It is closing in on 50 years.
But is feels like yesterday.
That 1963-64 season.
Of course, because we care so much and feel so much, that first season feeling isspecial to all of us.
But excuse me in saying: that was some year. That was some team.
In half a century of support there are only two teams I can recite at will: 1973 and 1964. Maybe they should be addendums on my tombstone?
These days with squad rotation and the constant comings and goings of players from every corner of the earth such memory is void, pointless.
But for all those folk who were around then – remember (as though you could forget):
Harvey, Hurley, McNab,
Usher, Herd, Sharkey, Crossan, Mulhall.
Subs? No such animal. You played until you fell and then you got up and played some more. If you didn’t the Clock Stand Paddock would have your guts for garters.
It was one hell of a team and one hell of a season.
Objectivity is hopeless when looking back to remember through the eyes of a
star-struck seven year old.
But I was there for the 5th round against Everton along with 60,000 others, there too for the return league match against Dirty Leeds over Christmas, as nasty and vicious a football game as was ever played, there for the away game at Old Trafford in the sixth round when Monty was knocked out and Johnny played a game that should forever be remembered among the finest in a red and white shirt.
And the replay? When maybe 75,000 broke through the gates to see us once again robbed.
Then the night match against Benfica, supposedly the best in Europe. Except they’d never seen a centre forward as small or as deadly as Nicky Sharkey.
Or the 4-0 first half trashing of promotion rivals Preston? After that we knew.
Or the last minute goal against Charlton which sealed it. Then the two laps of honour
And through it all rose the King, Charlie Hurley – sandwiched between the coolness of Harvey and the nastiness of Mac the Knife..
It was beautiful.
And it was soon followed in true Sunderland fashion (and this is something which can be easily appreciated by all of us) by absolute farce.
New season, no manager, a 15 year old in goal and the board picking the team.
Like they say these days: you had to be there.
What has followed, for the next 40-odd years, was a mirror image of those 15 months,
Hope and despair mixed like a toxic cocktail.
Moments of brilliance followed by episodes of stupidity.
But while Casablanca’s Rick and his girl might always have Paris, well, those of us lucky enough to be born at the right time will always have ’64.
(Our Canadian Correspondent)