Tommy Wright

1928 - 2011

May 2011 saw the death of one of Sunderland’s stars of the 1950s: Tommy Wright. A Scottish international, Tommy was Sunderland’s top scorer in 1953-54 and ever present in 1949-50 as the Lads went agonizingly close to a seventh title, eventually finishing third.

Born in January 1928, Wright was 83 when he passed away on May 3rd. Hailing from Clackmannanshire in Scotland, Tommy began his career with Blairhall Colliery before making his name with Partick Thistle with Sunderland shelling out £8,000 for him in 1949. As the Bank of England Team of Britain’s top stars was assembled in the early fifties, Wright proved himself to be a vital member of the side. Sometimes used at centre forward but more usually on the right wing Wright always scored goals as well as making them.

Picture below right: Tommy in typical action v Manchester United, February 1950.

Of his 55 goals from 180 games for the Lads, four came against today’s visitors Wolves, two in Roker wins in 1949 and 1953 and two at Molineux. However Tommy will be most fondly remembered for scoring in each of his first three derbies against the Magpies, his late equalizer at St. James’ in September 1952 ranking alongside the greatest goals the red and whites have ever scored against the black and whites. Having left the home defence in his wake Wright leathered home a 30 yarder. “I used to enjoy playing against Newcastle” Tommy told Red and White on a visit to his Wearside nursing home two years ago. “Rock on Tommy is what they used to say” Wright repeated on a regular basis. As the memory faded the recollection of people saying ‘Rock on Tommy’ had stayed with him.

Wright scored twice in a 7-1 thrashing of Arsenal, notched both goals in a Christmas Day beating of Manchester United in 1951 and at one point scored a dozen goals in 13 games.

Capped three times by Scotland he helped his country beat Wales away, draw with Northern Ireland at Hampden and draw in with England at Wembley.

Returning to Scotland in 1955 in part exchange for Charlie ‘Cannonball’ Fleming, Tommy starred for East Fife before returning to England for a brief stint with Oldham before coming back to the north east to end his career with North Shields.

Part of a footballing family, his son Tommy Wright junior played over 400 games as a winger with Leeds, Leicester, Bradford, ‘Boro and Oldham and is now assistant to John Sheridan at League Two champions Chesterfield. Tommy was also the uncle of former Leicester and Scotland player Jackie Sinclair and Willie Sinclair who played for Huddersfield and Falkirk.

Picture right: Tommy proudly shows the interview with him from ‘Red and White’ in 2009.

“I had a great time, we played against some great players and we had some great players ourselves” remembered Tommy who scored his last goal for the Black Cats in a 4-1 win at Arsenal in 1954 and kicked his last ball for Sunderland in October of that year. The Scot never forgot Sunderland and saw out his days here. Only the eldest supporters here today will have seen Tommy play but his record in red and white will rock on forever.

by Rob Mason.