The Right Worshipful Mayor of Sunderland and her consort have just returned from a pensioners’ Christmas lunch, one of many festive engagements in the civic diary.

“A fellow councillor introduced us,” says Coun Lynda Scanlan, the mayor. “I received a polite little round of applause. When he introduced the consort, the men just stood up and cheered their heads off.”

The consort – the formal title, he could hardly be the mayoress – is Micky Horswill, just 20 when a member of Sunderland’s FA Cup winning side in 1973, and the mayor’s become happily accustomed to living in his shadow.

Then there was the Remembrance Day event last month after which Micky was approached by Sister Mary Scholastica, a familiar figure around the Port of Sunderland, who told him that his picture was on her wall.

“Above Jesus or below Jesus?” asked the consort.

“In the middle,” said the nun.

The mayor and her consort are lovely, lovely people, the story of how the familiarly hirsute footballer became immersed in global charity work quite wonderful.

Wonder upon wonders, there’s a George Reynolds connection, too.

Micky was an Annfield Plain lad, just 19 when he made his Sunderland debut – inarguably young, quite likely daft – in April 1972. A year later, forever insisting that he wasn’t the best player but homesprung and hero worshipped, he helped Bob Stokoe’s team to immortality.

And the future mayor, six months his junior? “I think I went shopping that afternoon,” she recalls. “I must have been the only person in Sunderland who did.

“I remember getting back to the car, switching on the radio and hearing lots of cheering, but I’d no idea which side they were cheering for. I hadn’t been to a match until five years ago.

Like the rest of the town – as then it was – she did turn out for the triumphant homecoming but still had no idea which one was Micky Horswill.

He moved to Manchester – City, not United, but shared a room with George Best – had spells with Plymouth Argyle and Hull City and then four years in Hong Kong, much of it shared with former Newcastle United striker Billy Whitehurst.

The club, appropriately, was called Happy Valley, though events took a distinctly less harmonious turn after he retired.

He left football, ran “seven or eight” pubs – the Good Doctor at Fishburn comes to mind – managed so badly that he lost his house and was seriously on his uppers. He’s now teetotal.

“George Reynolds saved me,” he says, unequivocally. “I was a bit of a tearaway in my playing days and I’d lost nearly everything I had.”

He met the former safebreaker, worktops company boss, Darlington FC chairman and multi-millionaire in a pub. “He immediately offered me a job,” says Micky. “I took a bit of persuading but I was there for eight years. You speak as you find, he was brilliant.

“I was in a bit of a mess. I don’t know where I’d have been but for George.”

Further salvation came with the Three Legends local radio programme, on which he appeared five nights a week with Malcolm Macdonald and Bernie Slaven until sacked in 2013 for what he claimed at the time was “a bit of banter” with a regular listener.

Eight years of radio work enabled him to buy three houses, play a bit of golf, accept speaking engagements – some very good stories about his Best friend – and to become immersed in the charity work through which he’d met Lynda Scanlan and her husband, Bill, more than 20 years earlier.

Much of it, including regular visits to another Sunderland team – a club for under-privileged children in Kenya – has been little reported. “I don’t ever do it for the recognition,” says Micky. “I do it because there’s a need.

“The Three Legends gave me enough to retire on, to have a nice life and to go places I want to go.”

On one occasion he took another 12 footballers to help build a school for 600 youngsters in the Kenyan village. “The water supply was a quarter of a mile away. I had the footballers dig a trench and then persuaded a plumber to connect the supply.

“We didn’t look for publicity. Many people do what I do, it’s just my little thing.”

Coun Scanlan had begun a legal practice in Sunderland with her late husband – it’s now run by their two daughters – became a magistrate and was elected councillor in 2011. Mickey became a family friend after they met through charitable work more than 20 years ago.

Two of this year’s mayoral charities – NSPCC Childline and Hope Spring, which helps vulnerable young people and those with complex needs and for which she and the mayor’s consort already volunteer, reflect her passion for the young. The third is the Sunderland and North Durham Society for the Blind.

“Usually the mayor raises £13,000 or £14,000 for charities. Thanks to Micky’s profile we’ve raised that already and should double it.”

When her mayoral year ends in May, she’ll stand down from the council in order to volunteer pretty much fulltime for Hope Spring, which has opened a mother and baby unit in the city. “Micky’s going to as well,” she says. “He just doesn’t know it yet.”

No less cheerfully, Micky says that yes he does – and that he’s greatly looking forward to it.

We’re in the capacious mayor’s office at the top of Sunderland Civic Society, a fourth seat occupied by an outsize teddy bear for which Micky paid £150 at a charity auction and which will further be sold for charity.

The mayoral robes are hung on a mannequin in a corner, though both prefer more informal engagements to the pomp and ceremony of civic office. It took her a year, says the mayor, to persuade him to take on the role.

“I was a little bit wary because I’m not a political person,” says Micky. “She played the priority card, I haven’t done that for a long time. Whatever we’ve been doing, I never realised it would be so tiring.”

His enthusiasm’s manifestly unaffected, even getting a couple of weeks ago to help organise and to play in a football match at Sunderland FC’s Beacon of Light facility to raise awareness of South Tyneside Ability FC, a charity which helps children with disabilities. “I hadn’t played for ages. I was surprised at how good I felt,” he says.

Now they form a sort of municipal mutual admiration society. “She’s perfect for the job, she’ll do anything for anybody,” says the mayor’s consort. “She’ll sit with the old people, chat with the youngsters, talk to anyone. She’s passionate about it.”

“He’s been a fabulous help, a great support and has some tremendous contacts. I’ll cry when it all ends” says the mayor. “Micky doesn’t get the recognition for his charity work that other people do, but he doesn’t seek it, either.”

Her civic consort’s looking forward to taking his jacket and tie off. “We both love helping charities, especially youngsters. If it’s in Sunderland, that’s perfect.”