Club historian Rob Mason introduces the first three people to be inducted...
Sunderland AFC are to open a Hall of Fame this summer with a lavish inaugural dinner at the Stadium of Light on Friday 14 June.
To begin with, 11 great figures from the entire history of the club will be honoured. The intention is that in the coming years further people will also receive the accolade of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Being part of the first such occasion is an extra-special moment to savour for both inductees and those there to witness a moment of history.
At every Hall of Fame dinner, the inductees will include stars who are still able to grace us with their presence and also massively influential figures who are no longer with us. In the case of the enormously famous names who will be remembered many years after their death, the club is delighted to say that direct descendants of these famous figures will be there to accept their induction.
Managers will be included in the Hall of Fame and so will female players, although the opening dinner will not induct any women players due to the people we have in mind being involved in the Women’s World Cup, which would prevent them attending this time.
Obviously choosing just 11 people from well over 1,000 to have represented the club is a difficult task. Inevitably names that many supporters will hope to see will not be there. If your favourite isn’t in the first 11 to be announced, have no fear, as in due course the intention is to honour all of the great names who have served the club with exceptional distinction.
So, who are the inductees? We will be announcing the people to be inducted on 14 June a few at a time, but to whet the appetite. the first three we are announcing are Niall Quinn, club founder James Allan and Player of the Century Charlie Hurley,
The captain of Sunderland’s first ever promotion team in 1964, a year when he was runner-up to cup-winning skipper Bobby Moore as Footballer of the Year, Hurley was Sunderland’s most capped international until the modern era.
Hurley, however, is about much more than facts and figures. He will always remain an iconic figure in football. A ball playing centre-half, in the days when many centre halves appeared to be more interested in playing the man than the ball, Hurley is famed as the first centre half in the game to go forward for corners. Something he did to devastating effect and something centre-backs in every team in the world now do as a matter of routine. Charlie is the most charismatic of Sunderland heroes. Now in his 83rd year, we hope to lay the red (and white) carpet out perhaps for the final time for the King, along with his grandson Matt Tichen.
While Charlie Hurley was the Player of Sunderland’s first century, surely his fellow Irishman Niall Quinn is the man of the second century so far. As with Charlie, Niall only has to enter the room for you to feel the love. He deserves it. A brilliant centre forward, Super Kevin Phillips and the rest of the great Peter Reid team of the turn of the century buzzed around Niall in the superb early years of the Stadium of Light.
As a player, Niall was Sunderland’s best centre forward in decades. Quite apart from the many goals he set up for 'Super Kev', think of the goals Niall notched in successive seasons at St. James’. How about the way he tore Chelsea apart on the day the Lads were four up against the Stamford Bridge side before half-time. How about the time he went in goal at Bradford and kept a clean sheet after earlier scoring the winner against the side who would be runners’ up to Sunderland in the record-breaking 105-point season?
Famously, Sunderland got under Quinny’s skin. Like any former player who had done his bit, Niall could have walked off into the sunset and come back every now and then to say some nice things and get a round of applause. Niall though took on the club when it was at an awfully low ebb after a record-breaking relegation in 2006. Having drummed up financial support in the shape of the Drumaville Consortium, he bought the club, managed it briefly while he sought the right man to take over and then sensationally appointed Roy Keane to his first managerial position. Talk about Box Office - the place went ballistic; the league was won and when Niall did eventually depart, he left the club in the top half of the Premier League and with an FA Cup quarter-final to come. The proceeds of his Benefit Match had produced the Niall Quinn Children’s Centre in Sunderland that continues to benefit the people of Wearside, in addition to the hospital he supported equally in his native Dublin.
That Children’s Centre is a lasting legacy of the Mighty Quinn on Wearside, as are the memories of the great moments he produced on the pitch. Niall has accepted the invitation to be with us on 14 June and if he wants to wear his disco pants, then for Niall the dress code will be politely ignored!
James Allan is the Founder of the club. He was the Scottish school-teacher who first introduced the round ball game to the people of Wearside. He was also the leading figure behind this developing into the formal foundation of the football club that now 14 decades on continues to inspire such devotion.
Allan was a player too. He played in the first known Sunderland game and scored twice in the first game in which Sunderland scored. Four Sunderland players in history have scored five goals in a match with another scoring six in a war-time game – James Allan once scored 12 in one game. That’s not 12 for the team, that’s 12 just by James Allan. The quadruple hat-trick came in a 23-0 win over Castletown in 1884 – not bad for a left winger!
In those early years of football, Allan later fell out big style with Sunderland, even setting up a rival but short-lived club called Sunderland Albion. As the man responsible for the very existence of the club we have great pleasure in making James Allan one of our first 11 inductees. Allan’s Great Grandson Brendan O’Donnell will attend the dinner to accept membership of the Sunderland AFC Hall of Fame on the founder’s behalf.
As part of the Hall of Fame project, the ‘Magic Moments Bar’ in the West Stand is to be re-styled as the Sunderland AFC Hall of Fame, making this a key part of the celebration of the enormously rich history of the club.
Tickets for the event cost £75 +VAT and can be booked now by clicking here or by calling 0371 911 1973.
Further names of the first set of inductees will be announced in the coming weeks on safc.com and club social media channels.