Former Sunderland AFC groundsman Tommy Porter has been named by the Football Association as the country’s top non-league groundsman.
Tommy became known to many Sunderland supporters when he featured prominently in the BBC documentary “Premier Passions” – a fly-on-the-wall documentary about SAFC during the 96/97 season – the final season at Roker Park. He left the club five years ago and now tends the pitches at the Archibald Stadium for Durham City AFC.
In a recent interview for the Northern Echo Tommy, 70, said of the final years of his time at Sunderland, “In my opinion Peter Reid was a nasty piece of work. They were unhappy days and I didn’t like him at all to be quite honest. I’ve had more respect here than I ever had at Sunderland.”
Arguably the low point of his time with us was the ‘frozen pitch incident’ during the 98/99 season when Peter Reid blamed Tommy for the undersoil heating not firing up, resulting in a snow and ice-covered pitch on a matchday – even though the dedicated groundsman, not allowed a key to the boiler room for the controls of the undersoil heating, had been at the Stadium of Light since the early hours of the morning trying to rectify the situation.
Reid was said to have threatened Tommy with dismissal despite his argument that he’d done everything in his power, and says now of the incident “I had him by the collar. Bobby Saxton had to drag me off. John Fickling tried to tell me that it was all a bit of fun but at my age I didn’t need fun like that. Sunderland was just no good.”
And of his award, he says “My life has had lots of challenges but there was never a bigger one than getting Durham City right.
“That award’s fantastic – it means everything.”