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Sunderland RCA's Early Years - the Old Boys

RCA 'Old Boys' Ernie Carlin and Joe Dixon at the Sunderland RCA v Dunston UTS match on 18 September 2010

Sunderland RCA FC started its life as Ryhope YC and was formed in 1963 playing its first ever season in the Seaham & District League.

The first seeds had been sown three years earlier, in 1960, when the Ryhope Youth Club Centre opened in the Welfare Hall. Although many activities took place there it did not take long before the highlight of the YC’s evenings was the five-a-side games. They became very competitive and in the summer of 1961 the youngsters started playing on the field behind the Ryhope Co-op, known as the ‘store’ field, and the five-a-sides soon became six and seven a side. Such was the enthusiasm shown and the numbers involved the youth club leader, Bill Bond, asked the youth club committee, if they would like him to arrange a game against another youth club. And yes they were up for it and a handful of games followed. They played with borrowed strips along with goal posts from the ‘Bluebell’ pub and sawdust from the Ryhope Co-op to mark out the lines. Sometimes the lines resembled a straight line, but it did not matter; they were enjoying themselves. There was obviously nothing official about these games, but that did not stop them from being very competitive.

In the following summer, 1962, Bill Bond put the idea to the youth club committee about forming a team to play in the Hetton Junior League. Despite some players having already committed themselves to another junior side it was agreed and Ryhope YC Juniors was formed and played its home games at the Ryhope CW ground.

At the end of the Juniors first season, 1963, some of the YC players, as well as youth club members who had played for other sides, were no longer eligible to play in the Hetton Junior League. Again it was Bill Bond who suggested forming a senior team. It was agreed, but before it was formed a few of these players, having been approached by other clubs, were no longer available. However, despite a potentially very small squad, Bill with great support from Arthur Crago, Ernie Carlin, Jack Hedley and from the youth club committee which included Joe Dixon, Terry Brace and Ray Swansbury formed the Ryhope YC Football Club which is now known as Sunderland RCA.

The club’s first season was particularly difficult. There were not enough senior Youth Club members available and it was difficult to attract other players when all games had to be played on opponents’ grounds. It did start off ok as its first ever game was a 3-3 draw against Seaham UDC with two goals being scored by Joe Dixon whose last game for club was in 1979. However towards the end of this season Bill Bond indicated that, with the team up and running, his job was done and it was time for him to step back, concentrate on the Youth Club Centre, and leave it in the hands of the players.

With Bill stepping back there was a distinct possibility that the club could fold. Thankfully two players, Billy Anderson and Norman T Taylor, from the juniors joined the team and immediately took on the responsibility of the secretary‘s job, recruiting players as well as playing. The club survived and Billy and Norman went on to serve the club, in many capacities, until 1992 and 1999 respectively.

At the start of its 3rd season, 1965/1966, the Ryhope CW ground became available, as the junior team had folded, and this became the club’s home ground.

The following season, 1966/67, Jimmy Clark was brought in as player-manager and with a settled committee the club became a lot more organised. His experience and football knowledge on and off the field helped speed up the team’s improvement. In particular two players, Brian Page and Harry Clark joined the club and in their first full season, 1968/69, helped bring the club its first success.

In seven seasons the club had the following phenomenal success. During this period they joined the Houghton & District League for the 1970/71 season and for the start of the 1971/72 season, the club changed its name to Ryhope CA.

1968/1969 Seaham & District League League Champions
    League Cup Winners
    Leukaemia Charity Cup  Winners
1969/1970  Seaham & District League League Champions
    Seaham Aged Miners Cup  Winners
    Houghton Blind Institute Cup  Winners
    Leukaemia Charity Cup  Runners Up
1971/1972 Houghton & District League League Runners Up
    Houghton Blind Institute Cup  Winners
    Seaham Aged Miners  Winners
1972/1973  Houghton & District League League Champions
    Durham Hospitals Cup Winners
    League Cup  Runners Up
    Easington Aged Miners Cup Runners Up
1973/1974 Houghton & District League League Runners Up
    Houghton Blind Institute Cup  Winners
1974/1975 Houghton & District League League Champions

While in the Seaham & District League the following players brought honours to the club.

Joe Dixon (Captain), Brian Page, Harry Clark and Ernie Carlin (Trainer) represented the League on three occasions in the 1968/69 and 1969/70 seasons.

Harry Orrell, Dennis Duggan, John Teasdale, Trevor Campbell and Ronnie Young represented the League on two occasions in the 1969/70 season.

Jimmy Clark represented the League in the 1968/69 season.

After the 1974/75 season, in order to progress further, the club resigned from the Houghton and District league, as was the rule, in order to apply for membership to the Wearside league. Unfortunately the application was turned down and then the Houghton league refused to readmit the club. The club then folded for three seasons and in the process lost its home ground. It also proved to be the last season, as players, for Norman T Taylor (1964-1975) and Harry Clark (1967-1975).

The club reformed for the 1978/1979 season and played in the Northern Alliance league. All home games were played on the old Ryhope Grammar School field which was next to the clubs Meadow Park ground. This proved to be the last season for Joe Dixon (1963-1979), Brian Page (1968-1979), Bobby Pickering (1971-1979) and Billy Mitchell (1971-1979).

RCA’s first success in the Northern Alliance League was in the 1980/1981 season when they won the League Cup and were League RU.

As the school field could never be a permanent home ground the committee showed there continuing ambition for the club by persuading the Council to lease them some derelict land, now Meadow Park. Financial help was obtained from Sunderland and Tyne & Wear Councils as well as the Sports Council. This only covered part of the expense and the rest was all hands on. The ground, which met the high standards set by the Northern League, was an outstanding achievement. The clubs committee:-

Billy Anderson, Kevin Brace, Terry Brace, Ernie Carlin, Harry Clark, Jimmy Clark, Dave Hall, Norman T Taylor, and new member Ray Baines, made it all possible.

In 1982 RCA became a founder member of the Northern League Second Division and achieved promotion to the First Division, by finishing runner up, in only its second season. They remained in this division until 1988. Its best finish was a very creditable 10th in the 1984/1985 season.

Early in the 1985/1986 season Jimmy Clark stood down as manager having joined the club as player- manager back in 1966. He was manager in every success the club had and only missed one season, 1970/1971, through work commitments. Without this success on the field the club would not have progressed to its present position. Coach Harry Clark, no relation, took on the role of manager to ensure the club retained its First Division status.

In 1999 a new era commenced with the amalgamation with Kennek Roker, of the Wearside League, to form Kennek Ryhope CA. The seasons from 2003 onwards were tough but for the 2006/2007 season the club joined forces with Springboard Sunderland and a new era as Sunderland RCA began. All the hard work has been rewarded with the teams return to the First Division for the 2010/2011 season.

Looking back its worth remembering the efforts and long service of the management and players who helped progress the club. Without these people it is very unlikely that Ryhope would have a team playing in the Northern League today. The days of every game being played on opponents grounds, only having public transport available, players washing their own strips, clearing thick snow to make the pitch playable etc. are now long gone.

Longest Serving Management

Norman T Taylor 1964 to 1999  Player, Secretary, Press Officer, Chairman
Billy Anderson 1964 to 1992 Player, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice Chairman 
Terry Brace 1963 to 1990 Player, Trainer, Treasurer, Chairman, Electrician
Ernie Carlin 1965 to 1989 Trainer, Manager, Treasurer,  Chairman
Jimmy Clark 1966 to 1985 Player-Manager, Manager, Chairman
Joe Dixon 1963 to 1979  Player, Secretary 
Kevin Brace 1970 to 1984  Treasurer 

Longest Serving Players

Joe Dixon
Played from 1963/64 until 1978/79 with approximately 410 appearances
Scored approx 510 goals, with 85 scored in the 1972/73 season
Scored 7 in a game in both the 1969/1970 and 1972/73 seasons

Norman T Taylor
Played from 1964/65 until 1974/75 with approximately 410 appearances

Brian Page
Played from 1968/69 until 1978/79 with approximately 330 appearances
Club Captain from 1969/70 until 1978/79

Harry Clark
Played from 1967/68 until 1974/75 with approximately 330 appearances
Went on to coach and manage the team

Billy Anderson
Played from 1964/65 until 1971/72 with approximately 160 appearances
Appearances curtailed due to dual role of player/secretary

Harry Orrell
Played from 1964/65 until 1970/71 with approximately 240 appearances
Club Captain from 1964/65 until 1968/69

Billy Mitchell
Played from 1971/72 until 1978/79 with approximately 220 appearances

Bobby Pickering
Played from 1971/72 until 1978/79 with approximately 220 appearances