Fair play to Paul Days and Brian Leng for putting together a superb photographic collection of the Teams of Sunderland AFC dating right back to 1885, just six short years after Scotsman James Allan kicked off the north-east [of England’s] most successful football club.
Over the decades ‘the lads’ from County Durham have had some very decent players and even one or two outstanding stars such as Johnny Campbell, Charlie Buchan, Ted Doig, Raich Carter and Charlie Hurley. This remarkable collection gives Sunderland followers a chance to take a look at them all. In doing so you also catch a glimpse of how the game of football has changed as shin pads move from outside the socks, boots become much smaller and lighter, shorts rise above the knee and shirts become more lightweight and eventually adorned with the logos of car manufacturers and alcoholic products.
Then there’s the hair, or lack of it as for many years it was short back and sides for all and you wonder what the likes of Tom Porteous, right back in the sides that captured the Division One title in 1891-92 and 1892-93, would have made of a man who followed in his position ninety or so years later, Barry Venison, with his long flowing locks.
Ethnically too there’s a distinct change - although interestingly both the official photographs that Paul and Brian have been able to use for the 1978-79 and 1979-80 teams do not include Sunderland’s first black footballer, Roly Gregoire - so by 1984-85 there’s two black faces in the photograph in Howard Gayle and Gary Bennett. It’s a number that has steadily risen since.
The photographs are clear and concise, and this is a marvellous book. It’s therefore disheartening to note that the Sunderland club shop has decided not to stock it, especially as the book even includes photographs supplied to the authors by the club itself! Now I feel it was bad form for the club not to have stocked an excellent book on the Sunderland side of 1935-37 that I co-authored with Paul but this seems more than a little daft. Brian Leng in particular has given thousands of hours of his spare time to Sunderland, whilst Paul was the main man behind the excellent Official History 1879-2000 book.
The club make a lot of how much their supporter’s mean to them, and what is a football club without its supporters? Well there aren’t many better at Sunderland than Brian Leng and Paul Days and the least the club can do is stock The Teams of Sunderland book - especially as i suspect its going to sell very well.
The Teams of Sunderland AFC - Sportsbooks
£25 or £18.99 before Christmas