On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration as Sunderland's KING a small piece on a big man, Charlie Hurley.
Taken from CHARLIE HURLEY - "The greatest centre-half the world has ever seen'
Charlie Hurley’s first goal for Sunderland should have come when Ipswich were beaten 2-0 at Roker Park at the start of December 1960 because, reported Argus, Ipswich goalkeeper Roy Bailey “admitted that Hurley’s header from a corner by Overfield had crossed the line but the referee didn’t see it’
The Suffolk team were lying in third place behind Sheffield United and Liverpool but two goals from Willie McPheat, who had only just got into the team after signing for Sunderland the previous year put Sunderland’s fortunes on the up. So Hurley’s opening goal for Sunderland would have to wait – but not for long!
The decision to send Hurley up for corners was a revolutionary one when Sunderland tried it towards the end of 1960. Since Hebert Chapman’s decision to make the centre-half a stopper they had remained firmly on the halfway line at set pieces no matter how good they were in the air.
In was this tactic which helped make Hurley so popular with Sunderland’s fanatical fans. After a while no corner at Roker Park would be complete without the cry of ‘Charlie, Charlie, Charlie’ as the crowd roared the big man to get up into the opponents’ box to cause as many problems as possible.
|Charlie Hurley and Stan Anderson shake hands before Stan's Testimonial match|
“I was always good in the air, I went up for a corner and it caused a lot of problems, I didn’t score, I was the 1st defender to go up for corners. It was Stan Anderson’s idea. The fact that I attacked the ball meant I got an awful lot of goals, we had some good crossers of the ball, Harry Hooper, George Mulhall, Nicky ‘the nicker’ Sharkey on the end of some of my knock downs.”
Anderson’s foresight changed the face of English football forever - every side now sends at least one of their centre-backs up for corners, not to mention these days for free-kicks close to the opponents penalty area as well. The ex-Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough and England International “thought that it was a natural thing to do for Charlie to go up for corners. He was a big fella, brilliant in the air, what else were we supposed to do with him? It was logic, it meant when he came up the other side had to say ‘whoa we’d better mark him’, look at the size of him.’ Normally it was the centre half who marked the centre-forward, but when you’ve got Charlie up there standing at the far post the centre-half didn’t fancy going out there and the number of goals that Charlie scored, and the number of knock-downs that he allowed others to score was a very decent return.
He was a magnificent header of the ball, it doesn’t take rocket science to think what I thought, Brownie never said a word against it, Brownie rarely spoke to me, except when he played hell with all of us. I said to Charlie at his seventieth birthday party that Brownie thought the world of you and to be fair Charlie was his best buy ever, so he should have, you can’t take that away from him” says Anderson.
On Boxing Day 1960 Hurley scored his first League Goal for Sunderland in a one one draw with Sheffield United watched by 46,099 spectators. It was the first goal by a Sunderland centre-half since Ray Daniel had scored at home to Sheffield Wednesday back on February 16th 1957. It came when he blocked an attempted clearance.
There was no such wait for another this time, Hurley scoring as part of a seven one win against Luton Town at Roker Park on New Year’s Day in 1961.
Stanley Ford, writing below a banner headline of ‘Hurley giant in Sunderland blitz’ in ‘The People’ reported that ‘Hurley, showing shades of manager Alan Brown’s Burnley days, raced up from defence to centre-forward for corners and headed an Anderson chip for No 3. For my money Hurley is the best centre-half in Britain today’.
A view echoed by Luton Manager Sam Bartram who mused “if John Charles is worth £60,000, how much is he worth? He’s the greatest in the business. I wish we had Hurley’.
“I used to get more knackered going up for corners than playing back in defence, if we had 10 or 12 corners in a game I had to get up and the get back, but the crowd wouldn’t have it any other way because if I stayed back you’d hear ‘Charlie, Charlie’ and up I went…it was one of the biggest things, it was the number one thing that the fans loved” recalls the genial Irishman.
It was in the report of the Luton match that Charlie Hurley earned the nickname “King’ for the first time. It was written by Vince Wilson in the Sunday Pictorial on New Year’s Day 1961. And it stuck.
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Teessiders but not when he his opponent had been Charlie Hurley.