ONE of the Black Cats’ most prolific strikers has lost his battle with cancer just a fortnight after being diagnosed.
Dunbartonshire-born Nick Sharkey averaged better than a goal every other game in his time at Roker Park.
After regularly notching for the youth side, he was handed a run in the first team by Alan Brown towards the end of the 1960-61 campaign and repaid the boss with four goals in five league games, including a match-winning double in a 3-1 home win over Southampton.
He dropped down the pecking order the following season, making just one league appearance as he struggled to get into a team which boasted the firepower of Brian Clough, Don Kichenbrand and Ian Lawther.
Sharkey made history in the 1962-63 season, becoming one of only four Sunderland players to score five goals in a game as the Black Cats hammered Norwich 7-1 at Roker Park.
He bagged 20 goals in 39 games in his first full season, as the team secured promotion to the top-flight in 1964 and another 21 goals in all competitions as George Hardwick’s side maintained their top-flight status the following year.
Another six goals would take his tally to 62 goals in 117 appearances for Sunderland, before he moving to Leicester City in 1966.
Spells with Mansfield Town and Hartlepool United followed before he hung up his boots and moved into sales.
Jimmy Montgomery, who came through the youth side with Sharkey, visited him in hospital shortly after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“It was only two weeks from diagnosis,” said Jimmy. “He had been in to see the doctor for a bad back.
“Nick took over from me as chairman of the former players’ association, but he had just stood down from the committee because he wanted to do more things.
“He was a fantastic lad.”
SAFC Supporters’ Association chairman George Forster said Nick Sharkey had been popular with fans both during his time at the club and since.
“He was a smashing lad, very sociable,” he said.
“He used to get in the Mill View Social Club now and again – he will be a big miss down there.”
An SAFC spokesman said: “The club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Nick Sharkey at the age of 71.”
“Everyone at Sunderland AFC sends their sincere condolences to Nick’s family and friends at this very sad time.”