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1968 was a bit of a mixed bag for Sunderland under the returning Alan Brown, with the Lads able to avoid any real relegation worries at the end of one season but unable to kick on during the following campaign.
Brown had come back early in the year following Ian McColl’s departure but a continuation of our struggles on the road was generally the issue preventing the Lads from rising into the top half of the Division One table.
However, the traditional Boxing Day game was to be held at home, and so the main issue facing Sunderland wasn’t the venue, but the weather.
A big freeze had engulfed the country and after a genuinely ‘White Christmas’, there was an inch-thick blanket of snow covering the pitch, but with the ground underneath frozen solid, the referee felt it would be safer to leave the surface as it was.
The conditions meant things were difficult, and neither Sunderland nor Sheffield Wednesday, where Brown had managed in between his two stints at Roker Park, were able to fully get to grips with things.
Nevertheless, the teams deserved credit for their perseverance and whilst it ended goalless, those in the stands were reasonably well entertained given the circumstances.
There was a healthy attendance all things considered, but the nearest they got to seeing a goal was when Charlie Hurley had an effort cleared off the line by Don Megson.
Hurley and his half-back partner Colin Todd often looked the most assured players on the pitch, whilst debutant Dennis Tueart also performed well before being replaced after an hour.
The youth team graduate came close to a goal but was unfortunate to slip slightly when taking aim and shot just wide, whilst Colin Suggett also had a near miss when he forced a fine save from Peter Springett.
The Owls’ best chance saw Archie Irvine balloon over from just a few yards out with Jim Montgomery seemingly beaten, but with both sides keenly aware of the risk of making an error on the hazardous surface, most of the play took place in the middle third.
The match proved to be Sunderland’s last of the year, as the weather wreaked havoc with the Football League calendar over the coming days and the scheduled trip to Coventry City was postponed before they had even had chance to set off.
It seemed appropriate that the year had ended with a game that supporters probably felt summed up the general state of things at Roker Park: good in some areas, but not quite setting the world alight either.
Thursday 26 December 1968
Football League Division One
Sheffield Wednesday 0
Sunderland: Montgomery, Irwin, Harvey; Hurley, Todd, Porterfield; Kerr, Harris, Suggett; Hughes, Tueart (Mulhall 60’)
Roker Park, attendance 26,333