Newcastle United 1946-1948, Sunderland 1948-1957
No case study of players who successfully crossed the divide can begin with anyone other than ‘The Clown Prince of Soccer’, who cemented his reputation as one of the pre-eminent talents of the twentieth century with spells at St James’ and Roker Park, the latter of which he was beloved and became an iconic figure after moving there in 1948.
The Yorkshire native’s brief flirtation with Newcastle, to whom he was sold in 1946 for the princely sum of £13,000 from Bradford Park Avenue, was reasonably successful, with twenty six goals in fifty seven league games, but his rebellious nature eventually led to friction and his departure with the now infamous declaration that ‘I’m not biased against Newcastle. I don’t care who beats them!’ became the stuff of North East footballing folklore.
After making the switch to Roker Park for just over £20,000 (a deal that ushered in an era that saw Sunderland nicknamed ‘The Bank of England Club’), Shack found his footballing home, dazzling the Roker faithful during a nine-year stay that although not capped by silverware, saw him entertain in abundance as the club looked to progress during the post-war years.
Tales of his flair, natural showmanship and impudence are legendary and although the likes of Trevor Ford seemingly never appreciated Shackleton’s unique and sometimes selfish approach to forward play, the fans certainly did and he remains a legendary figure on Wearside to this day.
Newcastle United 1950-1960, Sunderland (manager) 1972-1976, 1987
The only man on this list not to play for the Lads, Stokoe fits in for different reasons.
He’s rightly immortalised with a statue outside the Stadium of Light in honour of his exploits during the 1972/1973 FA Cup run, but before he became known as an iconic Sunderland boss, Stokoe had spent the bulk of his playing career on Tyneside and crowned his spell in black and white with an FA Cup triumph in 1955, alongside Jackie Milburn.
Nowadays, it’s probably fair to assume that there would be howls of derision at the notion of appointing a veteran of 200+ appearances in black and white as our new manager, but in the 1970’s, club executives weren’t influenced by Twitter and Stokoe duly arrived at Roker Park.
This kicked off a four-year run that eventually culminated with the 1975/1976 Division Two title and the club regaining a place in the top flight, as well as upsetting Don Revie’s seemingly unbeatable side three years earlier.
In addition to overseeing that seismic Wembley upset and providing countless memorable images as he ran onto the pitch to embrace Jimmy Montgomery, Stokoe also gave us one of the all-time great Sunderland quotes, an utterance that’s engraved on the stone plinth on which his statue proudly stands.
I didn’t bring the magic. It’s always been here. I just came back to find it.
Newcastle United 1992-1995, Sunderland 1983-1984; 1989-1992, 1995-1997
A former Everton mucker of Peter Reid’s and a very useful player to boot, ‘Brace’ seemed to spend much of his later career shuttling between Sunderland and Newcastle, with a spell at St James’ sandwiched between two runs in red and white, not to mention his first stint at Roker Park in the early 1980’s.
An FA Cup finalist with the Lads in 1992, Bracewell’s most fruitful period in a Sunderland shirt came between 1995 and 1997, when despite lingering injury troubles, he played a key role in our Division One promotion campaign before doing more than his fair share as we went about the business of trying to make an impression in the top flight.
As one of the older players in our squads of 1995/1996 and 1996/1997, Bracewell was a natural leader and as youngsters such as Michael Gray, Craig Russell and Michael Bridges eventually became first team regulars, the Merseyside native added guile and some big-game experience to the dressing room.
One quirk of Bracewell’s career is that he also holds the unenviable record of playing in four FA Cup finals and never being on the winning side, but that shouldn’t detract from his impact at Sunderland in three different eras.
Newcastle United 1997-2009, Sunderland 1995-1996 (loan)
One of the finest goalkeepers in Premier League history and known for his incredible reflexes and athleticism, Given’s later career saw him taste European football with Newcastle before moving onto Manchester City and then Aston Villa, where his top flight career eventually wound down.
However, he first captured people’s interest during a short but immensely successful loan spell at Roker Park from Blackburn Rovers, where despite his youth and inexperience, he stepped up to fill the void left by the injured Alec Chamberlain and was as important a player as anyone during the final push towards promotion, with an astonishing return of twelve clean sheets from seventeen games.
After his success on Wearside, Given made the switch to Newcastle for what now looks like the scandalously low fee of £1.5 million in the summer of 1997, where he would establish himself as an elite goalkeeper in over a decade in black and white.
These days, he’s undoubtedly known more commonly for his heroics at St James’, but the Irishman first came to prominence on our side of the divide as Reid tapped into the loan market with huge success.
Newcastle United 1990-1997; 2006-2006, Sunderland 1997-1999
If you weren’t fortunate enough to see him play and want to get an idea of just how influential Clark was in red and white, simply watch the season reviews of our 1997/1998 and 1998/1999 campaigns on YouTube, and you’ll get a much clearer idea of just how exceptional the Wallsend native was after signing from Newcastle during the summer of 1997.
His importance to the Lads during this time is sometimes overlooked in favour of club icons such as Alex Rae and Kevin Ball, but his power, tenacity, range of passing and eye for a goal were worth their weight in gold and despite suffering a broken ankle in the first game of the 1998/1999 season, he would return to play a key role as we eventually cruised to the Division One title.
What’s more, Clark always seemed to show tremendous enthusiasm when representing Sunderland and although that t-shirt incident at the 1999 FA Cup final was a distasteful note on which to end his time on Wearside, he remains one of the best midfielders I’ve had the pleasure of watching in a Sunderland shirt.
Newcastle United 2000-2006, Sunderland 2007-2008
We’ve all seen the footage of the goal and the commentary from Guy Mowbray for Match of the Day, which was an iconic note on which to begin the 2007/2008 season, but Chopra’s winner against Tottenham in August 2007 was the undoubted high point of his time at the Stadium of Light.
A £5 million pound summer signing from Cardiff, who he’d initially joined from Newcastle in 2006 after numerous loan spells, Chopra arrived as part of a pre-season recruitment drive as Roy Keane attempted to build a squad that was capable of securing survival, and the Irishman’s appraisal of Chopra as a ‘fox in the box’ was something of a misnomer, despite the initial optimism after scoring on his debut.
Ultimately, Chopra fell into the bracket of players who felt like decent signings at the time but ultimately weren’t good enough.
The arrival of Kenwyne Jones didn’t do his prospects any good, and despite chipping in with a few more goals, a notable miss during the derby of 2007/2008, (something that’s still debated to this day), was another setback and he eventually returned to Cardiff after twelve largely frustrating months on Wearside.