Sunderland AFC 1958/59


Sunderland’s first game in the Second Division was at Sincil Bank against Lincoln City. Whilst not ideal we looked to be heading for an away point with only 12 minutes remaining. We capitulated and lost 1-3. Were we to be the fall guys for the whole division? The mighty Sunderland that everyone wanted a pop at?

Our first home game was no better, defeated 1-2 by Fulham. Then our first victory, a 2-1 defeat of Liverpool, we were up and running, or so we thought. In September we suffered perhaps our worst month ever so far in the league. With four defeats in six league games. We were now on the rack. By the end of October we had just eight points from 14 league games, and the Third Division stared us in the face. If we didn’t buck our ideas up we were going straight through the divisions.

The Swansea thrashing at the Vetch field saw Welsh goalscoring legend Ivor Allchurch score four of his side’s five goals and he received a hero’s reception on his substitution just before the final whistle. On 20th Sep­tember 1958 a 0-2 home defeat against Ipswich Town may not seem very noteworthy until you realise that three teenagers had made their debuts for Sunderland that day. Len Ashurst aged 19, Cecil Irwin, aged 16 and Jimmy McNab, aged 18.

The defeat at Eastville, the home of Bristol Rovers came as no real surprise, as the home side were defending an unbeaten run of 18 games in the “big City”. 11th October and Sunderland made the short journey to Ayre­some Park, fighting out a dull 0-0 draw. It was a predictable result with the home side failing to score for nearly a month. Another floodlit friendly followed, this time against Dukla Prague. The Czechs were “bounced” 3-1 by the Lads.

By 25th October and a visit to Ashton Gate, the only highlight in a 1-4 hammering was a lone swan who flew over the ground in the dying minutes. Perhaps it was in sympa­thy with Sunderland’s miserable defeat. The Sunderland side was by now almost entirely made up of youth, represented by the fact that the average age of the side was 21. For the 1-0 win over Grimsby Town we lined up as follows: Wakeham, Nelson, Ashurst, McNab, Hurley, Pearce, Bircham, Maltby, Kitchen­brand, Anderson, Grainger.

By 8th November the South African Don Kitchenbrand was beginning to make a name for himself and scored in the 1-1 draw at Leeds Road. A strange incident took place on the touchline when McNab went off in­jured. When manager Alan Brown found that the wing half had dislocated a shoulder, he promptly put it back into place. McNab car­ried on.

Into November and a fine 4-0 triumph over Rotherham at Millmoor finally seemed to signal that Sunderland had won their Second Division spurs, and Kitchenbrand scored the red and white’s first hat trick for some two years. McNab was carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury and Maltby once more jetted off to Germany to be with his Army unit, after the game.

The next week there was another hat trick, this time by 19 year old inside right John Goodchild. The Sheffield United side defeated came to Roker with the best defence in the division. Youth is no respecter of reputations. Then we collapsed again in December with three defeats in five games, the first of which came on our “debut” at The Goldstone Ground. Revenge over Lincoln was sweet, but never easy. Kitchenbrand scored two to make it 14 in 20 games.

The first game of 1959 was a 4-0 thrashing of Orient, before our first defeat of the New Year, 1-3 at Anfield. The FA Cup is of course a great leveler and we were well and truly levelled at Goodison Park, 0-4 by a rampant Everton side. Still we needed an FA cup run like a hole in the head.

Seven days after the FA Cup exit there was an intriguing game between Sunderland youths and Manchester United youths. The latter would win 2-1 after Sunderland had taken the lead, but the main talking point of the night was some “robust” tackling by one Nobby Stiles. We would hear that expression a few times over the years. Johnny Giles also featured that game. We then went on a good run, which saw us win five out of our next seven league games. This pushed us up the table, out of relegation worries and into mid table. There we would stay.

The win over Swansea once more saw Allchurch score, this time only a consolation. By the time of the Bristol Rovers victory we had lost only four of 14 and had won five home games on the trot. A positive heaven com­pared with early season. Alan Brown’s youth system was beginning to bear fruit.

We lost at The Baseball Ground on our first visit there for six years and our visit to The Valley for a 2-3 defeat was witnessed by bandleader Bill Cotton, who sat in the Directors’ Box. At one stage the lads had been down 0 -3 and almost made a “Harry Houdini” of it.

A 0-6 hiding by Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road was eminently forgettable, but a win and two draws kept our run going. The last three games resulted in two defeats and a win on the final day of the season, 4-1 over Brighton. Kitchenbrand once more scored a hat trick to take his tally to the season to 21. He then flew to Ire­land for his wedding, and where he would start married life.

15th April and Len Shackleton had a well earned testimonial against an All Stars XI, which included the leg­endary Fulham player Johnny Haynes and a certain Middlesbrough player, one Brian Clough. It ended an entertaining 5-4 with Shack starring for the “away” team.

By now Sunderland had bought the old gun site at Whitburn, in time it would be renamed the Charlie Hurley Centre, and by now the club also had chief Scout Charlie Ferguson talent spotting.

The annual report and meeting on 2nd July at Roker Park reported a net profit of some £18,499 for the year ended 2nd May. The cost of the new “Cleadon Training Ground” was revealed at £13,500 of which the club had taken out a mortgage of some £10,800.