The Sunderland rodeo, although it would have been more accurate to refer to them at this point as the Vancouver Royal Canadians, was in Chicago on this day in 1967. Up against the Mustangs the venue was the famous Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox baseball side, but the stands were sparely populated for what was the last ‘away’ trip of the tournament for the in disguise Lads.
The hosts were being represented by Serie A outfit Cagliari, with whom Sunderland would become familiar in the 1970s thanks to two Anglo-Italian Cup matches (see On This Day (4 Jun 1972): Sunderland come under attack in Italy - Roker Report (sbnation.com) & On This Day (10 June 1972): Sunderland’s Anglo-Italian relations fall flat - Roker Report (sbnation.com)) . The first of those clashes was an ill-tempered affair in Sardinia and this United Soccer Association fixture had its moments as well, with full back Cec Irwin being given his marching orders after clashing with Miguel Angel Longo – although the latter was far from innocent himself.
The red card came shortly after the scoring had ended, and left Vancouver fighting to hold on for a credible point. Before that they had been trailing to a first half brace from Roberto Boninsegna, who would make his international debut later in the year, but having often looked out of sorts during the trip were now pulling themselves round and worked hard to make it three unbeaten games in a row.
Boninsegna’s double both came from inside the box. George Kinnell responded moments later however, and Jimmy Shoulder levelled things up with 20 minutes to go when he struck a long range effort with his right foot. Shoulder had featured earlier in the tour and was one of several prospects being given experience in North America, but despite a slight upturn in results towards the end of the competition few onlookers were happy.
There were two more games left to fulfil back in Canada and it was the form of the youngsters that had been the most encouraging aspect so far. A letter printed in the Sunday Sun the following day appeared to sum up the general feeling, with ‘Disappointed Follower’ claiming that the locals were unimpressed with the efforts of certain senior individuals – the writer was a former north easterner seemingly who had moved to British Columbia, and he ended his summary by expressing concerns for Sunderland’s prospects in the upcoming 1967-68 campaign.
Hopes for the season had already taken a blow when shortly before playing the Mustangs it was confirmed that major target Tony Hateley would instead be joining Liverpool after his current club Chelsea, keen to recoup as much of the club record fee they had previously forked out for the striker as possible, had accepted a last gasp offer thought to have been well in excess of the original asking price. There had been lengthy discussions before that and the Wearside bid initially looked all set to go through, but apparently rival suitors were not the only issue holding back transfers.
Director Jack Parker had remained in England to try and tie up some deals but it was becoming clear that communicating ‘across the pond’ was a problem. With time zones and the overseas party having to travel long distances to get to matches he had been unable to get hold of manager Ian McColl for over a week, meaning he could not press ahead with rumoured moves for Everton’s Fred Pickering and Leeds United’s Terry Cooper. Rival managers were often on holiday too, complicating matters further, and with his side coming in for criticism, McColl perhaps wished he could have joined them.
Sunday 11 June 1967
United Soccer Association Western Division
Chicago Mustangs 2 (Boninsegna 25’, 35’)
Vancouver Royal Canadians 2 (Kinnell 38’, Shoulder 70’)
Vancouver: Forster; Irwin, Kinnell, Heslop, Shoulder; Hughes, Todd, Baxter, Gauden; Suggett, O’Hare Unused: Forster, Martin, Mulhall, Parke
Comiskey Park, attendance 3,602