A tale of what might have been …
For Harry Hood his Sunderland career remains a source of frustration. His arrival at Roker Park in November 1964 as a prolific Scottish goal-grabber should have heralded the start of something special. That it didn’t shows just how fickle football can be.
Hood had been a sensation in Scotland, which in itself was amazing. For the bulk of his student years he attended a rugby-playing school and only played football in the evenings with friends. A change of school sent him into a better football environment and within months he was in the school team and attracting the attention of scouts. It was unfashionable Clyde who snapped him up in 1962 and when he rattled in 40 goals in 63 league appearances big things were on offer.
Harry remembers it well. “Things went really well for me with Clyde and pretty quickly I was a big fish in a small pond. The goals were flowing and I had 32 from 36 games in the 1963/64 season. By the time I was 20 I was very quick, prolific in front of goal, and I knew I could make something of myself in the game. I vividly remember that Celtic came in for me, but made a really disappointing wage offer so I turned them down. The clubs had agreed a fee of £20,000 but the personal terms simply weren’t good enough; I had a job outside football and Celtic were asking me to give that up to go full-time. A few days later Sunderland came calling and made me a better offer, Clyde were even happier with a much improved £26,000 fee. The strange thing was that Sunderland had no manager. However, the ‘Bank of England’ tag was still in the air and I knew that this was a club with huge potential and a great opportunity for me to try full-time football in a quality league. It was a strange day actually because only seven hours before they signed me Sunderland’s directors had bought John Parke from Hibernian for £30,000 !”
Debut day for Harry was to prove memorable. Not just because Sunderland beat Burnley 3-2 but because Hood was bowled over by Roker Park and the atmosphere. “I was absolutely stunned when I ran out at Roker Park for my debut. Remember in my career I would ultimately play in front of huge raucous crowds in Glasgow but I’ve never forgotten what the noise and atmosphere was like inside Roker Park. The fans were our proverbial twelfth man on Wearside. Mind you if I am being completely honest I would have to concede that away from Roker we really struggled.”
Alas that winning home debut was one of the few Sunderland highlights for Harry who settled well but was then beset with bad luck. “I had two real problems. The first was that shortly after a friendly against Celtic in August 1965 I was doing some weight-training in the gym and suffered a double-hernia. I had been desperate to put on some muscle and add a bit of strength but ‘the reward’ I got was to miss virtually a whole year of football. The second was that I never really felt that my face fitted with manager Ian McColl.”
“The interesting thing about being out for so long was that I was able to look at the club from a ‘distance’. There were clearly problems. There were cliques in the team and when Ian McColl took over from George Hardwick you would have to say this probably got worse. Yet my wife and I were loving living in Sunderland, we had a club house in Barnes Park and the people were great. We used to joke that the Sunderland folk were really Scots with strange accents ! In truth the club was going through a rocky patch and the 1960s were not kind to Sunderland. On the one hand there were great youngsters like Suggett, Todd and Hughes on the fringes but within the club there was a lack of genuine direction and leadership. It is hard to put your finger on what went wrong because in players like Charlie Hurley, Cec Irwin and Len Ashurst we had class acts.”
Hood would score nine goals in 30 Sunderland league appearances but wasn’t a regular first team pick. When other clubs began to ask about his availability he decided he would have to leave to rebuild his career. “I was sorry to leave Sunderland because I felt I could have done so much more. But by the time I left I wasn’t seeing eye to eye with Ian McColl and I felt he never gave the likes of myself or John O’Hare the run we deserved. John was a fair player and would go on to be a key part of Brian Clough’s success and I like to think I made a real fist of my Celtic career. Anyway, I heard that Blackpool were interested in me but when I asked McColl about it he suggested that it was Oldham and Clyde who were waiting in the wings. I was fuming because Blackpool were a big club at the time. When that move wasn’t going to happen I elected to return to Clyde. That was a huge decision for me because it meant becoming part-time again, finding a job outside football and basically rebuilding my career.”
Back at Shawfield Park (the then home of Clyde) Hood rediscovered his form. He scored in his only Under 23 appearance for Scotland (against England on 7 February 1968) and was eventually signed by Celtic for £40,000. To be more precise the legendary Jock Stein signed Harry and here there was an interesting tale to tell. “It was a great honour to be signed by Jock, remember this was not long after he had steered the Celts and the famous ‘Lisbon Lions’ to the European Cup itself. He told me that when Sunderland signed John Parke from Hibs (Stein was Hibernian boss at the time) he had travelled to Roker Park for negotiations hoping that Sunderland would offer him what was then a very attractive vacant post. It never happened and I often wonder what would have become of Sunderland if big Jock had been persuaded to take the manager’s job. ”
It was his spell at Celtic that gave Harry the honours he craved. He joined late in the 1968/69 season and with five goals in seven games helped deliver the title to the green half of Glasgow. In the next season he cemented his place with the supporters by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Rangers. In short Harry thrived at Parkhead and would win five championship medals, three Scottish Cups (he scored in two of those finals), and two League Cups.
Harry’s career wound down with a move to America with San Antonio, then Motherwell before brief management spells with Albion Rovers and Queen of the South. Today he is a successful hotelier but still recalls his time at Sunderland with a touch of humour and fondness. “I was invited down to the final game at Roker Park and really enjoyed returning to the club. I sat with Nick Sharkey and he said ‘Harry, you know you ruined my career.’ ‘How do you work that out ?’ I asked. Quick as a flash he came back ‘Well when you left my career went into decline, you were my worker and after you went I had to do my own spade work. I don’t think people realize what an engine you had’. You know that’s one of the nicest things anyone ever said about my time at Sunderland !”
Henry ‘Harry’ Hood
Born: 3 October 1944, Glasgow
Career as a player: Clyde (63 games/40 goals), Sunderland (31/9), Clyde (87/30), Celtic (189/74), San Antonia Thunder, Motherwell (15/0), Queen of the South (32/4)
Career as a manager: Albion Rovers, Queen of the South
Today: A successful hotelier in Lanarkshire, Scotland
HARRY’S DEBUT DAY …
Sunderland 3 Burnley 2
Roker Park, Saturday, November 14, 1964
SUNDERLAND: Montgomery, Nelson, Ashurst, Elliott, Rooks, McNab, Usher, Herd, Hood, O’Hare, Mulhall
BURNLEY: Blacklaw, Smith, Buxton, O’Neil, Talbot, Miller, Morgan, Lochhead, Pointer, Bellamy, Price