Bobby Kerr launches new Sunderland book, cherishing memories of 1973

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC ... Sunderland legend Bobby Kerr with his new book.
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC ... Sunderland legend Bobby Kerr with his new book.
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EVEN 40 years on, Bobby Kerr cannot escape talking about it.

As the former Sunderland skipper signs copies of his new autobiography in the Stadium of Light store, the anecdotes spill forth from those queueing in line, waiting for Kerr to scribble “Best Wishes” on the inside cover of the gleaming publication.

The memories have a familiar pattern: “I was there as a nine-year-old in ’73”, “I got my first season ticket in ’73”, “I went to every round of the cup run”.

Kerr smiles and engages them in a brief moment of chat. These conversations have become second nature to the 5ft 5in Scot.

“When I do talk-ins, I say I played more than 400 games for the club, but really I only played one,” he jokes afterwards.

Not that Kerr ever becomes sick of discussing the crowning glory of either his career or Sunderland’s post-war era.

In his book, he describes it as “something I’ll cherish until the day I die”.

That day at Wembley cemented a bond between team and club which remains.

Kerr, along with the likes of 1973 team-mates Dick Malone, Micky Horswill and club ambassador Jimmy Montgomery, continue to be regulars at the Stadium of Light and on the annual circuit of events organised by the former players association.

It has defined their post-footballing lives, as much as it did their playing careers.

But as the wait for a subsequent Sunderland skipper to lift a major trophy enters a fifth decade, Kerr insists he would love to see someone take the baton of cup-winning captain.

“I wouldn’t have believed that we would still be talking about it,” said Kerr, who turns 66 tomorrow.

“It’s only now that you realise what we did.

“After all the years, it’s still what everyone talks about it.

“I’d love for someone else to lift that cup though. I’d be quite happy for another team to do that!”

The iconic sight of Kerr lifting the cup adorns the front of his new book, The Little General, and inevitably dominates the 144-page publication.

But the midfielder experienced plenty of other highs and lows during his 13-year career at Roker Park after being brought south of the border in the Alan Brown era by scout Charlie Ferguson, who was responsible for discovering nine of the cup final team.

Kerr shrugged off two broken legs during his early days on Wearside – following a debut goal against Manchester City – to make 433 appearances for the Black Cats, netting 67 goals.

The promotion campaign of 1975-76 was a natural high of his lengthy service, yet Kerr admits that the memories of the 1970 and 1977 relegations are more vivid, particularly the latter after Jimmy Adamson’s youthful side were relegated on the final day of the season at Everton.

Kerr said: “Promotion was great, but, and I know it’s funny to say this, you never forget the memory of relegation.”

“I’ve never seen so many young lads in tears after we went down against Everton.

“Those memories stay with you, they’re very powerful.

“You just hope it never happens again.

“I would hate to see young players go through that again.

“It wasn’t very nice.”

The late Adamson was responsible for Kerr’s departure from Roker after freezing him out of the first-team picture for the final six months of his Sunderland career.

He was the last of the ’73 side to leave the club after joining ex-team mate Malone and former manager Bob Stokoe at Third Division Blackpool in 1979, where he was to spend 10 weeks in traction with a dislocated hip, before ending his career at Hartlepool.

Despite such a hefty period of service at Sunderland, Kerr admits he should have secured a fresh start sooner, following the break-up of the ’73 team.

“Looking back at it now, I probably should have left earlier,” he said.

“People like Micky and Dennis (Tueart) had to move for financial reasons to Manchester City because the wages in those days weren’t great.

“It was just a shame that we weren’t able to keep the group together for longer.

“But they were a great group and I think that’s why we’ve kept it up ever since.

“We got on so well.

“We didn’t go out every night, but there was a real bond between us all.”

Kerr’s book is no hatchet job.

He avoids the temptation of falling into the Sir Alex Ferguson-esque trap of criticising anyone who dared to cross his path.

“It’s probably the only book out before Christmas that hasn’t slagged anyone off!” jokes Kerr.

But it has been a long time in the making.

Work started in 2011 with co-author Brian Leng, but Kerr wanted to delay its release for fear of stealing the limelight from other Sunderland-based autobiographies.

But he has enjoyed the process of looking back at a career which saw only five players make more appearances for Sunderland.

“We’d been talking about it for a while, but it takes a long time,” he added.

“It kept getting held up because I didn’t want to compete with anyone else. Micky Horswill had a Three Legends one and Gary Bennett brought one out too.

“So we decided to hold it back and it went on a bit, but we’ve decided to bring it out before Christmas.

“It’s been a great experience, especially looking at all the photographs.

“I wanted the book to tell my life story about my family and growing up in Scotland, not just 1973.

“It’s woken me up a bit to some of the photographs.

“You forget a lot of things and seeing it, it all comes flooding back.

“We had some cracking times really.”

* The Little General – Bobby Kerr’s football scrapbook is out now, priced at £17.99

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