Could anything more happen in one half of a football match? Even Giant Haystacks was there as Sunderland beat Manchester United
It perhaps says more about Sunderland AFC than it does about me, that I vividly remember a match from 36 years ago, while having little recollection of games from a few months back.
Memory matches against the biggest clubs are something to cherish these days because, let’s face it, we don’t have a clue when the next one is.
I must have seen Sunderland play Manchester United 30 times, but Roker Park on November 28, 1984 is easily the standout.
Bar one player, United had a famous side (Billy Garton anyone?). They would finish fourth and win the FA Cup (and their supporters still moaned).
A less obvious memory I have is of seeing the wrestler Giant Haystacks in the visitors’ section. He stood out among his compatriots for the twin reasons of immense size, and for actually having travelled there from Manchester.
Anyway after 15 minutes all was going to plan. United were 2-0 up. Bryan Robson’s opener was followed by a clearly offside effort from Mark Hughes. This would usually effectively end the contest.
But eight seconds after the restart, Clive Walker pulled one back. Two minutes later came a double dismissal. The fans felt that David Hodgson’s altercation with Mark Hughes amounted to “handbags” (these days someone would call the police). But both players walked. Then United’s Mike Duxbury had a goal disallowed for offside.
Now all we hadn’t seen was a penalty. Two were about to be awarded. Gary Bailey felled Gary Bennett, then Gordon McQueen upended Stan Cummins. The latter foul resembled an averagely built toddler being assailed by Richard Osman.
Clive Walker scored both and, implausibly, Sunderland led 3-2.
To recap, the first half saw Sunderland go from 2-0 down to leading 3-2, a goal wrongly allowed, a chalked-off goal, two dismissals, two penalties and a hat-trick. And Giant Haystacks.
What happened in the second half? Well I’ll tell you. Nothing. In its way this made the game even more remarkable. Rarely does a football match see such an imbalance of entertainment.
Sunderland were up to ninth and on the verge of ... relegation six months later. An incredible game was a trademark false dawn.
How very Sunderland.