A FOOTBALL competition for shipyard workers proved a knockout in May 1974.
“The Courtship Cup was the first football competition of its kind at the shipyards,” recalls Walter Waugh, who captained the Blue Lights team.
“When it was announced, the atmosphere down the yards was electrifying. Every day the talk was about the tournament.”
Two dozen teams signed up to compete – the response being “far greater than expected,” according to a shipyard magazine from that time.
“Some teams entered for the fun of it, others in a seriously-competitive spirit. All in all, the experience seems to have been an enjoyable one.”
To give older workers a chance, a ruling was made that no more than five apprentices were allowed to play per team.
“In fact, there were quite a lot of players in their 40s and one referee, E. Connolly, was over 60,” according to the magazine.
Substitutes were also allowed and up to four players were permitted to retire at half-time – to keep the contest fun for all.
“This is to help the aged, muscle-bound or exhausted players who feel 35 minutes of torture is enough,” said training manager Frank Booth.
The North Sands yards put forward 11 teams for the competition, with 10 teams from Deptford, two from Sunderland Forge and one from Pallion.
Among the teams were The Sparks from North Sands Electricians, The Blue Lights from North Sands Welders and The Hammers from North Sands Joiners.
“The prettiest team manager was 25-year-old Paula Hodgson, a secretary in the electronics department at Sunderland Forge,” reported the magazine.
“She admits she is ‘football mad’ and would play herself if she could – and often does before a match begins.”
The competition proved fierce. Three matches went to extra time and a game between North Sands Shipwrights and the Blue Lights needed a replay.
“The contest was named after Court Line, which took over the yards in 1973. It really was a brilliant tournament,” recalls former welder Walter.
“There were players from the Northern League, Wearside League and local leagues, as well as people just playing for fun.
“Having played in the local leagues myself, this was one of the best and nicest competitions I ever played in.”
The final was played on “a beautiful Saturday morning” in May, when a crowd of 200 supporters gathered to watch “some very good football”.
The Blue Lights lined up against the Hull Drawing Office for the hard-fought match, with the first goal scored by the Lights in the 26th minute.
“They maintained pressure with an effective trio in Tutty, Hicks and Gair, hitting the woodwork twice in the first half,” reported the magazine.
“They went further ahead in the 60th minute when Mervyn Chapman, receiving the ball near the halfway line, made a 50-yard dash to score. Hull were not to be denied, and scored in the closing stages. But the Lights, tight in defence, went on to gain a well-deserved victory.”
Houghton man Walter, who provided the pictures seen here, said: “The Lights were a great bunch of lads and it was a pleasure to captain them to winning the trophy.”
* Do you have memories to share? Write to: Sarah Stoner, Sunderland Echo, Pennywell, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.