SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Charlie Hurley hails Roy Keane effect

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.

ROY KEANE will go into the Premiership seeing Sir Alex Ferguson as his yardstick, says Sunderland great Charlie Hurley.

And Hurley reckons that is good news for the Black Cats because the club’s manager will not accept second best.

Keane earned legendary status as a player under Sir Alex at Old Trafford, winning seven Premiership titles. Ferguson has now won nine league titles in all.

And Hurley believes there are strong similarities between the two men.

“Roy has really impressed me with how he’s gone about the job since he came here and he won’t be intimidated by the fact that the club is in the Premiership,” he said.

“It will be where he feels he belongs – after all, he’s spent the best part of the last 15 years there.

“And what has stood out for me is how he expects high standards both of himself and those around him.

“He’s a natural winner and you have to have natural winners as managers.

“I always thought my former manager Alan Brown was like that when I first came to the club – a born winner. And he had a big influence on Brian Clough, who went on to have a big influence on Roy.

“Roy will go up into the Premiership not just looking to stay up but to challenge the biggest clubs. He will want to be better than Sir Alex Ferguson – that will be the target he’ll be setting himself. And that’s the sort of sky-high standards Sunderland fans have got to be grateful for.”

Hurley is realistic about the tough task that lies ahead of Niall Quinn and Roy Keane though.

He said: “Roy has got a long way to go I think before he can look to challenge the top teams. But he will want to go there and compete.

“He will feel – just like I do – that Sunderland have a right as a club, with all its natural advantages, to prosper in the Premiership. I’ve got to say, without getting too excited because none of us wants to get ahead of ourselves, that I’m very excited about what Sunderland have the potential to do.

“And of course in Niall, Roy has a chairman who will do everything he can to give his manager the support he wants – financially and otherwise.

“Sunderland have had a great season which everyone is buzzing about. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll have another useful season to look forward to when August comes around.

CHARLIE MARVELS AT FANS’ REACTION

IT was enough to bring a tear to an old man’s eye.

As Sunderland fans celebrated promotion to the Premiership last Sunday at Luton, Charlie Hurley, high in the main stand, was spotted beaming down on the joyous throng.

From the throats of hundreds came the old chant of “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie Hurley” as Sunderland supporters in every stand showed they’d not forgotten one of the club’s all-time greats.

Hurley, the former King of the centre-halves on the pitch and a prince among gentlemen off it, admitted that even now, at 70 years old, he was moved by the spontaneous gesture of affectionate remembrance.

“Unbelievable, wasn’t it,” he marvelled. “After all these years, you’re still recognised and the old songs get rolled out.

“And to think that they were chanting my name on a day when it should have been all about the present team and their magnificent achievement.

“But then that’s Sunderland fans for you – they have long memories and they’ll always applaud anyone who gave their all for the club.”

Charlie has always had a love affair with Sunderland’s supporters, but this season it has taken on a fresh lease of life with Niall Quinn getting him on board the magic carpet as he tries to remind fans of their tradition and heritage.

Hurley said: “I was at Kenilworth Road as a guest of Niall.

“He told me I can come to any Sunderland game I want, but obviously it’s difficult sometimes to get up to the North East.

“The games around London are not so difficult for me and I said I would like to go to the Luton game, so they were good enough to arrange it for me.

“It was great to be there. A special day for everyone connected with Sunderland.

“I’ve been part of a promotion-winning side myself (1963-64), so I know exactly how proud and happy those players were at the final whistle – especially to go up as champions.

“I know first-hand how much it means to Sunderland fans, too.

“When we were promoted, I saw grown men crying tears of happiness in the crowd at Roker Park and those were the days when I realised just how much the club meant to the people of Sunderland.

“I’m thrilled for every follower of Sunderland Football Club. I think Niall Quinn and Roy Keane have been like a breath of fresh air at the club this season and between them they turned the club and the season right round.

“There have been plenty of great days for the fans this season and I was pleased to be at Luton to be part of one of those days.

“The fans are special – they made me feel special on the day – and next season I’m hoping they can enjoy a special season in the Premiership.

“Whenever a side goes up, I always think it’s a successful season if you just stay up the following season.

“But Roy and Niall are going up with a different attitude. They want to hit the ground running when they get started in the Premiership.

“And I’ve got to say that – having seen what happened this season – I’m intrigued and excited to find out what happens next.”