Is this Sunderland fan the oldest alive to have seen Sunderland at the top of the English football league

Black Cats fan Sandy Phillips believes he could hold a unique Sunderland claim to fame.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 9:36 am

Sandy thinks he may be the ‘oldest person who is still alive and who saw Sunderland when they were at the top of the English football league.”

We’re not talking about a brief stay at the summit after the first couple of games of a season.

Sandy watched The Lads in 1952 in a December game at Cardiff – where he lived at the time – when Sunderland were level with Wolves at the summit of the table.

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Sandy Phillips who thinks he may hold a Sunderland claim to fame.

Is he right or do you know of someone else who may be older and able to stake a claim? Sandy explains his own claim to fame.

"I have a sneaking feeling that, coming into the game in early December 1952, that Sunderland was top of the First Division

"In those post war days, unless it was a Cup Final at Wembley, it was rare to have away supporters unless it was for local derbies. For an away game just before Christmas over 300 miles away, there would be no travelling supporters so my father and I were almost certainly the only Sunderland supporters present.

"Accordingly before the team went behind, we were the last supporters to see Sunderland at the top of Division One.”

A young Sandy Phillips pictured with his father who was called Alexander Wallace Phillips, and was known as Wally.

Sadly, by the end of the match, Sunderland had slipped to second when Cardiff hammered them 4-1.

Sandy, 76, has plenty of memories of watching his heroes.

"My brightest memory of the game was my father’s responsibility for Cardiff’s fourth goal when he yelled at the Sunderland right back asking him whose side he was on as he backed away from Cardiff’s left winger.

"This distracted our right back and the left winger nipped inside and centred for Cardiff to score.”

Sandy in his younger days.

He has even more memories of football back in the 1950s, especially in the famous 1955 season when both Sunderland and their arch rivals Newcastle were flying.

He said: “Sunderland and Newcastle both got to the semi final of the FA Cup. Kenneth Wolstenholme visited the North East to do a sports review for BBC TV.

“Having visited Newcastle, Wolstenholme then said “and from the Tyneside we now go Teesside and Sunderland”.

"My Dad was apoplectic! Sunderland played Manchester City on a quagmire of a pitch and lost 1-0 to a goal by Roy Clarke.

Sandy Phillips.

"I listened to it on the radio and was heartbroken and in tears. Twenty five years later, I engineered a work trip to Manchester and in the evening saw Sunderland beat Manchester City in the League Cup.

"Prior to the game I dined in City’s restaurant and who should be the club ambassador there but Roy Clarke. He apologised for spoiling my day 25 years earlier.

“Of course in those days there was no hooliganism or crowd segregation as there were generally few away supporters.”

Is Sandy the oldest person still alive to see Sunderland play when they were at the top of the English football league? If you know different, tell us more by emailing [email protected]

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The Sunderland team in the early 1950s.