The column three weeks ago recorded the death of former Sunderland footballer Willie McPheat, 23 goals in 72 appearances in the early 1960s.

It reminded David Burniston in Darlington of perhaps the most memorable of them, the FA Cup quarter-final in March 1961 between Sunderland – then in the old second division – and Tottenham Hotspur, chasing the first double of modern times.

Spurs scored in the ninth minute through Cliff Jones, McPheat equalising towards the end of the first half. David – “train from Darlington to Seaburn, change at Thornaby” – can still see it.

Charlie Hurley had a header blocked by Spurs keeper Bill Brown, McPheat first to the rebound. “His momentum carried him into the back of the net which he grabbed and swung onto,” recalls David. “It resulted in quite an iconic photograph that appeared on all the sports pages”

The crowd was 61,231, hundreds invading the pitch, the game stopped for four minutes. Paul Dobson, ever-helpful editor of the Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme, produces photographs of Brown’s save from Hurley and of the subsequent pitch invasion – “including a lad with no socks on and a chap who looks old enough to know better.”

After diligent searching akin to the old woman in one of Grimm’s fairy tales – what was it she lost, sixpence or something? – he finally finds one of McPheat swinging in the rigging, too.

Thereafter the noise was incredible – “spine tingling,” says David. “Nothing ever equalled the intensity of that wild roar at Roker Park,” wrote Spurs skipper Danny Blanchflower later.

“It’s doubtful whether any match has depicted the legend of the Roker Roar more than the second half of that epic quarter-final,” says the Roker End, the former players’ website.

Amby Fogarty and John Dillon had efforts cleared from the line as Spurs clung on desperately. Since David enjoys the reminder that Sunderland had beaten the mighty Arsenal in the previous round, it should perhaps be recorded that they lost the replay 5-0.

Willie McPheat’s Sunderland career was ended soon afterwards by a broken leg following a tackle by Leeds United’s Bobby Collins, though he played subsequently for Hartlepool – the fee said to be “over £1,000” – and Airdrie.

Spurs completed their double. Sunderland finished sixth, three places behind Liverpool and one behind the Boro.

Churlish, given Paul Dobson’s enduring efforts, not to buy a copy of A Love Supreme (£3) from the usual source, Smith’s on Durham railway station. One of several pieces he’s written notes that since he became a serious supporter in 1970 they’ve had eight relegations and seven promotions and a “ridiculous” 42 managerial appointments involving 38 different people and a committee. Another piece is headed “Writer’s block.” Not much chance of that at Sunderland.

Jimmy Potter was on Sunderland’s books at the time of the 60s Spurs saga, arrived from Northern Ireland at the same time as future international Martin Harvey. Both, recalls John Briggs, simultaneously served as apprentice painters and decorators – possibly red-and-white stripes – with A Hector Grabham, then familiar across the North-East.

Jim never made a first team appearance and moved to Darlington, where he played 19 successive games at right half in 1963-64 before playing for Linfield, South Shields and Washington. He has died, aged 77.

South Shields historian Bob Wray well remembers Jimmy’s time with the Mariners, then in the North Regional League under former Newcastle United man Alf McMichael.

Jimmy scored a crucial sixth minute goal in an FA Cup replay win at Oldham in 1969-70 – helping Sheels to the third round for the first time since Football League days. In the third they lost 4-1 to a QPR side including Terry Venables and Barry Bridges and after the match had five players requiring hospital treatment.

“It was a most bruising encounter,” says Bob, perhaps understating things.

His best goal, Bob believes, was at Wigan in March 1969 – “an absolute thunderbolt” helping Shields to a 3-1 win.

Jimmy’s brother-in-law Vince Williams, long-serving secretary of the Over 40s League, tells how Jimmy knew his Roker Park days might be numbered when ejected from his digs.

“He was judged to have the best landlady. They gave his room to a new arrival called Charlie Hurley instead.”

Sadly coincidental, we also learn of the death last Sunday of Harry Hood, nine goals in 31 Sunderland appearances between 1964-66 but perhaps more indelibly remembered at Celtic, where they serenaded him to the tune of My Sweet Lord. He was 74.

Roker Park is to be demolished to make way for housing. Déjà vu? It says as much in the Spring issue of that splendid little magazine Gronndtastic – though Groundtastic (and thus the column) reported the same thing in 2008.

Long-time Backtrack readers may detect a further double-take: this is not Sunderland’s home until 1997, but Roker Park, Stotfold, a Bedfordshire club in the Spartan South Midlands League.

Beneath the headline “And so to Beds”, we’d visited in1996 – January, Roker raw – Stotfold’s home most notable for a small wooden stand and a set of floodlights apparently made from an elderly Meccano set. “What the grounds most have in common is that they’ve both seen better days,” we wrote.

“Stotfold may have rather less concrete, rather more clarts and infinitely better toilets.”

Nine years later, Northern Ireland international Phil Gray – 41 goals in 127 Sunderland appearances – became the first man to play competitively at both grounds. “Just about all; they have in common is a set of posts at either end,|” he said.

Sadly, we were unable to be there in 2010, when Shildon won 2-0 in the FA Vase, though both the bairns went. Their photograph shows Shildon fans amid humbler surroundings than those to which they are accustomed.

Stotfold’s ground is on Roker Meadow, the new stadium’s under construction on Arlesley Road. A name has yet to be announced, says Groundtastic – but it probably won’t be the Stadium of Light.

Clearly this side of today’s column is itself to be red-and-white striped: a piece in The Times on comedian and Boro boy Bob Mortimer recalls his first week studying law at Sussex University.

He turned up at a freshers’ event wearing Sunderland shirt and denim jacket, says The Times. All the other men wore black tie. For the ensuing three years he never again socialised with fellow students.

The curious thing is that Mortimer’s not just a lifelong Middlesbrough fan but had a trial with the club, scuppered by rheumatoid arthritis.

He subsequently qualified as a solicitor and, thus traduced, may sue.

Jack Chapman, author of the glorious Cream Teas and Nutty Slack – a history of club cricket in Co Durham – is unequivocally a Sunderland football fan.

In that capacity he wrote to the club following defeat to Portsmouth last November, an encouraging letter which particularly mentioned Kevin Ball, who’d played for both clubs.

Remember the East Durham College advert? “Some people think our courses are even harder than Kevin Ball…”

For months the letter went unacknowledged. Jack was thus more than a little surprised the other day to find Ball standing on his doorstep in Hebburn.

He stayed for an hour, talked football – “and a little cricket” – charmed and so greatly distracted the retired teacher that he spilt the milk while making the tea.

Jack asks for it to be mentioned. “The world needs to recognise such qualities.”