With discipline lax under manager Ian McColl, Jim Baxter by his own admission led a clique of “bored” hard-drinking/hard partying footballers whose exploits included - trashing hotel rooms at their base in Vancouver, the Georgian Towers hotel.
Throwing a tv through a bedroom window. Having to be rescued from their bed as they had awoken to find themselves surrounded by broken glass and no shoes within reach. A drink the gantry party game that went awry and resulted in one of the players being admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning. The arrest of Baxter and John Parke in Washington after a fight in a bar in a black neighbourhood of the city. A riotous swimming pool party that went on into the early hours of the morning of a game.
On the very first day of arrival, Baxter and George Kinnell had ordered a massive carry out of bevy including champagne, Bacardi, and whiskey, that they inadvertently paid for with counterfeit money. Two plain-clothes policemen had arrived at the hotel to take them both in for questioning which was averted after much persuasion and intercession of management, only for the two policemen to become de-facto minders for the clique over the duration of their stay, often bailing out the wayward stars as well as joining in the shenanigans!
Jim Baxter arrived in Vancouver fresh from his scintillating performance for Scotland against England at Wembley where he played keepy/uppy with the ball during the game as Scotland “hammered” the world champions three-two. Sadly, North America did not see a great deal of the mercurial Scots fantastic skills and the wizardry in his left foot, (which he called “the claw”), as his less attractive capacity for alcohol and associated mayhem ensued.
With four eighteen-year-olds in the tour party (Hughes, Todd, Suggett, Forster) it should have been a great football learning experience for the youngsters, I suspect it was a steep learning curve but not quite in the way they might have anticipated.
Having been absolutely pummelled 6-1 in their first game by San Francisco Golden Gate Gales (ADO Den Haag of Holland), and then scraping an uninspired 1-1 draw against Detroit Cougars (Glentoran), Sunderland were under a bit of media pressure at least, to turn up to this game played at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver.
Manager McColl was celebrating his 40th birthday and by the end of the game was celebrating what would be his team’s best performance and result of the tour.
With Forster in goal and Hughes, Suggett and Todd starting, Sunderland set about their opponents irresistibly with fast incisive football from the starting whistle. They could easily have scored four in the first fifteen minutes as Dallas struggled to live with the pace and accuracy of Sunderland’s attacks.
Within twenty minutes the Royal Canadians scored a well worked goal, with the impressive Suggett pinging an accurate cross that Herd dummied for the on-rushing Neil Martin to plant in the back of the goal.
Against the run of play Hainey levelled for the Tornado’ as he totally left Kinnell for dead, but that was as good as it got for them, as Sunderland swept Dallas away in the second half with three further goals.
On forty-seven minutes Suggett turned from creating to scoring as he pounced on a clever pass from John O’Hare to chip in at the far post. Then Herd and Mulhall started to run the show with some eye-catching play. Herd put on a display of dribbling that had the 10,000-crowd drooling. Mulhall lived up to his nickname “bullet”, with a well-timed run and powerful header from a Billy Hughes cross and then a few minutes later blasted a “bullet” special off the underside to complete the scoring.
At the end of the game, manager McColl waxed birthday lyric about the performance of the four youngsters in the team as he anticipated the new season and possibilities for a successful campaign. He would have few other opportunities to do so, as the tour degenerated into a major challenge for him and his management team to handle as the Baxter/Kinnell clique got into full party-swing!
Date - June 7th1967
Venue – Empire Stadium Vancouver
Score – Vancouver Royal Canadians (Sunderland) 4 – 1 Dallas Tornado (Dundee United)
Scorers – Martin, Suggett, Mulhall (2).
Dallas Tornado (Dundee United) - Davie, Millar, Cameron, Neilson, Smith, Moore, Berg, Dossing, Scott, Graham, Hainey.
Vancouver Royal Canadians (Sunderland) – Forster, Parke, Kinnell, Todd, Baxter, Herd, Mulhall, Suggett, O’Hare, Martin, Hughes.