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The history of Sunderland’s ‘big fellas’ is a tale of hits and misses!

The recent discussion around Hemir has lead Kelvin Beattie to reminisce about some of the other big strikers to have played for the Lads. Some were great, but others? Not so good

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I’ve been coming through the Roker Park and Stadium of Light turnstiles for fifty eight years, so there were a few candidates to consider when thinking about the big, tall and strong strikers to have played for Sunderland.

When considering effective ‘big fellas’, it’s hard not to think of Niall Quinn and more recently, Ross Stewart.

I loved watching Quinny play for us.

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We signed him during arguably the final chapter of his career, and once he got over his early injury, he was brilliant.

He was clever and unpredictable in possession; he had a great sense of the scoring zone and he appeared to enjoy creating goals as much as scoring them.

He could play on the deck as well as aerially, and he could defend as well as attack. In his prime, he had the likes of Nicky Summerbee and Allan ‘Magic’ Johnstone providing the ammunition, and of course his little strike partner Kevin Phillips buzzing around him.

Aside from height and their forward roles, it’s possibly harsh to compare Hemir at the start of his career to Quinn towards the end of his, but I was lucky enough to see Quinn play live at the start of his career and there are definite similarities.

When Ross Stewart first arrived at Sunderland, he looked awkward, ungainly and a tad naive in possession.

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However, once we got him into his correct position and brought the service up to a good standard, he was superb and he also had a good bit of pace. You can’t ignore the fact that he played a lot of his football for us in League One, but few would deny that he was built for better things.

We grew to love both of these lads, so can Hemir reach this level? ‘Not if we don’t play him’, I hear some people say, and if we’re going to play him, let’s play the ball to him!

I also recall other good big strikers; the likes of John Hawley, Mel Holden, Danny Dichio and Neil Martin, whose forty six goals in ninety nine games were all scored in the top division during a turbulent period in the club’s history.

On the other hand, we’ve also had some less successful strikers in that mould, and Tore Andre Flo, Thomas Hauser, Tom Ritchie and Brett Angell spring to mind.

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I also see some similarities between Hemir and Colin West.

‘Young, raw, big, and inexperienced’ described West when he first came into the team against Spurs in 1981, and you could lift that description and apply it to Hemir right now.

From the start of his first team career, West stood out as being determined and a trier, no matter how the game was going or his own performance, but those characteristics aren’t as obvious from the little we’ve seen from Hemir.

West was also a confident lad.

He told manager Alan Durban that he’d score the goals to take us away from relegation during the 1981/1982 season, so Durban put him in the side and he scored six goals in eleven games, as well as making a nuisance of himself on the pitch.

We haven’t yet seen this from Hemir, but I’d argue that he’s hardly had the platform and I do have an inkling he could join this list.

In Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts, Abdoullah Ba, Dan Neil, Pierre Ekwah and Nazariy Rusyn, I think there’s enough creativity to fashion a goal or two, especially if they can play the ball to him.

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Give this lad some decent game time and the confidence of a first team goal, and I believe that I could eventually add his name to the list and introduce our good big fellas to a brand new audience.

I’d add my voice to those suggesting more first team game time for Hemir and I’d also like to see the fans get behind him, should this happen.

It’s unfortunate that we have in our midst a vocal minority who are booing and moaning at the earliest opportunity, and it was also a fact during Colin West’s time with us.

He scored twenty one goals in one hundred and two games and had we been counting assists back then, I’ve little doubt he would’ve figured highly, as he had to play his way through and past the hecklers!

My experience in over fifty eight years of watching and playing tells me that no player plays better when booed.

Conversely, I’ve seen young players thrive and blossom when cheered and supported by the ‘Roker Roar’, so let’s get behind Hemir and you never know, we could be playing our part in developing the next Quinn, Martin, or Stewart.


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