WHEN DID CHARLIE HURLEY BECOME KNOWN AS ‘THE KING’ AMONGST SUNDERLAND FANS?
This explains how the title came about in early 1961. It is chapter 7 from my book on Charlie Hurley, which is titled “The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen’
Charlie Hurley, who had become a father for the first time when his daughter Tracy was born on June 7th, started the 1960–61 season in good form as Sunderland opened their third year in Division Two with a 2-1 victory over Swansea Town, their first opening day victory for six years. Argus commented that “none did better than Hurley for his ice-cool control and mastery in the air” and, remarking on a feature of the defender’s play for which he was to become famous during his time at Sunderland, stating “there is nothing quite so emphatic as the headed clearance by Hurley which sends the ball practically to the half-way line.”
Younger readers may be unaware of how difficult such a feat was at the time. The ball used was rock hard and when it got wet it became a very heavy object indeed. A leather ‘food’, Dubbin, best described as thick yellow axle-grease, was often applied to the ball to “soften it up”. In fact it was waterproof and did nothing of the sort.
There are many former footballers who suffered in later life after repeatedly heading those footballs, including former Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe. The classic 1960s West Bromwich Albion centre forward Jeff Astle’s death was ascribed to this after the coroner found that the repeated minor trauma of heading the ball had been the cause of death by industrial injury. Astle scored the winning goal in the 1968 FA Cup Final and was top scorer with twenty-five goals in Division One in 1969–70. Duels between him and Hurley were fierce competitive battles with no quarter given.
Some of today’s footballers would certainly regard the balls of the 1960s as unsuitable and they would definitely destroy a manicured hairdo or two. To head such a ball the distances Hurley managed demonstrated perfect timing, balance and power, not to mention an awareness of players around you and a determination to get to the ball first. Hurley was a master at all this. Of course it helped to be over six feet tall and fourteen stone, but this should not obscure his talent in this respect.
Football boots, of course, were very different. A new pair of leather boots had to be “broken in” and studs, which had to be rounded and no longer than half an inch [1.25cm], had to be hammered into the soles of the boots, which were heavier than today’s and offered much greater ankle protection. Players often had several pairs of boots with different length studs as only later did moulded and screw-in studs appear. Club apprentices were given the job of keeping the boots of senior players clean and dry in between games.
Strips, numbered one to eleven, could be guaranteed to collect the rain and mud along the way. Many was the time when spectators were unable to tell who had passed the ball as the player’s number was covered with mud. On particularly dark and dismal winter days it was often a problem to make out which team was which. The shirts were also advert free and remained that way until the 1974–75 season when England signed a commercial deal with Admiral that saw the players wear shirts with the manufacturer’s logo on them.
Then, in 1979, Liverpool become the first side to run out with a sponsor’s name on their shirts, in this case Hitachi.
When two away draws were followed by a 4-0 home win over Stoke City, in which Anderson was outstanding before a very disappointing attendance of 19,007, it seemed that Sunderland might finally be coming to terms with life in Division Two.
That proved to be wrong and, starting in mid-September, the side from Roker Park lost five consecutive matches. They included one against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park where Brian Clough scored the only goal which, according to Argus, “was all he did do in the game, for once again he came under the spell of Charlie Hurley.” The attendance on the day was 20,000 less than the same fixture in the previous season. Sunderland were left with just nine points from thirteen games – another long troubled season stretched ahead of them.
Since the start of the 1956–57 season Sunderland had played 181 League games, winning only 52 and drawing 45, a total of just 153 points. It was the worst record in the Football League.
Hurley was in the Ireland team on September 28th when they hosted their first match against Wales. With an eight-match unbeaten home record to defend, Ireland were favourites, but they reckoned without two men who were instrumental in Spurs’ success that season, wingers Terry Medwin and Cliff Jones.
Goalkeeper Phil Kelly, making his debut for Ireland, was sent one way and then another by Jones and although Fagan managed to equalise, Jones scored a second and West Ham’s Phil Woosnam a third, before a late penalty by Fagan gave Ireland a little consolation. Most reporters afterwards agreed that Hurley was Ireland’s best performer as press speculation about a move nearer London continued to mount.
It was Lawther who rescued Sunderland by scoring in five consecutive League matches, six in all games as he scored the team’s first when Sunderland went down 4-3 away to Brentford in their first ever League Cup match. The 1-1 draw with Rotherham almost produced Hurley’s first goal for Sunderland when, down to just nine men due to injuries, he raced forty yards to meet Hooper’s corner and force a magnificent save from Roy Ironside in the Rotherham goal.
Outside right Harry Hooper had been signed from Birmingham City the previous September. Exceptionally quick with a strong shot, he made 80 first team appearances for Sunderland, scoring 19 times.
Hurley played his twelfth match for Ireland when Norway’s largely amateur team provided little opposition in a game won 3-1 by the home side. Fagan scored again while Peter Fitzgerald grabbed two.
With the PFA continuing to mount a vigorous campaign for improved pay and an end to the retain-and- transfer system, Alan Hardaker, the Football League secretary, had been putting forward proposals to try and break the deadlock. By suggesting that the future should include retaining the maximum wage he could not expect to obtain PFA approval even if the clubs had agreed that they would pay the additional bonuses and signing-on fees he was proposing.
Players wanted the freedom to earn as much as an employer was prepared to pay, although writing many years later, Jimmy Hill believed that, despite a series of meetings which had approved strike action, the players would probably have settled for a maximum wage of £30 a week and some reasonable adjustments to the retain-and-transfer system. But many of the clubs were determined not to budge.
Charlie Hurley’s first goal for Sunderland should have come when Ipswich were beaten 2-0 at Roker Park at the start of December because, reported Argus, Ipswich goalkeeper Roy Bailey “admitted that Hurley’s header from a corner from Jack Overfield had crossed the line but the referee didn’t see it.”
The Suffolk team were lying third 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 revolutionary when Sunderland tried it towards the end of 1960. Since Herbert 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.
It was this tactic which helped make Hurley so popular with Sunderland 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.
“I was always good in the air. It was Stan Anderson’s idea. So I went up for a corner and although I didn’t
score it caused a lot of problems. The fact that I attacked the ball meant I got an awful lot of goals because we had some good crossers of the ball and Harry Hooper, George Mulhall and Nicky ‘the nicker’ Sharkey got on the end of some of my knock-downs.”
Anderson’s foresight changed the face of English football forever – now every team sends at least one of their centre backs forward for set pieces. Anderson says: “I thought that it was a natural thing for Charlie to do. 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 the centre half marked the centre forward but when you had Charlie up there standing at the far post the centre half didn’t fancy going out there. 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. In fact 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 him and to be fair Charlie was his best buy ever, so he should have.”
Charlie Hurley’s first goal for Sunderland was a belated Christmas present, delayed by just a day. It came on Boxing Day 1960 in a 1-1 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. Daniel’s goal came from the penalty spot.
There was only a five-day wait for the next Hurley goal as he scored in the 7-1 win over Luton Town at Roker Park on December 31st.
Luton manager Sam Bartram, once a great goalkeeper who thus knew a thing or two about playing behind a centre half, wondered afterwards: “If John Charles is worth £60,000, how much is he worth? He’s the greatest in the business. I wish we had Hurley.”
The genial Irishman remembers: “I used to get more knackered going up for corners than playing back in defence. If we had ten or twelve corners in a game I had to get up and then 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 the number one thing that the fans loved.”
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.
The FA Cup draw had brought a home tie against Arsenal and there was genuine excitement among supporters for the first time in many years. Roker Park was packed with 58,765, including four Arsenal fans from West Hartlepool who were mocked as “traitors” by Argus in the following Monday’s Echo. He could not understand how anyone from the north-east could support a Cockney team. Clearly this was well before television got its hands on impressionable youngsters to ensure that today, wherever they live, they must support fashionable and successful teams even if they are never likely to see them play live.
Arsenal proved to be the better team for the first thirty minutes with David Herd putting them ahead after just five minutes. But with Anderson at his very best, Sunderland equalised and then won the match with his second goal of the game. Ashurst made a last-ditch tackle to prevent an equaliser from George Eastham, who had signed for the Gunners after his refusal to play for Newcastle.
Recalls Hurley: “Stan Anderson was brilliant against Arsenal. He was one of the greatest wing players that I ever saw. People say he lacked a bit defensively, but you can’t have it all. He had flair, and tremendous vision; one sad thing was that he wasn’t there when we got promotion.”
Monday’s Echo brought the news that Sunderland had drawn Liverpool away in the fourth round, along with new peace proposals from Alan Hardaker to try and prevent a players’ strike. This time he suggested increasing minimum wages to £12 a week for lower league players, £14 for those in Division Two and £15 for Division One. These were actually below the then increasing average wage in some areas of the country. He also proposed, however, to end the maximum wage system after the following season but not to end the retain-and-transfer system.
Jimmy Hill felt that this might be good enough for the better-off players to abandon the PFA’s campaign; it meant one of the two major demands had been met and the opportunity of earning considerably more was within the grasp of players from Divisions One and Two. However, they stood overwhelmingly with their less fortunate colleagues and at a players’ meeting in Manchester 344 players invited the press to witness them voting for strike action.
On Wednesday January 18th 1961, the PFA and the Football League finally appeared to have resolved their differences when it was agreed that any player whose contract had come to an end and who had not been transferred by August 31st would be able to depend on “the management committee of the Football League to deal with the matter.” The players took this to mean that the committee would help the player to get a move. They were delighted; it meant the end of the maximum wage and the retain-and-transfer system.
In fact the clubs dug in their heels and while the players were now free to negotiate wages it was left to the PFA to mount a successful legal challenge, using George Eastham’s case, before the transfer system was completely overhauled. Nevertheless it marked the beginning of the end for the clubs in their fight to keep players’ wages and conditions under their strict control and Hurley has no doubts who to thank:
“All the players who played during my era and those since should always say a prayer for Jimmy Hill before they go to sleep. He went in to get a maximum wage scrapped and he managed to do so. If I ever saw Jimmy I would walk up to him and say ‘I’d have stayed on £20 a week for all my career if it hadn’t been for you’. The clubs might have moved it up a bit but not by much. Mind, some players today are getting paid far too much: if Sky pulls out tomorrow the clubs will be bankrupt and fans will be regarded as sacrosanct once again.”
The Liverpool Echo was looking forward to Sunderland and Charlie Hurley’s appearance at Anfield. Before the cup tie Sunderland enjoyed two impressive performances, beating Lincoln 2-1 away, where Lawther was one of the scorers, and winning 4-1 at home to Portsmouth, when Lawther scored twice to make it fourteen league goals in fourteen league games.
A cup tie special train at a cost of 35 shillings [£1.75] took some of the mass support to Liverpool. Those travelling could be sure of the chance to enjoy a good drink afterwards as the return did not leave Lime Street until 11.30pm. How football fans would enjoy such departure times these days!
The Liverpool Echo reporter was in no doubt who was likely to be Sunderland’s key player, reporting that “the king-pin and king-sized centre half Hurley is one of the keys to their success. Liverpool have no comparable personality.”
Argus had warned that Sunderland would have to be at their very best to beat not only a decent Liverpool side but also the Liverpool Spion Kop, which “there is nothing to compare with anywhere in the country”. This area of the ground behind one of the goals was named in honour of the battle between the Boer and British Armies in January 1900 along the Tugela River, Natal, in South Africa.
Liverpool were not then the force they were to later become. Like Sunderland, they were in the Second Division, having slid out of the top flight after a long spell, but they were to go up as champions the following year so a victory at Anfield was no mean feat. And that’s what Sunderland achieved with goals from Harry Hooper and Lawther sending them into the fifth round. Off the field, and not for the last time, the travelling Sunderland fans humbled the famous Kop.
Sunderland’s young team had finally come of age and one player particularly pleased at the result was Liverpool-born Len Ashurst, who had been released by his home-town club at nineteen after being on their books for three years. “I enjoyed the FA Cup match, but I always enjoyed playing at Anfield as my parents and relatives were all Liverpudlians but also because they gave me a free transfer, which I think was a mistake,” he remembers.
As Hurley recalls: “We were two-nil up in twenty minutes. We had to defend the Kop in the second half and the longer it went on the more they lobbed the ball in. It was like manna from heaven. It was easy. To play in front of the Kop and get a standing ovation, which we got after that game, is something to remember because the Kop were great fans. They were very fair. If you played well they clapped you off the park. It was a fabulous day. I was chosen as ‘Man of the Match’ for that game, I was given a lighter. I gave it to my dad and he lost it – that was my dad – or perhaps he flogged it!
“Yes, my dad was a character. But what I got from him was a determination to win. Even today if I play tennis or snooker or darts I want to win. You never hear of the player who comes second, no matter how many times he does it. One good win is worth much more. I came second to Bobby Moore in the 1964
Player of the Year awards and no one remembers. I think I was a born winner and I got that from my father. I’ll give you an example. I used to be a very good athlete as a kid and Ford works used to have an annual garden fete, with athletics for under-fives, under-tens and under-fifteens. You got seven shillings and sixpence [37p] for winning, five bob [25p] for second and two and six [13p] for third. It was a lot of money. One year it was raining and there could only be one race and the older ones were naturally put at the back.
“Halfway up the field were the little five-year-olds. On your marks, get set go and with me wearing spikes I was off like a shot. I was nearly there but this little five-year-old beat me – he was nearly at the tape to start with. I go to my dad with the money still puffing and panting and he said ‘fancy letting a five-year-old beat you’. I never forget that. It instilled into me that you’ve got to win. Winners are not necessarily nice people when they’re actually competing, but you put on a different hat. You just feel different, quite frightening.
“Now my mother had a massive heart, all my brothers and sisters are still very close; I think we got the strength from my dad but the feeling and affection from my mother. I have never got pleasure from seeing people getting hurt during life. My father used to say ‘Always be honest, boy, then you don’t have to have a good memory’. When I look back it wasn’t a bad principle to be brought up with.”
Two weeks after the Anfield match more than 53,000 packed Roker Park to see Sunderland defeat Middlesbrough 2-0, Brian Clough again missing out. Some Sunderland supporters thought he was not as good as reported or as good as he thought he was!
Sunderland drew Norwich City away in the next round of the FA Cup and not for the first time a player and team were motivated by mind games from the opposition. Charlie Hurley recalls: “I will always remember Norwich because I remember reading the headlines the day before the match. I don’t know if it was a wind-up or not but it said ‘Hurley, the weakness’ so I couldn’t fathom that one out. It put my back up anyway. We took a bit of a battering and then we had a good spell in the first half where we could have got something. Then we got one corner with about ten minutes to go, which Harry Hooper took.
“He was the type of guy who’d say ‘Which way do you want the lace Charlie?’ He always curled the corner away from the ’keeper, beautiful for someone good in the air. One corner, and bop and in the back of the net, halfway up the iron stanchion. Before I could even get off the floor there was a mass of players on my back. I was carrying six when I went over to shake hands with Harry Hooper.
“Then we took a pounding for ten minutes, and won 1-0. Those types of games will always stick in your mind. An awful lot of Sunderland fans from those days who I talk to pick that game out. It was packed at Norwich that day; in those days fans and players were one, there were no prima donnas. OK, we were earning a lot more than the fans even in those days but our players loved the fans.”
Stan Anderson rates Hurley’s performance at Norwich as the best he saw from him in a Sunderland shirt. “He was brilliant. It is a shame that TV in those days wasn’t as good as it is now because if they’d looked at that goal from all the angles that they do now – it was such a bullet-like header from twelve to fifteen yards out. I remember it coming over my head and just turning to look and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
“He must have hit it flush on the head and if it had hit the crossbar it would probably have broken it. It just absolutely flashed into the net. The goal won us the match. I bet we were under the cosh for eighty-five per cent of the time but Norwich never looked like scoring. I remember one of the Norwich players asking ‘How the bloody hell have we lost this match?’”
The goal arrived with eleven minutes remaining and Argus described it as: “From a Hooper corner-kick Hurley beat Keenan with a magnificently placed header which was a goal all the way.”
“Hurley could be the rage of the Continent in a classy side like Real Madrid,” wrote Charlie Summerbell in the Daily Mirror the following week. Madrid were, of course, the best side in the world at the time having won the first five European Cups between 1956 and 1960.
When the sixth round draw was made it meant Tottenham Hotspur, the best team in England and looking to become the first since Aston Villa in 1896–97 to record the ‘double’ of League and FA Cup in the same season, would be making the long journey to Roker. It was swiftly announced that the tie would be a 63,000 all-ticket affair and even though Spurs returned around 10,000 from their allocation of 15,750 on the Thursday before the game they were soon sold. The atmosphere was electric. Younger readers should
think of Manchester City in the FA Cup at Roker in 1973 and Newcastle at home at the Stadium of Light in 2001, when Sunderland came from two down to grab a draw.
Sunderland won both matches between the draw and the tie, maintaining good form for the biggest game of their lives for some of the players involved. The 4-2 defeat of Leeds United included a hat-trick from Johnny Goodchild, playing his only game of the season and the last of his 44 games for Sunderland.
The Spurs side included Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay, the Scot having been signed by Bill Nicholson from Hearts six months after Nicholson had taken over as manager in October 1958. It was the away team who took the lead on nine minutes when Welshman Cliff Jones headed past an unsighted Peter Wakeham. It stayed that way until ten minutes into the second half, when Hurley went forward for another corner.
He remembers: “I dived and got a header in. Bill Brown pushed it out and Willie McPheat drove it home. I’ve got a big picture at home of the crowd of 63,000.”
Dave Hillam, a long-time Sunderland fan, did not have a ticket, “so for want of anything better to do I ended up on Tunstall Hill with some mates and we heard an incredible noise from the ground. It transfixed us. I can still remember hearing a great roar coming over the river and us all standing there listening to it.”
According to Argus “there was no Roker Park precedent for the scenes which followed” as supporters invaded the pitch in celebration of the equaliser, holding up the match for two minutes.
It was suggested that this intervention assisted a shaky Spurs team, giving them time to regroup among the mayhem. That is certainly how Danny Blanchflower recalled events in the Sunday Express when a week after Sunderland’s Wembley victory against Leeds United in 1973 he wrote: “Hundreds of fans jumped over the fence and on to the field. They were like a mad religious sect waving their hands to the glory of the equaliser. ‘Let them come,’ I said, ‘let them get it all out of their system. The worst is over. This is the climax ... keep your heads. Let’s start going for their goal. We don’t want them near ours. Not with that crowd.”
Blanchflower claimed that Spurs then “pressed the game for a spell and then it faded into a midfield struggle.”
Yet this is not what journalists reported. For example, Alan Hoby, also in the Sunday Express, wrote: “Spurs shocked and shaken by the tremendous fervour of the Roker fans could never click back into their classic pattern. Indeed for five minutes the Division One leaders were forced to kick anywhere ... conceding three corners as they somehow survived the blitz.”
Hurley remembers “Danny Blanchflower kicking the ball over to Stan Anderson. Now Danny never ever hit a ball more than twenty yards, but the crowd that day was going berserk, the panic button was being pressed. But we just couldn’t get the goal although in the last minute John Dillon was very, very unlucky not to pinch the winner.”
Argus reported that “Mackay was forced to boot the ball away and the famous Lilywhites so riled Hurley by their tactics used against him that he came near to losing his temper.”
In the days following the game Blanchflower said that “nothing I have ever heard equalled the intensity of that wild roar at Roker Park last week when Sunderland drew level with Tottenham.”
The Irishman retained his affection for Sunderland fans the rest of his life, writing in his Sunday Express post-1973 FA Cup final piece that seeing them at Wembley “had pleased me. It brought back old times for me. In some ways this was better than the last time. They had won the Cup. They had beaten the best team of their day and that did not bother me at all this time.”
Spurs had been lucky but four days later they showed no mercy as they thumped Sunderland 5-0 in front of a White Hart Lane crowd of nearly 65,000 which contained a large number from the north-east, including some supporters who travelled by boat!
“The sea-going supporters are the crews of at least six North-East colliers, which will be moored in the Thames today” reported the Newcastle Journal.
Argus felt that the scoreline was a little harsh: “It was still a great game to watch and not nearly so one- sided as the scoreline indicates. But Spurs did everything a little better and a little quicker and that was the basic difference between the sides.”
He was probably being a little generous. My dad, Noble Metcalf, was one of the Sunderland supporters
who travelled that day, and he told me years later: “They hammered us, but they were a great team, especially Danny Blanchflower.”
They were only weeks away from establishing their own legacy and one wonders what might have happened if the pre-Munich Manchester United side had not been so tragically destroyed. Spurs against Manchester United in 1960–61 would have been some game.
Hurley recalls that “Jimmy McNab missed the return match. He was a good defender. I used to call Jimmy ‘Mac the knife’ as he knocked guys over, but he rarely got booked. He’d knock the guy over, pick him up, say nothing and walk away, always smile. Don’t forget referees have got their own problems. If you don’t give them too much trouble then you could get away with three or four challenges.
“Lennie ‘the Lion’ Ashurst and Mac were the two best defenders I played with. They were rock solid. In the Second Division they got known as the flank to be wary of. The blend Alan Brown got was very good and don’t forget a good number came through the youth side, including Cec Irwin who was a solid, no nonsense defender. Lovely lad also.
“Underdogs against the very best rarely get a second chance and we didn’t at Tottenham. For about twenty minutes we played really well, as good as them. Ian Lawther had two good chances. Even if he’d got one of them it wouldn’t have helped. They had a fantastic side, and once they went one up we showed our inexperience and ended up losing by five.
“But it was an experience. There were thirty thousand locked out. Word had gone out that this young Sunderland side were going to cause an upset. For twenty minutes we did, but that’s not what counts.”
Stan Anderson says: “I didn’t think we were going to win the cup: we weren’t good enough. You need luck as well. If we were going to win it we had to beat Tottenham at Roker Park. We could have done it but John Dillon fluffed it in the last few minutes. He still cries about it even now. He’s a lovely lad is John. He comes for the players’ reunion dinners and we rib him, saying ‘You were through against Tottenham’ and he throws his hands up and moans ‘Oh no!’”
The cup defeat did not seem to affect the team too much. There was a 0-0 draw at Rotherham and a 2-1 victory against visitors Brighton and Hove Albion. This put Sunderland on forty points from thirty-three games. They were still some way behind Ipswich Town and Sheffield United but they were in sensational form and had gained seventeen points from ten games.
But promotion was not to be. In the very next match at Eastville, Hurley was injured early. Although he limped through the game it would probably have been better had he gone off as it meant he would miss the following games, and Sunderland lost by 1-0 to Bristol Rovers anyway.
The defeat knocked the stuffing out of the still young Sunderland side. Hurley missed the next seven games, in which Sunderland lost four times. Still, sixth was a lot better than the previous two seasons. These days it would get you into the play-offs and offer a back-door route to promotion but they were not introduced until 1987.
One of the defeats occurred in Sunderland’s final away game of the season when Ipswich Town scored four goals without reply. The following week the East Anglian club were crowned Division Two Champions with fifty-nine points, pipping Sheffield United by a point. With thirty-nine league goals Ray Crawford had knocked Middlesbrough’s goalscoring machine Brian Clough off his perch as top scorer in Division Two for the first time in four seasons.
With no previous experience of top-flight football, the Portman Road side were expected to struggle the following season. In fact they went on to confound everybody by winning the First Division title under the guidance of manager Alf Ramsey. Ramsey had been appointed in 1955 when the club were in the Third Division South and led them to promotion two seasons later. Ramsey himself had won back-to-back Second and First Division titles as a player with Tottenham Hotspur in 1950 and 1951.
Since then only one team has repeated the feat, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest capturing the First Division title in 1978 only a year after winning promotion. It is unlikely to be repeated.
Spurs went on to beat Leicester City in the final, thus adding the FA Cup to the First Division title they won by finishing eight points clear of Sheffield Wednesday. The then famous ‘double’ had been achieved only twice previously when Preston North End won both competitions in the first ever season of league football, 1888–89, and then Aston Villa in 1896–97.
There was no beach for Charlie Hurley that summer. Ireland had been drawn with Scotland and Czechoslovakia in World Cup qualifying group eight with the winners going forward to play in Chile the following summer. The Scotland games took place over a four-day period at the end of the season, the first at Hampden Park and the return at Dalymount Park.
It was very much unlucky thirteen for Hurley in Glasgow. Ireland awarded a first cap to Andy McEvoy of Blackburn Rovers, but at right half, not in his usual position of inside forward, and Ireland were behind in the fourteenth minute when Hurley made a poor clearance and Rangers forward, and later Sunderland teammate, Ralph Brand was on hand to score an easy goal. When he scored his second just before half- time it looked all over but Haverty did pull a goal back before David Herd added two for the home side to make it 4-1.
Four days later Herd was missing, his place taken by Alex Young of Everton. Mick Meagan made his debut for Ireland at left half.
The 36,000 crowd were treated to a magnificent display, sadly not from their own team. Jim Baxter, Paddy Crerand, who had made his debut in the first match, and Celtic’s Billy McNeill, later to become the first skipper of a British team to lift the European Cup, ran the show. After four minutes Young scored the first, twelve minutes later Brand got the second and Young got his second and Scotland’s third two minutes before the referee’s final whistle brought a chastened Ireland’s misery to an end.
Had the game taken place under today’s rules there is little doubt that one player at least on the Scotland side would have been playing in the green of Ireland. Paddy Crerand had been brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, traditionally home to thousands of immigrants from Ireland and often referred to throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s as the most dangerous place in Britain as street gangs were rife. Crerand, in his own words was “totally Irish, my parents were Irish, all my pals were Irish. We kept ourselves to ourselves because everyone from outside of it hated you.
“I remember when I left school in 1955 there were adverts in the papers, ‘No Irish or RC [Roman Catholics] may apply.’ It was only later on that they allowed people to play for the country of their parents; the first player ever to play for Ireland not born there was my United teammate Shay Brennan. If that law was there in 1961 I would have played for Ireland. I stopped playing for Scotland because of the bigotry. It also didn’t help that I played in England but to be fair I never looked at myself as Scottish anyway.”2