Former footballers urged to reunite for 50th anniversary of Aquatic Arms team

Aquatic Sports FC - now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Aquatic Sports FC - now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
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TODAY we focus on a golden chance for Wearside football fans.

FORMER members of a Wearside football team are being urged to put their names back on the team sheet – and score themselves a great night out.

Stripped for action, members of Aquatic Sports FC who lost their strips in a laundrette fire.

Stripped for action, members of Aquatic Sports FC who lost their strips in a laundrette fire.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Aquatic Sports FC – and a reunion for past players, staff and supporters will help kick off celebrations in style this July.

“It all started in 1963, when a group of guys who drank at the Aquatic Arms in Monkwearmouth every Saturday, decided to start a football team,” said former manager Kevin Wilson.

“The team was named after the pub, which used to be at the Sheepfolds – near where the Metro station is now. The first game Aquatic played was against Hood Street, which they won 5-0.

“The pub may be long gone, but the name still lives – and we will never change it. I can’t think of any local teams still going with the same name 50 years after they first started.”

Aquatic Sports football team.

Aquatic Sports football team.

Tommy Oliver and his brother Eddie were among the founding members of Aquatic Sports FC. Both played for the team in the early years, and Tommy remains secretary of the club today.

“Tommy is devoted to Aquatic,” said Kevin. “When he needed a triple heart by-pass, he chose to have it in the summer – just so he wouldn’t miss a game! He is the rock of this team.”

Aquatic FC had been going for almost 20 years by the time Kevin, a factory manager from Fulwell, joined as a player in the 1980s. He would later go on to manage the club for 25 years.

“When I first started, players had to provide their own football socks. We wore some strange strips in the early years too – but it was all part of the fun,” he said. “John Daley, Steve Taylor and Billy Ropper got me in to play – then left to watch SAFC! John helped me keep the team going, until he sadly passed away. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy.

OLD SCENE: The Aquatic Arms in North Bridge Street - the inspiration for a football team now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

OLD SCENE: The Aquatic Arms in North Bridge Street - the inspiration for a football team now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“I have some brilliant memories of this time, especially playing in all kinds of weather. I also made a lot of good friends. It really was a class time – and John Daley was a legend.”

Aquatic Sports has been a member of the Wearside Combination League since its formation, topping the league undefeated in 1998 and twice winning the Durham Aged Miners Cup.

Sponsors over the years have included fabrication firm CWR, the New Derby pub in Roker and the Blue Bell at Fulwell – which continues to throw its support behind the players today.

“David Hoey is the manager now, and has youth on his side – bringing fresh new talent to the team, which is doing really well in the league. I still help out as well,” said Kevin.

“No matter what, we’ve always put out a team in some form or fashion – doing well in a competitive league, winning cups and reaching several semi-finals and finals over the years. The team has never changed its name, so it has a great following. It is surprising how many people follow its progress through the Sunderland Echo and Football Echo.”

Past and present players, as well as staff and supporters, are being invited to mark the club’s 50th anniversary at the reunion, which will take place on July 6 from 7.30pm.

The Victory Club in North Bridge Street, just yards from where the Aquatic Arms once stood, has been booked – and an open invitation has been issued to all with Aquatic connections.

“Aquatic is more of a team of friends than a team of footballers,” said Kevin. “It is, and always has been, a team for people who want to have a good crack – and play football as well. Anyone who has had any connections with Aquatic over the past 50 years is welcome to come along to the reunion. It will be a chance for a catch-up and to tell stories of the past.”

How the Football Echo reported on Aquatic Sports FC back in 1994

“EVERY year we witness clubs folding halfway through the season because officials who run them become disheartened when there is little or no hope of winning league or cup honours.

This could never be said about The Aquatic Sports Football Club. Their result is the first I look for each week, and I know many people who do so likewise.

The Wearside Combination League has played host to hundreds of teams in its history, but no club has enjoyed a length of continual association to compare with that of Aquatic.

Two men – Tommy and Eddie Oliver – are synonymous with this side. They have carried the flag for their team for years while other clubs have folded around them.

The dedication of these two stalwarts has enabled hundreds of lads who might not otherwise get a game to enjoy their football on a regular basis.

Since Tommy and Eddie have their hearts so steeped in the game, the total commitment of men like them makes them, albeit unwittingly, the very soul of the game at a minor level.

Unsung heroes like those who have kept Aquatic FC ticking over deserve some accolade, or greater than that, for their total selfless service to local sport. One day I hope they get it.”

** Written by Kevin McGurnell in the Football Echo on February 5, 1994.