From The Vault: Len Ashurst’s brilliant story about encounter with Sunderland fan that will warm hearts

Len Ashurst is a true Sunderland legend having made well over 400 appearances for the Black Cats.

Sunday, 25th July 2021, 1:00 pm

The final number stands at 458 games in red and white - the highest of any outfield player to play for Sunderland

Indeed, only goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery has appeared more for the Black Cats than Ashurst.

Alongside Montgomery and fellow defenders, Charlie Hurley, Jimmy McNab, Cecil Irwin and Martin Harvey, Ashurst formed one of the most noteworthy defences in the club’s history.

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The former left-back then returned to manage Sunderland, leading the club to the 1985 Milk Cup final at Wembley against Norwich City.

After his career in the dugout had ended, Ashurst became a Premier League match delegate, and was tasked with assessing match officials.

And when Sunderland played against Stoke City at the Stadium of Light in 2007, Ashurst enjoyed a heartwarming encounter with a fan - and shared the tale in his autobiography.

Ashurst said in his book ‘Left Back In Time’ (2009): “As I was wending my way home from the thousands of others from an evening match, a supporter moved alongside me, turned to me as he walked by and said, ‘how are you, Len?’

“‘Fine, thank you,’ I responded and shook his hand. It costs nothing after all!

“‘Thanks for the pleasure you gave me,’ he continued. ‘I used to watch the 1964 promotion-winning side, they were the most enjoyable Sunderland team ever.’ Then my newfound friend melted into the crowd.

“A lump came to my throat… for me to hear so unexpectedly that all the sweat and effort in that red and white striped shirt so long ago was appreciated… it was a special, fleeting moment amongst my own.”

He continued: “Nothing gets to us more than the genuine warmth of supporters. I was lucky enough to experience plenty of that during my time playing for Sunderland.

“But the fans on Wearside are special. They remember things so vividly and are so happy to give of themselves.”

‘From The Vault’ is a brand new series of nostalgic pieces and photo articles brought to you by The Echo, highlighting some of the most memorable stories and scenes from seasons gone by for Sunderland supporters to enjoy.

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