Nicky Sharkey

Where Are They Now: Nick Sharkey

by Ashley Houghton

Legend reflects on career highlights v Norwich and Benfica!

Nick Sharkey made over 100 appearances for Sunderland between 1959-66 scoring 62 goals in the process.

He made his Black Cats debut at the age of 16 but didn’t become a regular until 1962 due to the presence of three of the most gifted strikers of the generation; Brian Clough, Ian Lawther and Don Kichenbrand.

But Sharkey believed this helped him progress as a player.

“I learnt from the best,” he said.

“Brian was a predator, but I got on really well with him – he used to take the mick out of a few different lads but he never did with me, he was always very up front.”

Scottish centre-forward Sharkey scored five goals in one game, and is now the only living Sunderland player to have achieved that feat.

He’s perhaps best remembered for that five-goal haul, when Norwich City were steamrollered 7-1 at Roker Park back in 1963.

Over 42,000 fans witnessed Sharkey’s goalscoring feat,which occurred almost exactly 50 years ago to the day Sunderland play the Canaries this weekend. 

Though, he told there was another memory that sticks out most.

“Of course I have millions of memories and scoring five goals in one game was very special.

“I think I’m most fond of beating Benfica in a pre-season game in November 1963,” he explained.

“I scored three goals and played against the famous Eusebio in front of 45,000+ at Roker Park.”

Sharkey also had one of the best goal ratios in Sunderland history, averaging over a goal every other game.

And, he said his understanding with legendary defender Charlie Hurley led to most of his goals.

“I used to be able to read Charlie’s header’s from corners.

“When we had a corner, keepers wouldn’t know where Charlie was going to head it but I did and I used to be in the right place at the right time.”

Since injury forced Sharkey into early retirement at the age of 28, he has become a ‘jack of all trades’.

He studied for a Business Studies degree at Durham University whilst being with Hartlepool United and has since worked in the retail and sales industry.

“I’m now retired at the age of 69, but I have delved into multiple business adventures.

“I’ve sold cars, I was involved in a partnership with Colin Todd at a sports shop in Gateshead and for the final 17 years of my working life I sold fruit machines for a large establishment in that industry.

“I’m now Chairman of the Sunderland Former Players Association so I can get back to the odd game, which is nice.”