Retro SAFC: 1979 – Argus signs off with Sunderland victory, but Lads almost let it slip

Bristol Rovers keeper Jones denies Sunderland's Barry Dunn
Bristol Rovers keeper Jones denies Sunderland's Barry Dunn
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Sunderland 3 Bristol Rovers 2 – November 24, 1979: Sunderland did just enough to guarantee a winning finish to Billy Butterfield’s 29-year stint as Argus, the Echo’s football writer.

Billy – who had taken over the Argus byline from Jack Anderson in 1950, bade farewell to Roker Park on a positive note, though visitors Bristol Rovers fought back gamely from a three-goal deficit to go close to snatching an unlikely point.

Shaun Elliott's fine strike puts Sunderland ahead against Bristol Rovers in 1979

Shaun Elliott's fine strike puts Sunderland ahead against Bristol Rovers in 1979

Three magnificent goals in the first 42 minutes had the Roker crowd purring, but Rovers, so subdued in the first period, got huge encouragement from a strike early in the second half and went on to make life tough for their hosts, though Sunderland still carved out a host of chances.

Kevin Arnott was the driving force in Sunderland’s midfield, Argus’s man of the match despite another impressive display from recent signing Stan Cummins.

Argus enthused: “Arnott has the power to control the pace of the game and so rarely wastes a pass.

“One sure sign of class was the manner in which the opposition showed their respect for his genius.

Barry Dunn gets away from the Bristol Rovers right-back in front of a packed Clock Stand

Barry Dunn gets away from the Bristol Rovers right-back in front of a packed Clock Stand

“He laid on so many chances for his team-mates and was unlucky not to claim a goal for himself with a tremendous shot, which the goalkeeper saved so brilliantly.” Shaun Elliott made the eighthminute breakthrough with a left-foot piledriver, after Pop Robson stabbed a Mick Buckley free-kick back into the defender’s path.

Ten minutes later, Jeff Clarke stepped forward to play a delightful pass through for the lively Cummins, who beat the offside trap, smoothly rounded the keeper and shot into an empty net.

The third goal arrived shortly before the break, Robson showing his alertness to lob into an empty net after keeper Jones failed to gather Arnott’s cross when he bizarrely decided to go out to the edge of the box.

Parkinson cut the deficit on 54 minutes, hooking home after White nodded back Williams’ free-kick.

Barry Dunn threatens the Bristol Rovers goal

Barry Dunn threatens the Bristol Rovers goal

Rovers got within one goal with eight minutes left, scoring on the breakaway, with Aitken and Barrowclough providing the opportunity for White to net from close range.

Rovers pushed hard for an equaliser, and twice went close, but it would have been a massive injustice had Sunderland failed to record their eighth home win of the Second Division campaign.

Seventeen-year-old John Cooke made his debut up front for Sunderland, in place of groin injury victim Alan Brown, with Argus commenting: “Cooke undoubtedly has talent, which he displayed just as clearly as he has done in reserve games this season, but I think the call to league football came just a little too early for him! H Sunderland went on to celebrate their 100th year the following day, with a Centenary Banquet at the Mecca on Newcastle Road.

TV presenter Frank Bough was the guest speaker, and talked about Sunderland having a place in his heart, alongside Stoke City, while among the former players to be invited were Bobby Gurney, Ernie England, Albert McInroy, Billy Death, Fred Hall and Arthur Wright.

Barry Dunn takes on the Rovers defence

Barry Dunn takes on the Rovers defence

SUNDERLAND: Turner, Whitworth, Bolton, Clarke, Elliott, Buckley, Arnott, Cummins, Cooke, Robson, Dunn. Sub: Hughes.

BRISTOL ROVERS: G Jones, Barrowclough, Williams, Mabbutt, Taylor, Aitken, Bater, Parkinson, White, Dennehy, Pulis. Sub: V Jones.

Ref: Neil Midgley (Manchester).

Att: 21,292.

* Sunderland then marked their centenary in style with a memorable success in the Daily Express Five-a-side championships just days later.

Kevin Arnott hit six goals in total as the Wearsiders – under Frank Clark’s control – thrashed Newcastle 4-0 in the semi-final before deservedly beating Brighton 2-0 in the final.

Stan Cummins doubles Sunderland's lead to 2-0

Stan Cummins doubles Sunderland's lead to 2-0


* Newcastle United held off a brave fight-back from Swansea City at Vetch Field to go joint top in Division Two. Terry Hibbitt and Billy Rafferty put the Mags in control before Jeremy Charles pulled one back.

United sealed the win with a goal from Alan Shoulder. Robbie James scored deep into injury time for the Swans.

* Middlesbrough drew 1-1 with Brighton at Ayresome Park with a goal from Micky Burns.

* Hartlepool United suffered a heavy 5-2 defeat against Barnsley in the first round of the FA Cup at Oakwell.

* Hepworth and Grandage kept in touch with the Wearside Combination Division Two leaders Bonas Machine, with a 4-0 win over Aquatic.

Frank Atkinson (2), Bob Gibbon and George Gibson scored.

* After going ten games without a win in the Northern League, Tow Law broke the sequence with a 1-0 win over Penrith, thanks to a Joe Graham goal.


TV: James Garner in the Rockford Files; Ronnie Barker starred in Porridge; Ivor the Engine; Crossroads; Only When I Laugh; Minder starring Dennis Waterman; Freddie Starr’s Variety Madhouse; The Professionals.

MUSIC: No. 1 – Dr Hook (When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman).

Others – Queen (Crazy Little Thing Called Love); The Commodores (Still); Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand (No More Tears (Enough Is Enough); The Jam (Eton Rifles); BA Robertson (Knocked It Off); Lena Martell (One Day At A Time); Kool and The Gang (Ladies Night); Madness (One Step Beyond); Abba (Gimme Gimme Gimme).

CINEMA: Clint Eastwood was the Enforcer; Sting and Ray Winstone appeared in Quadrophenia; The Bermuda Triangle; Encounter with Disaster; Prophecy; Scum; Peter Sellars starred in Revenge of the Pink Panther.

NIGHTLIFE: On stage at Farringdon Social Club were T Set, Horizon and Pamela Dubarry; Free and Easy appeared at North Biddick Club; River Wear Social Club had Brian Strange and Star Train appearing.