Charlie Hurley celebration day “overdue” says Sunderland football author

Charlie Hurley December 1961.
Charlie Hurley December 1961.
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A Black Cats fan and author says this weekend’s Charlie Hurley Day at the Stadium of Light is “overdue”.

SAFC’s player of the century, Charlie’s career will be celebrated ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Hull City.

Mark Metcalf.

Mark Metcalf.

The Ireland international defender, who played at Roker Park from 1957 to 1969 and captained the side back into the First Division in 1964, was hugely popular among supporters during his time on Wearside.

The 80-year-old, who played more than 400 times for Sunderland, will be joined on the pitch by former team-mates ahead of the Premier League clash, kick-off 3pm.

Author Mark Metcalf, who wrote Charlie Hurley ‘The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen’, as well as a number of other football books, told the Echo that many fans have been wanting to show their appreciation to Charlie for some time.

“I think it’s overdue that we do something like this for Charlie,” said Mark.

Charlie Hurley's grandson Matt Titchen at the gates to Sunderland Football Club's former training ground The Charlie Hurley Centre, Whitburn.

Charlie Hurley's grandson Matt Titchen at the gates to Sunderland Football Club's former training ground The Charlie Hurley Centre, Whitburn.

“There were a lot of great players around from his era, but he was the big star back then.

“There’s not a tremendous amount of people around these days who watched him, but the very fact that his name is still sang, particularly at Sunderland away games, shows that supporters still identify with him, or maybe with their dads and grandads.”

Charlie famously became renowned as the first centre half to move forward at corners, something every centre back in the world does now, but a tactic pioneered by Charlie.

Mark, who is originally from Peterlee but now lives in Halifax, West Yorkshire, added that it was not just Charlie’s footballing ability however that endeared him to SAFC fans.

“He was an extremely talented footballer who was just great in the air.

“Not only that but he was great on the ball too. You’d have to say he was in the mould of John Stones at Manchester City in that respect.

“But he was always available to speak with the supporters.

“He’s just a first-rate bloke who exhibits all of the best attributes of a human being.”

Cementing his legendary status among Sunderland supporter, years after retiring from playing he was voted the club’s Player of the Century in its centenary year 1879.

A campaign to raise funds for a statue of Charlie has so far gathered several thousands of pounds and was earlier this year boosted by a donation from the Professional Footballers Assocation of £1,000.

Sunderland’s former training ground at Whitburn was named after Charlie and as a lasting tribute to him the gates that stood outside the entrance will be re-sited at the Stadium of Light.

The gates, which will be situated close to the stadium’s main West Stand, will be formally dedicated before Saturday’s game.

Fans group ‘Ha’way the Flags’ are set to debut a new crowd-surfer flag bearing Charlie’s image before kick off, which has been donated by the club, and 40,000 clap-banners featuring his name and image are to be distributed throughout the ground.

Supporters are being encouraged to get to their seats early ahead of the game.