After suffering one of the worst periods in their history to date, Sunderland’s fortunes were starting to look up by this point in 1962 – and there were several interested onlookers as they geared up for the new campaign on this day.
The infamous ‘Mr Smith’ episode and the subsequent financial scandal that had resulted in the club’s first-ever relegation in 1958 had proven extremely difficult to recover from. Losing their tag of being the only English club to have never played outside of the top-flight was a massive shock to the system and the mediocre finishes that followed had further ebbed away at Sunderland’s status.
However, Alan Brown’s stringent methods were starting to take hold, and after missing out on promotion by a whisker the season before, the Lads looked like they could be turning things around at long last. A prestigious history meant that they retained some of their lustre too, so when they arrived in Belfast for a friendly against Irish League champions Linfield, the game had an element of glamour for the natives.
Also in the stands at Winsor Park was a large group of teachers, who were attending a residential coaching course at the nearby Orangefield Secondary School and wanted to make the most of their opportunity and watch one of the early giants of the sport. Funded by the Belfast Education Authority in conjunction with the Irish Football Association and Northern Ireland Schools Football Association, it was hoped that the course would help improve the standard of coaching and give staff an opportunity to share ideas.
In addition to the tactics and techniques, the group were trying to monitor the actions of referee Sam Carswell and his two linos Sam Haire and Jack Cunningham. A session had been planned for afterwards in which their performances were to be critiqued by the teachers, with Carswell graciously offering to come along in order to help the discourse.
Thankfully then for the locally based official, his evening passed without major incident, and the main case study was two sides trying to play attractive football.
Lining up for the Blues was future Sunderland purchase John Parke, who would primarily feature at fullback while on Wearside later in the decade but was used in the centre here. He helped stem the tide after the Lads had raced into a commanding lead and was his team’s strongest performer, although it was George Herd that was deemed to be the man of the match after he’d created the opener for Brian Clough, and later got on the scoresheet himself. Meanwhile, Norman Clarke featured at outside-left, having moved to Roker from Northern Ireland earlier in the year, and the indestructible Len Ashurst made way at halftime so that understudy Bill Richardson could enjoy a rare appearance.
It wasn’t just those with notepads or those that were on the fringes of the first team that benefitted from the night. Proceeds went to Shankill Youth Centre after Sunderland agreed to travel over for minimal expenses – and while they had to wait until 1964 to achieve promotion, they’d at least passed this particular test with flying colours.
Monday 13 August 1962
Linfield 2 (Stewart 53’, Reid 83’)
Sunderland 5 (Clough 15’, Hooper (pen) 19’, McNab 26’, Herd 38’, McPheat 54’)
Sunderland: Montgomery; Irwin, Ashurst (Robinson 46’); Anderson (Harvey 46’), Rooks, McNab; Hooper (Davison 46’), Herd, Clough (O’Niell 46’), McPheat, Clarke.
Windsor Park, attendance c. 10,000