I made the short journey to St James Park from my Morpeth home for my second derby game at Newcastle in three seasons on this day on March 22nd 1969.
My first derby visit had seen a 3-0 victory for my heroes, with goals from John O’Hare, Neil Martin and George Herd. I watched that game bedecked in my red and white scarf from the railings at the front of the Leazes End and enthusiastically cheered every goal.
Two years older, I still had the colours on but was parked at the front of the Gallowgate where the bulk of Sunderland supporters had massed.
Our form coming into this game was not good - we had lost four games on the bounce and heading in the wrong direction in the table. Our away form that season was dire, we won only one game on the road and lost fourteen!
Newcastle were only a point better off than ourselves, and I clutched at straws hoping they were distracted by their Inter City Fairs Cup exploits. They had reached the quarter finals and been pitted against Vitoria de Setubal of Portugal, had just played the first leg and were 5-1 up.
Charlie Hurley had been missing for the previous four games, with seventeen-year-old Richie Pitt coming in for his debut at Coventry and certainly in no way letting the side down. This would be his first derby game, and just short of 50,000 fans and big Wyn Davies awaited! Pitt was a member of the cup-winning youth team in 1969 and also an under 15 and under 18 England internationalist - there was a lot to like about this tall rangy left-footer.
There was a cracking atmosphere in the ground, with both sets of supporters making a bit of racket as kick-off approached. The game at Roker earlier in the season had seen a fairly typical hard-fought game, with Newcastle taking the lead with a goal from Pop Robson and Sunderland coming back to snatch a deserved point with a goal from Colin Suggett.
Newcastle were straight on the attack from kick-off and we had hardly got out of our half when Jackie Sinclair “squaffed” a shot that trickled in at the post, with Monty stuck in the quagmire that was his goal-line.
I really feared for an avalanche at this point, but the goal seemed to galvanise us defensively at least. Monty made a couple of very good saves and Heslop and Pitt, with Todd playing in front of the back four began to get their foot in. Dennis Tueart had a couple of good runs and on forty minutes struck a ferocious shot that McFaul did well to save in the Newcastle goal.
Newcastle continued to dominate in the second half and on 54 minutes Monty made a great save from a Sinclair header, which looked for all the world like it was heading into the top corner. He thwarted Sinclair a further two times making very good saves from good shots, holding onto the first and turning the second around the post.
Unable to get past our inspired goalie and defence, Newcastle could not put the game to bed and Sunderland came more into the game as an attacking force.
On eighty three minutes, Gordon Harris sliced a volley that flew awkwardly toward goal, John Moore managed to get a touch on the ball before colliding with McFaul, redirecting it to Suggett at the far post who lashed it into the goal from close range.
I was a very happy bunny on the Gallowgate railings, not only had we scored, but coins were suddenly appearing as disgruntled mags vented their spleen and started lobbing them in our direction - it had not crossed my mind as I picked some of these up that I could have been injured!
There was still time for Pop Robson to send an absolute rocket of a shot off the upright with Monty well beaten before the final whistle, but the ball rebounded to safety .
Best for Sunderland on the day were Montgomery, who drew generous applause on a few occasions from the home crowd, and Todd who was tireless in his defensive midfield role. Pitt and Heslop also deserve an honourable mention.
Suggett had scored his fifth goal in four derby game appearances and looked a real prospect. Unfortunately, we sold him at the end of the season to West Bromwich Albion, who paid their first ever £100,000 fee for a player.
Looking at Newcastle’s team that day, four of their first eleven would sign for us over the next few years (Gibb, Foggon, Robson and Moncur) and Frank Clark would be first team coach for three years from 1979 to 1982.
John Moore would only play one more game for Sunderland after this one, and the injured Hurley would return, but was granted a free transfer at the end of the season in deference to his loyal service to the club.
We finished the season in seventeenth position and safe from relegation, but my goodness it was a hard watch some games!
First Division 22nd March 1969 // St James Park – attendance 47,800
Newcastle 1 – 1 Sunderland
Goalscorers: Sinclair 12 mins & Suggett 83 mins
Newcastle: McFaul, Craggs, Clark, Gibb, Moncur, Burton, Scott, Sinclair (Horsfield 79mins) Robson, Davies, Foggon.
Sunderland: Montgomery. Ashurst, Harvey, Pitt, Heslop, Palmer, Todd, Harris, Moore, Suggett, Tueart.