Brian Clough’s career had, for all intents and purposes, come to an end on Boxing Day 1962. An abortive attempt at a comeback early in the 1964-65 season had seen him retire from professional football, and take up a job coaching the youngsters under the management of George Hardwick.
Hardwick had been replaced by Scotsman Ian McColl and it quickly became apparent Clough’s face no longer fitted – something the club would regret sooner rather than later.
On this day back in 1965, just over 12 months since his last competitive appearance for the club, Clough donned the red and white stripes for one last time in his testimonial match against a Newcastle side littered with guest players.
Liverpool’s Ian St John, Arsenal’s George Eastham and George Armstrong, Aston Villa’s Tony Hateley and Sheffield Wednesday’s Colin Dobson all kindly sacrificed their dignity and any sense of self-worth by lining up for the guests.
For Sunderland, Mike Hellawell’s late withdrawal through illness meant spectator Ambrose Fogarty, who’d left Sunderland a couple of years earlier to join Hartlepools, was drafted in for the home team, for whom Clough, of course, started up front.
While Sunderland were officially under the management of McColl, the former Rangers manager had decided he had more important things to do, and went to watch Wales against Russia in Cardiff, allegedly to watch Bolton’s transfer-seeking striker Wyn Davies, who had seen a move to Newcastle fall through.
A move to Roker failed to materialise, and Newcastle did rekindle their interest the following season – with Davies going on to have a successful career in black and white.
The fact McColl chose to be at Ninian Park rather than watching another potential target – Tony Hateley, who was on the verge of leaving Villa Park – was a statement in itself. As was the absence of Len Ashurst, who Clough famously blamed for his injury, and had been among the former teammates a tortured Clough had subsequently fallen out with.
But this was Clough’s night, and in front of almost 32,000 at Roker he served up an evening of entertainment which continued after the final whistle.
Sunderland took the lead, and right on script, it was Clough the scorer – slamming the ball home from six yards after Marshall failed to hold Hood’s low cross from the right.
Both keepers pulled off good saves, Sandy McLaughlan for Sunderland saving from Burton and St John, while Clough – clearly guarding his knee – showed he’d lost none of his ability to strike the ball strongly with little backlift.
Just before half time, Newcastle equalised – Eastham netting after good work from St John, while shortly after the break an Armstrong cross was dummied by Eastham for Burton to smash home into the top corner from 25 yards.
Hateley – father of future England striker Mark – scored to put the visitors 3-1 up, while a Colin Dobson penalty after Parke tripped Armstrong saw the lead increase, and Iley made it 5-1 from an Eastham pass.
Hood hit the woodwork for Sunderland, before Clough pulled one back from 12 yards after a goalmouth scramble.
The scoring wasn’t over, however – Ian St John headed home to make it 6-2 to the visitors – and Clough’s days on the Roker Park field were done.
The evening had one last turn, however. Shortly after the final whistle, chairman Syd Collings revealed Clough had accepted the role of manager at Hartlepools United – and the first chapter of Clough The Manager began.
If you want to see some good stuff from Saturday onwards, get yourselves down to a little place called Hartlepools. It won’t be a little place for very long.