Profiling Bobby Kerr as we take an FA Cup flavour to Cult Heroes.
What’s this, a full week between games? It’ll never work! They get paid millions to run about a bit –and twice a week is too much!? Hell, I’d do that three times a day for half of what Carlos Tevez has forgotten he’s earned. Then again, Tevez’s current situation would do, too.
Whilst those kinds of sentiments are commonplace within modern football there is no denying that physically, and emotionally, Martin O’Neill’s turbo-charged start to life as a Sunderland manager left us with precious little in the tank last time out. With the weekend fast approaching what better way to build up to the Arsenal game than with a bit of Cult Heroes: FA Cup edition?
And who better than the last man to lift the Cup in a Sunderland shirt? Ladies and Gentlemen, ‘The Little General’ Bobby Kerr...As a 17-year-old, Scottish midfielder Robert Kerr signed professional forms at Sunderland in 1964 after featuring prominently in the club’s junior setup. He led the youth team to the FA Youth Cup final in 1966 – where Arsenal emerged as 5-3 winners – but he was to be promoted into the first team during the same season; scoring 7 goals in 10 games before injury during a game with Leeds United. There was rumour that Norman Hunter claimed he "did" Kerr, as Hunter was prone to do, but as we know how this story ends.
Having overcome the setback, Kerr would break his leg a second time. Many have since pondered whether that hindered his potential, particularly from a goal scoring perspective, but he still proved to become an essential part of Bob Stokoe’s side, and the club in general, as he made 433 senior appearances. He resides at Sunderland’s sixth best appearance maker.
Kerr’s time at Sunderland was almost synonymous with his side’s FA Cup fortunes; the despair of suffering a broken leg in the game with Leeds in 1967, matched by relegation to Division Two in 1970, and the triumph of 1973 mirrored by the club’s restoration in the top-flight four years later. Not to mention his own personal tale of victory over Leeds and Hunter.
It wasn’t until I read Lance Hardy’s ‘Stokoe, Sunderland & ‘73’ that I began to fully appreciate his playing style. Knowing about the final and Jimmy Montgomery’s save was one thing, but his drive and sheer will in the middle of the park is something that struck a chord; Kerr personified the momentum that a Cup run can build by instigating attacks with a well-timed tackle, followed by a swift pass out to either Billy Hughes or Dennis Tueart.
One utterly useless piece of information about Bobby Kerr is that he is to this day the smallest person to have captained an FA Cup wining side and to have lifted the cup on his team's behalf. That could be handy next time you're at a pub quiz.
Kerr was also the hero in 1977 helping us to avoid relegation. Down at Carrow Road for an encounter with Norwich City, 2-0 down and staring relegation in the face (again). Gary Rowell, at the time not the the legend he'd go on to be, but showing exactly why he would become one, pulled one back.
Kerr was on as a substitute for Tony Towers when he grabbed a late goal to save us from relegation, and write his name further into local folklore.
All those games he played over a decade. The last minute winner on his debut, his amazing goal record for the first dozen or so games, the broken legs, the long road back and and then, incredibly, lifting the Cup at Wembley.
That afternoon in East Anglia though, all anyone cared about was as the final whistle blew, was that Bobby Kerr, almost forgotten among the fresh faces that had burst on the scene, had saved our season.
Kerr left Roker Park in 1979 having made By the time he left Sunderland in 1979, Bobby's uncompromising style in his midfield role earned him the nickname of "Little General" before he followed Bob Stokoe to Blackpool, where he made just 22 league appearances before returning to the North-East with Hartlepool. Since retiring, Kerr has been involved with a number of pubs in the region, so what better way to sign off by raising a glass to a true Sunderland legend. Cheers Bobby.
There's a lot more which could be said about Kerr, but why not hear from the man himself, along with Jimmy Montgomery and Dave Watson discussing that legendary day in 1973 in detail. Well worth a watch...