The 92-year-old Sunderland fan who had Len Shackleton as a guest at his cocktail parties
Meet Les Allen – the latest contender to the title of the oldest fan still alive to see Sunderland at the top of English football.
The 92-year-old recalls watching games aged seven back in 1936 when Sunderland were crowned English champions.
Les, who was born in the Howard Arms in Roker Avenue, used to go to games with his father and some of the customers from the pub.
Later still, he and his school friends would ‘loiter outside the Fulwell End and get in to Roker Park free for the last 10 minutes when the gates were opened’. And when he was serving his apprenticeship at Coles Cranes and Dunn’s garage, he was a “regular supporter in the Clock Stand with workmates and later progressed to a seat and season ticket holder in the main stand and also at the Stadium of Light,” he said.
He has stories aplenty of his time as a car dealer in Sunderland and how it used to bring him in to contact with Black Cats stars.
As sales director for an earlier dealership he also succeeded in manoeuvring an Aston Martin into the foyer of the town’s former Odeon Cinema for the midnight premiere of an early James Bond movie.
He got to know SAFC stars Claudio Marangoni, Jeff Clarke, Barry Siddall, Eddie Gray and once sponsored Tony Norman.
Les served with the Army in Greece for two years after the Second World War and has lived in the town all his life.
He was such a passionate supporter that he used to go to away games and even flew to see Sunderland in action in the 1973 FA Cup.
He went to Sheffield in 1973 to see the team beat Arsenal.
Then on cup final day, he left at 11 for Teesside airport to board a flight to Luton airport and then by coach to Wembley.
"On the flight back. A few passengers who had enjoyed some liquid refreshments were alarmed when the pilot announced they were flying over the city of Leeds and was going to perform ‘A Victory Roll’.”
When he got back to Sunderland, Fawcett street was ‘thronged. Some people swinging from the lamp posts.”
He was ‘home at 9.30 just in time to enjoy ‘Match of the Day’. Happy memories!”
Back when Les first saw the team, it was a significant year for the Black Cats. That was the year that Sunderland, as reigning league champions, took on FA Cup winners Arsenal in the Charity Shield and won.
A fond memory was of the neighbour who came to his cocktail parties: “Shack used to be a neighbour and he was a real character,” said Les.
Another SAFC favourite of Les’s was Willie Watson, a half back who could turn his hand to cricket as well. In fact, he played for his country.
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