THE North-East’s three biggest football clubs seldom agree on anything, but when it comes to Stan Anderson, whose death was announced yesterday at the age of 84, respect was equally shared.

A firm favourite at Sunderland, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough, and the only player in history to have captained all three, Anderson will rightly be remembered as a titan of the North-East game.

“Stan was just a gentleman and a magnificent player,” said fellow Sunderland legend Jim Montgomery. “I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. He was one of the best players I ever played with.”

Born in the County Durham village of Horden, Anderson was a talented schoolboy player who progressed from the East Durham Schools team to schoolboy international status.

He captained the England Boys team, but in a world before YTS contracts or academies, he worked as an apprentice plumber and plasterer after leaving school, playing for Springwell United and Horden Colliery Welfare in his spare time.

He signed his first amateur forms with Sunderland, and eventually turned professional in 1951, having established himself as a promising right-half.

He would go on to spend almost 14 years as a Sunderland player – a spell that encompassed a period of military service conducted at Catterick – making a total of 447 appearances for the Wearsiders.

Only Len Ashurst has played in more league and cup games for Sunderland as an outfield player, and Anderson spent a large proportion of his time at Roker Park as captain, having initially stood in to deputise for the injured Charlie Hurley.

“I can see him now playing right to left diagonal balls for George Mulhall,” said Ashurst, in an interview with Sunderland’s club historian, Rob Mason. “That was his stock in trade.

“When I came into the team, Stan was the captain and he nurtured me as well as Jim McNab and Cec Irwin, who debuted on the same day as me. He brought us along so that we became players. He was a commanding captain who was a great player and liked a laugh.”

A rare home-grown player in Sunderland’s ‘Bank of England’ side in the 1950s, Anderson played in two FA Cup semi-finals. However, he was also a member of the Sunderland team that was relegated in 1958, and assisted with a rebuilding job that carried on into the early 1960s.

He scored twice in a memorable FA Cup win over Arsenal at Roker Park in 1961, and remained a first-team regular until the promotion season of 1963-64, by which time Sunderland had identified Martin Harvey as his replacement.

Anderson, who was the only Sunderland player capped by England in the 1960s as he won two senior international caps, was sold in a £19,000 transfer in November 1963. It was the identity of the club that signed him, however, that caused such a massive sensation.

Transfers between Sunderland and Newcastle have always been rare, and then as now, it was unheard of for such a long-serving club legend to cross the divide. Anderson did though, even if he was initially reluctant to make the move.

“Joe Harvey was desperate for me to sign for Newcastle and I was just as keen not to go,” said Anderson, in the book ‘Match of My Life’. “I knew there’d be trouble if I switched stripes and I was from a family of dyed in the wool red and whites.

“Playing for the team I supported was always a privilege and a pleasure for me. I never wanted to leave Sunderland, but eventually Browny (Alan Brown) bombed me out.”

Nevertheless, Anderson threw himself into his new life with Newcastle wholeheartedly, and quickly won over any doubters on the banks of the Tyne.

He spent two years with Newcastle, helping the Magpies win promotion from the Second Division in the 1964-65 season. Playing in 84 matches, and scoring 14 goals, he also wore the captain’s armband with Newcastle, and appeared on their return to the top-flight before completing a rare North-East treble when he moved to Middlesbrough in a £11,500 deal in November 1965.

Middlesbrough offered him a player-coach role, and he became the first player to skipper all three North-East sides as Boro battled relegation to the Third Division under Raich Carter.

He was offered the position of manager after Carter left the club, and while his appointment came too late to prevent Boro suffering the drop, he quickly set about engineering a recovery.

He won promotion back to the second tier in his first full season as boss, and narrowly missed out on going up another level to the top-flight before he resigned in January 1973.

The Middlesbrough board tried to make him reconsider, but he went on to enjoy managerial or coaching roles with AEK Athens, Panathinaikos, QPR, Doncaster and Bolton.

He eventually settled in Doncaster, where he combined a daily round of golf with scouting roles for a number of clubs including Newcastle.

Horden Colliery Welfare honoured him in 2005 by naming the stand at their Welfare Park ground in his honour, and he died at his home on Sunday after a week where he had been hospitalised with chest pains.