In addition to the A19, there are many other things linking Sunderland and Middlesbrough, particularly when it comes to football. It is hardly surprising, when you consider less than 30 miles separate the two clubs, that an abundance of players have donned the colours of both.
Former Sunderland star Julio Arca could be in the Middlesbrough side at the Riverside for tonight’s FA Cup fourth round replay. The Argentine missed out on what would have been an emotional return to the Stadium of Light last Sunday as suspension ruled him out – just like injury meant Sunderland defender Matt Kilgallon missed out against the Boro side he was loaned to last season.
Tonight Arca could potentially be one of three players on the pitch playing against their former clubs. Teessider Lee Cattermole is only an outside chance due to injury and looks unlikely to face his hometown club, who he started his career with before moving to Wigan and then to Wearside, but one-time Sunderland loanee Justin Hoyte, who had a forgettable spell at the Stadium of Light during the ill-fated 15-point season in 2005/06, will be filling a full-back berth for Middlesbrough.
There are connections throughout the decades and two of Sunderland’s most famous goalscorers represented both during their careers. Brian Clough, born in Middlesbrough, scored 197 times for his hometown club before moving to Roker Park where his record continued prior to a cruciate knee ligament injury ending his career in 1964, while one of Sunderland’s famous sons Gary Rowell, famed for his hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Newcastle at St James Park, went on to play for Middlesbrough later in his career.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Stan Anderson played for all three north-east clubs – starting out at Sunderland where he played more than 400 games before joining Newcastle and then Middlesbrough. Geoff Butler made his bow with hometown club Boro in the 1965/66 season and played three times for Sunderland between 1967 and 1969. Northern Ireland international Johnny Crossan, on the other hand, left Sunderland in 1965 having joined the club in 1962 and then had a spell at Middlesbrough from 1967 to 1970.
Joe Bolton was a Sunderland star in the 1970s and moved from Roker Park in 1981 when joining Middlesbrough. A team-mate of his on Wearside was Mick Buckley, who eventually ended his career down the road at Middlesbrough. In 1976, a young Stan Cummins burst onto the scene at Middlesbrough before Sunderland paid a club record £300,000 to sign the then 20-year-old in 1979. He left four years later, but returning during the 1984/85 season which saw Sunderland go all the way to the Milk Cup final. Cummins played no part in the run as he was cup tied. Alan Foggon, who had starred for Middlesbrough from 1972, left Ayresome Park in 1976 and had a brief spell at Sunderland that following season.
Mark Proctor and Colin Cooper, two Middlesbrough-born lads, are part of Tony Mowbray’s management team at the Riverside but represented both clubs during their playing days. Midfielder Proctor started out with his local club before spending a four-year stint at Sunderland, a period in which he missed that run to the 1985 Milk Cup final due to injury and eventually returning to Middlesbrough , while centre-back Cooper also had two spells at Middlesbrough and spent a short loan spell at Sunderland under Mick McCarthy in 2004. Forward David Hodgson, who did play in that 1-0 defeat to Norwich at Wembley, was a team-mate of Proctor during his first stint on Teesside and at Sunderland, while Andy Dibble was another team-mate firstly while on loan at Sunderland in 1986 and then at Middlesbrough later in his career. Around the same time, Peter Beagrie started out with hometown club Middlesbrough in 1983 and stayed until 1986. He eventually had a loan spell at Sunderland in 1991, while prior to signing for Sunderland in 1987, right-back John Kay had sampled the north-east courtesy of brief loan spell at Middlesbrough from Wimbledon.
More recently, wing wizard Allan “Magic” Johnston, who scored the last goal at Roker Park, played for Sunderland between 1997 and 2000 – although his last year was spent out on loan after Peter Reid refused to pick him following a contract dispute. His career took a downward spiral after leaving to join Rangers, a three-year spell at Middlesbrough between 2001 and 2004 failing to revitalise him and it will always be a case of wondering what might have been for the man who appeared to have the world at his feet.
A young Stewart Downing showed his talent on the flank when playing seven times for McCarthy’s Sunderland in the Championship in 2003 during a loan spell from then Premier League Middlesbrough. Ironically, he was loaned out due to Bolo Zenden holding down the left-wing berth at the Riverside, the Dutch international of course eventually spending the last two seasons at the Stadium of Light before being released by Steve Bruce prior to the start of the current campaign.
Brian Deane, who had played for Middlesbrough between 1998 and 2001, was another to link up with Sunderland during McCarthy’s reign when playing four times in 2005, while a year later, with Roy Keane now at the helm, Graham Kavanagh joined Sunderland and returned to the north-east fifteen years after making his Middlesbrough debut. He had three seasons at the Stadium of Light, but opportunities were limited and three loan spells ensued.