Rob Mason's memories: The tale of Sunderland's Vancouver Royal Canadians adventure where Bacardi flowed more than football

Sadly Sunderland’s season hasn’t extended into July in this uniquely elongated season.

Saturday, 4th July 2020, 5:00 pm
Sunderland's squad in 1967

It seemed unfair to me that in the EFL the Championship continued while Leagues One and Two didn’t, other than for those given play-off places.

This is a personal view but given that the main reason for clubs in the lower two levels voting to not continue was apparently because they couldn’t afford the testing for Covid 19 I look at it as clubs not fulfilling fixtures.

Had football been stopped by a wicked winter such as in 1963 when Sunderland didn’t play their first league game of the year until late February (although they did manage cup ties) they would have had to cope with the lack of income.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sunderland and a handful of other clubs wanted to play on this year but it suited all the clubs who voted to end the season to cut the campaign for their own benefit.

To me it made no sense at all. Why not just suspend the season and pick it up again whenever it is genuinely safe to do so?

Yes a transfer window would have been and gone but allowing teams to play their remaining fixtures with their re-jigged squads would have had more sporting integrity than the solution that was implemented.

Sunderland have played competitively in July before. In 1967 after a long hard season the entire squad took off to play 12 more league games in Canada and the USA. The club had agreed to represent west coast Canadian city Vancouver in the North American Soccer League.

Wolves, Stoke City, Aberdeen, Hibs, Dundee United and clubs from Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Uruguay and Brazil also took part, each representing a particular city.

San Francisco for instance were represented by Dutch club ADO Den Haag who had a young Dick Advocaat in their squad. Sunderland were the Vancouver Royal Canadians.

Sunderland didn’t do very well.

They finished second bottom of their six team group having won three, drawn five and lost four of their dozen games.

Starting with a 6-1 defeat at San Francisco they also lost 5-1 to Wolves in Los Angeles and 4-2 at ‘home’ to Hibs (Toronto) in Vancouver.

The three wins all came in Vancouver, the best of them by 4-1 against Dundee United who were playing as Dallas Tornado.

Missing manager Ian McColl at the start of the tour, as he remained on Wearside trying to conduct transfer business, discipline on the tour was largely non-existent. Sunderland had the brilliant but boozy Jim Baxter in their squad.

In April Baxter had tormented England at Wembley as he show-boated for Scotland who inflicted the first defeat on England since they had become world champions the previous summer.

The former Rangers star was known as ‘Slim Jim’ when he came to Sunderland but ‘Bacardi Jim’ by the time he left.

The Bacardi flowed more than the football in Vancouver.