In the middle of a great run of form in the league and having just embarked on a memorable run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, Nick Sharkey showed his predatory instincts with a cracking three goals in a six-nil thumping of Swindon Town in front of 41,334 fans at a vibrant Roker Park.
Sharkey was celebrating his call-up to the Scotland Under 23 team and followed up his goal in the previous week’s cup tie against Bristol City in the FA Cup.
Despite his hattrick in this game it was no one-man show, with the previous game's main men Crossan and Herd to the fore once again alongside Sharkey.
Sharkey a Scot from Helensburgh had been with the club from fifteen years of age and netted a prolific 140 goals for Sunderland’s “junior” teams. He signed professional forms in 1960, but not before he made his debut a month short of his 17th birthday in the same year.
Sharkey spent a couple of seasons providing backup to first “Rhino” Kitchenbrand, then Brian Clough and Ian Lawther before establishing a regular place in the first team in season 1962/63.
He was an instinctive goal scorer, who had the knack of being in the right place at just the right time. He had a burst of pace and combined hard work with elusive running with the ball. Despite his height (5’7”) he was a good header of the ball and scored a number of goals with his head.
Sharkey had scored nine goals in the league and cup (despite missing the first nine games of the season) and looked lively right from the start of this game against one of the outsiders for promotion in Swindon Town.
He got his first on five minutes, Mulhall picked up a throw-in from McNab on the left wing and slipped the ball to Sharkey. Just outside the box he sidestepped an attempted tackle and rocketed a low hard shot through a crowd of players into the net.
One goal up and Roker Park was jumping.
Crossan scored a fortuitous second goal after a powerful header from Hurley rebounded from the keeper off his face and into the goal on 43 minutes.
On 52 minutes Sharkey drilled a pass to Mulhall, who found Usher in the box with a clever pass. Usher made no mistake, thumping the ball past Turner in the Swindon goal.
Sharkey then scored his second as his ability to be in the right place at the right time saw him volley a Crossan miskick from another clever Mulhall pass into the back of the net on 59 minutes.
Nick did not have long to wait for his third of the game as Sunderland began to run riot. On 59 minutes, Mulhall exchanged a one-two with Herd and delivered a lovely ball to Sharkey who took the ball in his stride and lashed it into the Swindon goal to make it five-nil. Sharkey was mobbed by his teammates as the crowd bayed their appreciation of his hattrick.
Mulhall completed a quartet of assists on 87 minutes having been foiled by a great save from Turner in the Swindon goal - he delivered an inch-perfect corner to Johnny Crossan at the far post, who headed powerfully into the goal for his second of the game.
Reports on this game suggest that Sunderland might have scored twelve had every decent chance been taken. This was the second game in a row that Roker Park had seen six goals scored by the Lads.
Despite Sunderland’s dominance, there was also an acknowledgment for the tough afternoon Lenny Ashurst was given by Swindon’s young right winger, Mike Sumerbee.
As for Nick Sharkey, he was in a rich vein of form and whilst this was a first hattrick in the league for any Sunderland player that season, it was not the first hattrick to be scored at Roker that season. Sharkey had scored three characteristic goals in a friendly against Benfica, outscoring Eusebio on the night who bagged two in a 5-3 victory for Sunderland.
Sharkey finished this promotion-winning season with 20 goals in all games seven behind top goal scorer Crossan. He was transferred to Leicester in 1966 having seen his opportunities limited with Neil Martin, Harry Hood and John O’Hare all contesting the centre forward berth.
Nonetheless his record for Sunderland speaks for itself, with a total of 62 goals in 117 appearances. He also holds the joint record (with Charlie Buchan and Bobby Guerney) for most goals scored in a single game with five against Norwich City in 1963.
Sunderland 6 - Swindon 0
Sunderland - Montgomery, Irwin, Ashurst, Harvey, Hurley, McNab, Usher (1), Herd, Sharkey (3), Crossan (2), Mulhall.
Swindon – Turner, Trollope, Dawson, McPherson, Morgan, Woodruff, Summerbee, Smart, Smith, Hunt, Rogers.