads is impressive and worthy of passage into Sunderland’s Hall of fame.

RIP Patrick Gallacher - the Mighty Atom.


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