SUNDERLAND AFC and Chelsea stars joined together to remember a player who died after injuries suffered in a match between the two clubs.
Last night’s Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light marked the 75th anniversary of a clash at Roker Park, a 3-3 draw which saw The Lads’ goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe kicked in the head and chest after picking up a backpass.
The Jarrow-born former shipyard engineer was carried off in the second half. He died in hospital four days later, aged just 22.
The cause was a diabetic coma said to have been “accelerated by the rough usage of the opposing team,” and the match referee was condemned by the Football Association for allowing such brutal play.
The tragedy helped to change the way goalkeepers are protected, and Craig Gordon and Petr Cech wore black armbands at last night’s match, in honour of their fellow number one.
SAFC chairman Niall Quinn also paid his tribute.
He said: “Jimmy gave fantastic service to the club at a time when it was consistently challenging for – and winning – the Football League title, so he was right at the top of his game when he died.
“To lose his life at such a young age, and particularly as a result of a football match, was absolutely tragic so it is fitting that we remember him, especially with the same two teams meeting 75 years on.
“Craig and Petr were both only too willing to wear black armbands as a mark of respect to Jimmy.
“His legacy has protected goalkeepers and has prevented a lot more serious injuries and fatalities ever since, and continues to do so.”
The laws of the game were changed to prevent players raising their foot to a goalkeeper when he had the ball in his hands.
Jimmy Thorpe’s story would have had particular relevance for Chelsea keeper Cech, who was out with a fractured skull for three months after a collision with striker Stephen Hunt in a match against Reading in 2006.
Cech has since worn a rugby-style scrum cap for protection when playing.