Monday, 2 December 2013

Charlie Hurley's international debut in 1957 against England

Debuting for Ireland against England

The following is an edited version from the authorised biography of CHARLIE HURLEY: “The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen”. Written by Mark Metcalf the book was published by Sportsbooks in 2008. It is on sale in the Sunderland club shop and in Waterstones in the city centre. This article appeared in the Sunderland Sports Echo dated 1 December 2013.

Charlie stands fifth from the left prior to his impressive debut 

Hurley never faced Greaves at international level. The Irishman, playing at the time for Millwall, made his international debut for Ireland against England in May 1957. Eleven days earlier when the sides had met at Wembley the home side had romped home 5-1 and Manchester United’s Tommy Taylor, against whom Hurley would be in direct opposition at Dalymount Park, had scored three times.

‘By far the largest crowd ever to assemble at Dalymount Park saw the Republic of Ireland start in thrilling fashion when, following a flowing move involving Arthur Fitzsimmons, Liam Whelan and Joe Haverty, Alf Ringstead of Sheffield United was able to knock the ball into the empty net from a few yards out.

England, whose only change from the first game was David Pegg, later to die in the Munich air tragedy, for Stanley Matthews, were stung and Godwin was forced to make brave diving saves at the feet of Atyeo and Taylor.

An anxious Charlie watches on as Ireland keeper Tommy Godwin
grabs the ball 
Ireland hung on to their lead. Those present knew that if they could hold on then a victory in the next game in Denmark would mean that England and Ireland would be forced to play a third time. The winner would take their place at Sweden in the following summer’s World Cup tournament.

PNE’s brilliant winger Tom Finney had other ideas - perhaps he didn’t fancy another game against Ireland.

 “I remember it well. In the ninety-first minute Tom Finney’s gone down the right, beat Pat Saward, beat Noel Cantwell, crossed the ball. John Atyeo was behind me. I’m watching Tommy, the header went bum, bum, bum, just trickled into the net. After the match the referee revealed that he had added 1¾ minutes for stoppages,” says Hurley.

Hardly a sound could be heard in the ground, save, of course, the England players who realised that they had qualified for the World Cup.

The referee’s actions were very unusual for the time, most games ending within seconds of the 90 minutes. The Daily Mirror headline summed it up with its “Referee’s watch gives England a passport to World Cup Finals – SAVED IN EXTRA TIME SENSATION as the luck of the Irish was right out”.

After the match Hurley’s performance was lavishly praised, with the Daily Mirror’s report stating “….it was the Irish who produced a new great world-class footballer in centrehalf Charlie Hurley. Half the clubs in the First Division will soon be knocking on Millwall's door offering £25,000 for him.’

Hurley recalls, “People say that Eire only had a good team under Jackie Charlton. I am not so sure; we had a very good team. For the match at Dalymount Park it was packed; they were sitting on the track round the pitch.  I did OK, it was very early days for me - my very first cap. But it wasn’t good enough for the press. How did they find this big young Irishman with a Cockney voice the star of the show? It set me up for 40 caps, if it had been now I’d have had eighty  as I played for over 12 years.

The match was an insight for me into the best. Tommy Taylor played for Manchester United. Tom Finney? I’d say Tom Finney was one of the greatest players ever; he was just slightly before my day. I thought after the match, ‘Well it’s not beyond you, son’. As my father said, ‘Always aim for the stars and if you drop down to the moon then you’re not doing too badly’; a great philosophy for a guy that liked his pint.

“The game proved something for myself. I always thought I could be good enough but there was nothing like being tested to the full by England! My father went over by boat.  He would have rowed over if he’d had to He told me that for two weeks he never had to do any work at Fords. All his mates did his work; all they wanted to do was to hear about what Charlie had done against England, and from my dad’s angle it was fantastic. I let him have the cap. He took it in, and he really did believe that at the end of that fortnight that he’d played and not me!”
Charlie leads Sunderland out prior to the fifth round FA Cup match in 1964
at home to League Champions Everton in which he scored in a
3-1 win.

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