safc.com pays tribute to a club legend.Arguably the most gifted player to don the red and white stripes in the club’s history, Len Shackleton scored 101 goals in his time on Wearside and racked up 348 first-team appearances.
Len joined Arsenal as an amateur but didn’t quite make the cut, though he took it upon himself to earn a fine reputation during wartime soccer – prompting Newcastle United to break their record fee and bring him to Tyneside once peace returned.
His debut for the Magpies was memorable as the team set a new record win with a 13-0 success over Newport County with Shackleton bagging six of the goals.
However, Len’s stay at Newcastle lasted only 16 months and he moved to Sunderland in February 1948 for the first fee to top £20,000.
Shackleton scored on his home debut in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town at Roker Park and went on to add three more goals in his 14 appearances at the end of the 1947-48 season.
The Bradford-born inside-left would continue to impress as his time on Wearside passed with eight goals in the following campaign, including a strike against his former club Newcastle and a match-winning double against Chelsea in December 1948.
Sunderland achieved their highest ever finish in Shack’s decade with the club in the 1949-50 season as Bill Murray’s side finished third with Len scoring 16 goals in 42 appearances.
The attacking frontline of Shackleton, Ivan Broadis, Dickie Davis and Tommy Wright returned 65 of the Black Cats’ 83 league goals during the campaign.
Sunderland continued to hover in mid-table throughout Shackleton’s stay and the skilful player was regularly on the score sheet.
Some level of success came for the team in the 1954-55 season as the Black Cats finished fourth and also made the semi-finals of the FA Cup before being defeated by Manchester City.
The Wearsiders narrowly avoided relegation in Shack’s penultimate season before eventual relegation followed in his last, though he played only once that season after giving in to a long-suffering ankle injury.
Whilst with Sunderland, Len was capped five times by England and he scored his only goal for the Three Lions in a 3-1 win over World Champions West Germany in 1954.
That goal was the last England goal scored by a Sunderland player until Darren Bent notched against Switzerland in September 2010.